I had been looking for a boat that would be the most comfortable for the six people, in my party. I drove up to Dock A at the Bahia Mar, in Ft. Lauderdale. The "Hooked Up" had three seat on the deck and the white chairs in the cabin seemed to fit the bill. So, I agreed on the price with the Mate, who was standing by the boat to catch business. He had the gift of gab and the people representing the boat next to Hooked Up, supported what he was saying.
I let everyone, in my party, know what the name of the boat is and what the layout was. The day that we were supposed to go out, everyone was on time and anxious to go fishing.
However, when we got to the dock, things started to get switched around. The amount that I was given was $500, but the new amount was $515. He said that there was tax, but that doesn't add up to the tax in the state of Florida and the receipt didn't reflect the tax portion as being part of the transaction. He had trouble with the credit card terminal and ran my card several times. Then, we are told that we weren't going on the Hooked Up and we weren't going with the captain or mate that I was told. Now, we are going on the Hooked Up ll, and we are assured that it is a better boat. But, when I look over at the Hooked Up ll, there is only one seat on the deck. I expressed my disappointment but went with the flow. They pumped us up with suggesting we go kite fishing and described what type of fish we might find. Then the captain suggested that we go out to fish for tile fish. This was another switch to the kind of fishing I came for. By this time, I was getting concerned. I told the captain that I wanted to sport fish. He said o.k but it seemed like he was trying to tell me that it was going to be tough out there trolling and that the area he was talking about would be more enjoyable. So, I relented and told him that he was the captain and he knew better so whatever he suggested was fine.
It only became apparent that the trip was going to be a difficult once we started out the inlet. It was really rough. The mate, Mike, was busy setting up the rigs and everyone in the group was trying to adapt to the lack of seating and even finding a place to stand and hold your position through the rough seas. There was one chair on the deck, reserved for the next person in line to fish. Right by the stairs going to the bridge was a hand rail and then the only remaining spot was a cooler placed toward the back of the deck. This forced people to either go up the bridge to hold on or go in the cabin.
After an hour of holding on for dear life and occasionally bringing in a baby Bonita, several people started getting sick and retreated to the cabin. The area he was referring to for tile fishing was another seven miles out. I don't think that they could have endured that long of a trip out, not to mention having to return that distance.That was the beginning of the end for this charter. We asked the captain to take us back to the dock. When they saw that most were ill, they suggested that we run in around the jetty or inlet to do some fishing, as an alternative to salvage what we could of the trip. Most of the party were too sick to consider it so we asked to just go back to the docks.
While we were at the dock, another charter boat came in from an apparent half day trip. They, too, were early to the dock. We noticed no fish and the party seemed to be glad to be back on dry land.
When we got home, we were able to reflect on the trip. It was terrible.
We think that the charter company already knew that the waves were extreme and that it was only going to get worse once the winds picked up. Also, the charter company swapped us to another boat at the last minute. They must have known that the accommodations were different and not as accommodating to this kind of sea. They warned everyone that the cabin was the worst place to be in this kind of sea and it could cause them to get sick. My wife said that the captain tried to tell me, when he suggested a different type of fishing. That is when I realized that something was a miss in the translation of, "O.K you are the captain. Whatever you think is best, will be o.k.."
The crew was very nice. I think that they did their best under the conditions. It was hard to overlook their smoking cigarettes, regularly. But, all in all, they were courteous and accommodating.
American Express called me, that afternoon, asking about two charges that came up. It was a double billing for the trip. I contacted the Charter business and told them what had happened. Captain Taco assured me that it would be taken care of. In fact, he called me later in the day and said that he discussed it with the person that ran the card and the double billing would be credited back to my card. Three days later, the card company told me that it has credited my account and that the account will be restored to the proper amounts, in two days. I found the charter company to be very cooperative in this matter.
The price is very fair and the experience is well worth it,,,,providing that you fish for three and a half hours and the seas aren't so treacherous. We think that it would have been a better business decision to cancel the trip and disappoint then to go and have the party suffer. It will probably be the deciding factor as to whether we ever come back to this charter company. The conditions were unacceptable and they should have known that. For the little bit of money they get out of it....they lost a hundred fold in PR and return business. Most of the charter party are very skilled with social media...so I am sure that they will reach a great many people with this experience.
The charter industry is notorious for not advising the charter party that they are about to have a bad trip due to the conditions of the sea. They don't have a refund policy tied to their poor judgement. But maybe they should.
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