By ED FRANKS
Jeff Wilson, manager of Island Girl Charters, thanked everyone last week for coming out to celebrate the newest boat of the fleet, Island Girl I.
Emily Cooke pours champagne over the bow of the Island Girl 1 during the christening.
"We are here to celebrate the most recent addition to the Island Girl fleet, Island Girl I," Wilson said. "Christening of boats has taken place for thousands of years and a little later we will christen Island Girl I."
Capt. Tim Ingelido gave a brief history of Island Girl Charters.
"When I first came here in the middle 1980s there were no taxi services," he said. "You could charter a boat to get a ride. We would all just stand around the tiki hut waiting for people to come by and ask for a ride. We only had small boats that could handle 5 or 6 people at a time. If it was a large group you'd make several trips.
"At the time I worked with a captain that had a few charter boats and we sat around thinking how can we do this as a regular service," he continued. "We could see the need coming houses were being built and the population was increasing."
"Initially we went out and got some subsidies," he said. "Gary Walker, one of the island Realtors, subsidized us to make a run every day - a 9 a.m. to take people out and a 3 p.m. to take people back. This caught on quickly and before we knew it we were adding more runs and we were up to six runs per day - people who retired, people who work out there, people who have to grocery shop and lots of vacationers.
"Eventually we dropped the subsidies and started running the taxis with people paying per head and that's how I became a captain and taxiing boats," he went on to say. "In the early days we had open boats and in the winter weather people got cold and wet. Then, when Island Girl was started we had these covered boats to serve the public better and that's when the business really took off. On Easter Saturday, we might run almost a thousand people. From there we added the dolphin tours to make it more interesting.
"I've watched this progress over the years and when the Internet was catching on, houses were being built this service exploded. This new boat was custom built for us. We had a hard top installed to protect our customers from the weather, and a hard face with a windshield and door so when the weather was really hard we could close it up to keep people out of the weather. And for people that prefer to ride outside we have a sundeck area."
History shows that ceremonial boat launchings have taken place for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans even had public celebrations launching boats. These launchings involved many superstitions intended to bring good luck. In Christian times the ceremony became known as christening.
Pastor Lemke from Fishers of Men Lutheran Church delivered the blessing of Island Girl I.
"For thousands of years people have gone to the sea to travel, to trade, look for food and for adventure. And the moods are many," he said. "The sea can be tranquil as well as violent. Years ago Shoeless Fred told me, 'If the sea is smooth it will get rough. And if its rough it will get smooth. But with a good ship you can always ride it out.'
"And so like good mothers our boats will nurture and care for us through perilous seas and turbulent weather and therefore we affectionately call them 'she.' And today we have come to name this lady and to send her to the sea to be cared for by her captain and in turn nurture all those who enjoy her. And now we make a toast to the sea and a toast to Island Girl #1."
Jeff Wilson opened a bottle of champagne and Emily Cooke poured it over the bow of the boat.
Pastor Lemke closed the day with a blessing of the boat, captain and crew.
Hot dogs were served and music was provided by Yard Dog Charlie with his Florida Swamp Music (a blend of Cajun, Zydeco, folk and country.)