By Carrie Ann Salvi
Growing up in Sag Harbor, it was always Eric Skilbred’s dream to have a boat charter service in the village. Now, at 31 years old, it’s a reality in its first season. Sea Escapes, his new business, is booking on-the-water excursions with two vessels to choose from and lifejackets starting at infant size.
Mr. Skilbred is grateful to have been taught to sail as a kid by his father. He hopes to use his skills to help others enjoy life on the water too. His favorite childhood memories, he said on Thursday, were when he was the dinghy captain on his family’s annual sailing trip to Mystic, Conneticut. After that, he spent his teenage years on a variety of boats, learning the ins, outs, and best locales of local waters.
Mr. Skilbred also helped to create Southampton Town’s paddleboarding and windsurfing programs at Long Beach and then traveled the world in competitions. Two weeks ago, he won the title of “King of the East” along with a trophy at a windsurfing competition at Heckscher State Park in East Islip.
“Any kind of watersports are game,” he said for those who book a boat trip. “I’m really good with kids, too,” he said. He would love to give families, perhaps some that have never gone sailing before, that valuable experience he treasures. “We can drop an anchor and swim off the back of both boats,” he said, or go to lunch or dinner.
The possibilities are endless, and they can be back at the dock before sunset. “Tubing, skiing, we can make it happen,” he said. There are fishing rod holders too, and Mr. Skilbred is in the process of getting his commercial fishing license.
A great day for a group of friends could be to sail over to Mashomack Preserve for some paddle boarding and pristine views then cruise over to Salt Waterfront Bar and Grill for a great lunch, he said. “If we plan it right,” he said, “you could watch the sun come down in Noyack and hear reggae when you pull into the dock.”
Every Sunday, he offers the chance to sail off into the sunset and pull into a live reggae show at Harlow East on Long Wharf. Those who want to go a little faster can charter his powerboat and hear reggae at East Hampton Point, too. “What’s better than that for your Sunday afternoon?” he asked on Thursday.
There have been a lot of requests for his $300 rides to Sunset Beach on Shelter Island. He’s always been very adaptable personally, he said, and he plans to be that way with the business too. He will accommodate trips from Hampton Bays to Montauk, he said, “but there is so much to do right here just between Sag Harbor and Shelter Island.”
Trips can take place rain or shine, but if it’s a chance of high wind or a small craft warning, he cancels, “I’m all about safety,” he said. The captain checks the weather three days out, the night before, and the morning of each voyage, staying in communication with his passengers.
Sea Escapes pricing includes appetizers, which he purchases from Schiavoni’s and Cappelletti’s restaurant, and does not include fuel and taxes. Charters range from an eight-hour full day with lunch and soft beverages for $1400 to a two-and-a-half-hour sunset cruise for $500. Six guests fit comfortably on both of his vessels.
Mr. Skilbred will pull the plug in November and head to the Caribbean until spring. Until then, reservations, a month in advance, are recommended for the best experience. “You can try to give a call last minute,” he added, “If I am not booked, I can take you wherever you need to go on the speedboat or have the sailboat ready in ten minutes.
For more information, visit seaescapessagharbor.com.