Visions of economic development through an expanded South Whidbey Harbor appear to be coming true as the facility welcomes its first new business this month.
Whidbey Island Charters, a company offering customized leisure activities for half-day or full-day cruises around the area, will host a grand opening Saturday, April 26.
Owner Bob Maschmedt saw a need in the community for more activities. When he heard of the expansion project at South Whidbey Harbor he started to put his ideas into action.
“I enjoy meeting new people and sharing the island,” he said. “This is a chance to see people experience this beautiful area.”
The 30-foot Bayliner fits six passengers along with two crew, and is open for reservations seven days a week. Once on board, customers will be offered an assortment wines, cheeses and pastries, all Whidbey-made.
The company can accommodate many events including engagements, wedding parties, burials at sea, crabbing or whale-watching. The boat and crew are also available as transportation for hire, or to take people on overnight trips, as long as guests book nearby lodging.
Maschmedt is an outdoorsman and professional sports fisherman who previously worked at a lodge in Kodiak, Alaska. The staff also includes DeAnn Mills and two captains, Chad Formhals and Peter Manning.
Though fishing is not yet available from the vessel, Maschmedt envisions shuttling anglers to places such as Admiralty Inlet, Deception Pass, Everett or even Seattle.
“Our goal is for people to stay an extra day on Whidbey,” he said.
Port of South Whidbey Commissioner Curt Gordon said he was encouraged to see a new business promoting the area.
“We definitely want to encourage any kind of business out of the harbor that promotes tourism,” he said.
Port Finance Manager Angi Mozer said the district wants more businesses that bring visitors to South Whidbey and those that will support existing moorage customers, such as an onsite crab-cooking service.
“First and foremost I hope it brings revenue into the community. One of our highest priority initiatives is economic development,” she said. “Also to provide an opportunity for people to see all that Whidbey Island offers.”
The cost begins at $650 for a four-hour cruise; an eight-hour costs $995. Extended trips or extra services, such as a hostess, carry a surcharge.
Linnea Hess, manager of the company, wants people to experience the most out of the area while here.
She hopes to show people the diverse area and wildlife, especially for those who don’t live near the water and are visiting the island for special events.
“The possibilities are rather endless,” she said.