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A longtime void on Whidbey Island has been filled by Alaska Unusual and the Inn at Langley.
Alaska Unusual, owned by Marty Behr, will begin operating a jet tour boat around Whidbey Island. The Langley Explorer is owned by Alaska Unusual and the Inn at Langley. Both residents of and tourists to Whidbey Island will be able to ride in the boat in a variety of tours.
"It opens up possibilities for South Whidbeyites," said Behr.
Behr was excited about the project this week, and said the Langley-based boat will give passengers a new Island County experience.
One of the Langley Explorer's shorter trips will be a jaunt to Camano Island, somewhere many Whidbey Islanders have never been, according to Behr. Passengers can then spend a few hours hiking at Cama Beach State Park.
For the most part, Behr said, each tour will give people the opportunity to explore the area from a different angle.
The Langley Explorer had been owned by a tour company operating on the Columbia River, said Behr. Alaska Unusual and the Inn at Langley bought the jet boat in December 2002 and gave the 1996 boat a makeover. It now boasts a heated enclosed cabin, air-cushioned captain's chairs and a restroom. The Langley Explorer has special bow landing gear, according to Behr, which allows the boat to pull onto a beach and lets passengers walk off directly onto the sand. It can accommodate 20 passengers, and can jet to Cama Beach State Park in 10 minutes, according to Behr.
Behr hopes the boat's biggest draw will be a special rate for non-profit organizations.
Behr said the captain of the Langley Explorer is Bob Dippold, who has years of boating and naturalist knowledge.
"He's a very experienced captain," Behr said.
He said Dippold will give thorough explanations of the area while navigating through Saratoga Passage, the San Juan islands, Seattle and rivers that flow into Puget Sound.
Scheduled tours available from Langley are grey whale watching, orca whale watching, sunset and happy hour cruises, trips to Mariners games, birding trips, hiking at Cama Beach State Park, and a jet water taxi service between Seattle, Everett, Whidbey and Camano islands.
Behr said the Langley Explorer will bring diners from Whidbey to Everett, and bring those from Everett to Langley to dine. It is a good situation for everyone, said Behr, and will make pick-ups in Coupeville by reservation.
Individual or group tickets can be purchased, with groups that charter the boat paying less per person than tickets purchased individually.
Behr said he hopes the Langley Explorer will fill a void on Whidbey.
"We lose customers to the San Juans because there's no accessible whale watching," said Behr.
Behr said they work with the Orca Network, other whale watching boat companies and Washington State Ferries to ensure Alaska Unusual gives passengers the best chance at spotting whales.
He said the boat is a good tourism strategy for the island, and that it lures guests into staying a little bit longer.
"Hopefully this will be the start of a connection between Whidbey and Camano," Behr said.
Individual prices for cruises start at $39 according to Behr.
The Langley Explorer will be the official boat of the Coupeville Water Festival May 10. Behr said rides around Penn Cove will leave on the hour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for $5.
For a full schedule of cruises, visit the Alaska Unusual Web site at www.alaskaunusual.com or call 221-2747.