From the kids trip in the morning to the soirée sail at midnight, all day long, all summer long, the tall mast of the Nauti-Cat edges along West Grand Traverse Bay packed with people loving up Traverse City’s sparkling blue crown jewel. We reached out to Captain Chien Nowland, (winner of Red Hot Best Charter Captain) to gain some insight on what it’s like to man the helm one of the bay’s most iconic boats and to fish with a few dozen tipsy women. The following interview was first featured in the 2014 June issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
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So you’re a 28-year-old captain, but it sounds like you have some years at the wheel.
Well, I started getting paid on my dad’s charter fishing boat when I was just 8, and I’d sometimes steer the boat back from the Manitous and stuff when I was that little.
When did you start working the Nauti-Cat?
When I was 14. I could only work the kids cruises back then because I couldn’t serve alcohol. The previous owner’s wife would dress up and play this clown character, Aunt Margaret, and she’d do balloon animals and eat powdered sugar donuts and get sugar all over her face and stuff like that. We still do the kids ride, but we don’t have Aunt Margaret anymore.
Do you let people fish?
Yeah, sometimes we just throw a rod or two off the back and get some fish. We’ll usually fish up along Old Mission Peninsula, a stretch they call the Gravel Pit, and the hole at the mouth of the Boardman River. A few times we’ve entered a fishing competition to raise money for breast cancer awareness, but I dunno, you get 30 women on the boat with fishing rods and drinking … it’s kind of difficult.
What’s your favorite time to be out on the water?
I typically like the sunsets. We give everybody a free glass of champagne and people make toasts at sunset. Usually they keep the toasts pretty light, but sometimes somebody drops their ego enough to say something more personal, meaningful.
When it’s 100 degrees and high humidity and no wind. It can get incredibly hot.
Describe the vibe of the midnight sail.
It’s a good party out there. We can have 50 people on the ship. That’s the one trip we don’t put the sails up for. We go from 10 pm till midnight and typically go a mile or two out from West Bay Beach. The backdrop for the band is the whole downtown, the Park Place, the parkway, and all of that.
Can we rent the whole boat?
We get a lot of private bookings, bachelorette parties, weddings, 50th birthday parties. Somebody rented it for the fireworks. Companies do it a lot for what they call team building, but I just wink when they say that because they are just having fun.