Boating Businesses Ready to Set Sail with Modifications for Safety

Vista Star and Pontoons out of Pier B are changing their operations to ensure passengers have a safe nautical experience.

DULUTH, Minn.- As summer gets closer, Duluth begins to shine as a waterfront destination again. After looking at summer with uncertainty, boating rental and tour services are excited to say they can provide people that gateway to the big blue lake.

The Vista Fleet is missing the big Memorial Day opening, but owner Justin Steinbach expects to be open by early June. With a slower season expected, he’s using the time to renovate the smaller Vista Queen vessel for a fresh start next season.

This summer, Steinbach and his crew will be operating the larger of his two boats, the Vista Star.

“Do we think that we can safely take care of our customers and employees and still provide a great experience? Yes, we can do that with confidence,” he said.

Maximum capacity is usually about 220. Now only 90-99 will be allowed onboard, for only public and private sightseeing tours.

According to the owner, passengers will be moved throughout all three decks to maintain social distancing.

“Because we have all these Coast Guard restrictions our crew is already used to counting passenger totals,” Steinbach said. “They’re already used to counting and watching decks and releasing passengers to go to a different deck or not.”

15 crew members are expected to be hired back on the Vista Star, and potentially more if demand calls for it.

“There’s going to be people who don’t feel comfortable yet to navigate out,” said Steinbach, “but we’re getting a lot of feedback already both from Facebook and calls and our website of people wanting to know if we’re going to open.”

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something sooner for the holiday, Pontoon boats can be rented from Your Boat Club out of Pier B’s Marina this Memorial Day weekend.

The number of people on the 14-person boat will be limited to 10 to comply with state guidelines, while passengers will be required to wear masks and if possible, their own lifejackets.

Staff said they’re excited to send people out on the water for the big weekend that is a sure sign of summer.

“Boating is everyone’s favorite pastime, at least it’s mine,” said Benjamin Foster, Your Boat Club’s Location Manager for Duluth. “And we’ve all been locked up, cooped up maybe in our houses.”

“And I think boating’s one of those activities where if you do it with the people that live in your house and not come in contact with other people, and it should be safe to get out on the water and have a little bit of fun,” he said.

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