If all goes according to plan, beginning this summer there will be a new way to get from Shelter Island to Sag Harbor by sea.
On February 14, John Eicher appeared before the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to request authorization to pick up and drop off passengers from the village’s transient dock on Long Wharf. Mr. Eicher’s company, Shore, already provides a ship to shore boat shuttle each summer at Crescent Beach.
Now, he’s looking to expand his business by offering an on-demand service that will transport up to six passengers by boat between Sag Harbor and Crescent Beach in the warm weather months.
The first hurdle is now cleared. Mr. Eicher’s request was approved by the Sag Harbor Trustees at the February meeting, which means he can proceed with the additional steps needed in order to make the service a reality — primarily buying a boat and setting up the mobile app that clients will use to book the service.
“Getting approval [to dock in Sag Harbor] was the first step in executing my plan,” said Mr. Eicher told the Reporter this week. “That was one of the biggest parts. It didn’t make sense to spend money on development of a mobile app until I knew I could do it.”
Mr. Eicher hopes to have his summer-only service up and running by Memorial Day weekend and if it’s successful, he envisions expanding the service to other East End destinations such as Greenport, Montauk, Three Mile Harbor, or even Orient.
While there may be a tendency to compare Mr. Eicher’s planned service to the Greenport/Sag Harbor passenger ferry that operated on an experimental basis a few summers ago, Mr. Eicher notes that his will be an entirely different kind of operation.
“It’s not the same scale of the water taxi of a few years ago,” he said. “That boat was an old New York City water taxi and it held a lot more people. What I’m doing is taking six people at a time in a 28 or 30 foot boat — and I don’t have the boat yet.”
The idea for the service is a natural outgrowth of Mr. Eicher’s Crescent Beach shuttle which he began six years ago at the tender age of 19.
“I started it alone with one boat. Now I have three boat and a few captains that work with me,” he said.
“It’s a lot of fun. I know the customers well and the boats I use now are small tender boats, which are 19 feet or 20 feet.”
Mr. Eicher feels that many of his current clients would be interested in the Shelter Island to Sag Harbor service since getting there will be half the fun.
“Over the years, I’ve really gotten to know the market. When I’m out there, I live on a boat and I want to share that with other people,” Mr. Eicher said. “When you’re used to getting around by boat, you don’t even need a car — and the towns you can go to are so convenient if you’re doing it by boat.”
Mr. Eicher estimates that the distance between Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf and Crescent Beach is 10 miles and that the journey by boat will take 30 minutes. While it may be convenient, it won’t be cheap. Though he’s not ready to commit to firm pricing yet, Mr. Eicher does concede the Shelter Island/Sag Harbor service will be far more expensive than a typical round trip with a vehicle on South Ferry.
For that reason, he doesn’t see his planned venture as a competitor.
“This is a premium service. The other option is to charter a boat,” Mr. Eicher explained. “There’s no schedule. This is on-demand booking. You go on the app and book and pay for it.”
“The small boat will take you to a leisure destination, rather than operating like the Hampton Jitney,” he added. “It’s not so much a utility service — this is more of an experience.”