By Dyke Hendrickson
---- — NEWBURYPORT - The business that hosts visitors on whale-watching cruises brings close to 10,000 to the city each summer, and last night the Waterfront Trust voted to extend the license for such activity to the owners of Captain’s Lady III of Plum Island.
The 149-seat craft is run by the Charos family, including father George, and sons Chris and Ryan. Their company operates under the names of Captain’s Fishing Parties and Cruise Newburyport.
The Charos team operates four seagoing vessels, and offers fishing trips, business cruises and social events such as weddings and elaborate parties.
“The whale watch will be an addition to the services we offer,” said George Charos, 69, whose family has operated a maritime business here for more than four decades.
“I’ve done whale watches in the past, and after 40 years we know what has to be done.”
The Waterfront Trust voted 5-0 to extend approval to the Charos organization. The Captain’s Lady III will replace the recently sold Prince of Whales, which had one year left on its lease.
Veteran waterfront businessman George Hilton, an owner of Prince of Whales who had run the whale-watching business since the early ‘80s, endorsed the choice of the Charos team.
“The whale-watch is important to the city, and when the Prince of Whales was sold we wanted to get a quality company to replace it,” said Hilton. “We didn’t see anyone nearly as qualified as the Charos family, and they will do a great job.”
George Charos said the family is taking one boat from its other pursuits in order to run the whale-watch program. Because of this, there is some financial exposure for the family business.
Though his fishing trips are run from the northern tip of Plum Island, Chris Charos said that the whale watches will load at the municipal docks just as they have in the past.
Members of the Waterfront Trust and other public officials have been seeking a qualified operator for the whale-watching service since the Prince of Whales was sold last fall to a buyer in Florida.
Because the service brings in so many visitors, local merchants and restaurateurs were among those who were hoping a replacement could be found.
The Captain’s Lady III is 106 feet long, and carries the same number of passengers that the Prince of Whales did.
Other boats the business operates include the Captain George at 65 feet, the Captain’s Lady at 78 feet and the Captain’s Lady II at 90 feet.
Members of the Waterfront Trust said they felt that the Charos team could help the city - and their business - by taking over the popular whale-watching franchise.