NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — Frances Fleet, an more than 40-year-old charter party boat fishing company, says COVID-19 has been their biggest challenge yet.
Owner Frank Blount says that on a sunny day, they’d usually have between 60-to-75 passengers aboard their boat, but COVID-19 has capped the capacity at 27.
“We did have the oil spill back in the late 90s, which was a little difficult, but nothing compared to this,” Blount said.
The company is usually open year-round, but had to shut down in March. Blount said he wasn’t able to reopen until June 1.
“March, April and May were down 100%,” Blount said, referencing his lost revenue. “We’re probably down well over 50% for the month of June.”
Blount said they offer a wide variety of fishing trips, including half-day fishing trips, whale watching, full-day trips and evening trips.
“We even do two and three day trips in the fall, which we’re not sure how they’re going to take place yet with restrictions on the bunk room,” Blount said.
Anthony Garcia, who travels from East Hartford Conn., said he’s been fishing with Frances Fleet for more than 20 years.
“They’re a family owned business, they treat their customers well,” he said. “They actually give back.”
Garcia said despite being a bit nervous, he’s headed out to fish for the second time this week.
“As long as everybody follows the guidelines it makes it a little bit more comfortable to come back out,” he said.
Blount said they’re taking precautions to make sure passengers are safe when on board, including spraying the boats down with a disinfectant in between trips.
“There’s multiple stations on the boat for the hand sanitizers and the distance,” he said. “As you can see there’s white tape on the boat, normally you’d have 2 or three people between those – now it’s just one.”
Blount also said whale-watching excursions begin next week.
“That’s going to be one of our biggest challenges, because on whale watches, typically, we carry 100 people,” he said. “Now I’m not sure what regulations will be, but it’ll be considerably less than that.”
Blount said in order to go out on one of the boats, trips are by reservation only.