Sunday, September 21, 2014

Boat taxi serving Rainy Lake

Al Boivin knows Rainy Lake like the back of his hand.
He also knows boats.

So it makes perfect sense that he’d combine these two passions by starting up the new water transportation service: Rainy Lake Boat Taxi.
The business is now up and running, providing water taxi service, freight hauling, boat towing, boat tours, and cabin maintenance for local residents and U.S. visitors on Rainy Lake.
Boivin, a marine technician at Badiuk Equipment on weekdays, only started operating his new business from his family home near the Five-Mile Dock about a month ago.
But already he’s been spending early mornings, evenings, and weekends helping customers in various ways.
So far his jobs have ranged from an emergency repair to a bass boat during the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship to transporting people to a tourist camp on the north arm that belongs to some friends of his.
He’s even transported deputy town clerk Kathy Lawson to an island to perform a civil marriage ceremony.
“So far the response has been: ‘This is a great idea. We’ve been waiting for a guy like you. It relieves a lot of pressure,’” noted Boivin.
Rainy Lake Boat Taxi is the only licensed water taxi service on the Canadian side of the lake, and fills a niche in the business market.
Boivin’s wife, Carol, noted the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce informed them that it regularly fields calls from U.S. visitors looking for transport.
But prior to now, it has had to refer those tourists to U.S. water taxi services.
The timing to launch the business also is right as the recent high lake levels actually have been a benefit to Boivin.
“It’s unfortunate that the lake is high but it’s a great year for my initial start-up,” he explained.
“People are calling me because they can’t get their boats in the lake, they don’t have a dock at their cabin,” noted Boivin, adding he’s ferried several U.S. residents to their cabins.
He also has hauled 17 or 18 utility totes to various peoples’ dock on the north arm (these are the large containers filled with water to weigh down the docks).
Boivin also has had some parties interested in boat tours. He hasn’t done any yet but plans to do them in the future.
He said such boat tours could appeal not only to tourists but to local residents who want to show guests the beauty of Rainy Lake.
While he expects much of his business to come from U.S. visitors, Boivin said there’s no limit to the customer base.
“A lot of people have big gatherings, like family reunions or a big Saturday barbecue at their cabin, and they’re wondering, ‘How can I get back and forth?’” he noted.
“Hire me, and I can take them nine at a time,” he remarked.
“Get your people to the party and back afterwards.”
Boivin said he’s always wanted to run a water taxi service. He’s been working as a marine technician for 30 years and he’s looking ahead to what he’ll do after his eventual retirement.
“It’s his dream—we love to be out on the lake,” said Carol Boivin, adding she fully supports her husband and is helping out with the business in any way she can.
Boivin seriously started pursuing his new business back in January, when he ordered his boat—a 2014 Hewescraft 20 Pro V ET, powered by a Merc 150 FourStroke.
The durable vessel has comfortable seating for nine passengers and is loaded with gear.
“I’ve had some heavy loads already and it goes just fine,” said Boivin.
“It’s designed to be a large-water fishing boat but I’ve converted it into a passenger boat with more seating,” he explained.
“It’s a big, deep, wide boat and it’s safe for Rainy Lake. It gets up and goes.”
Boivin said when he finally got his business licence from the town, he put the bright yellow “Rainy Lake Boat Taxi” sticker on the watercraft so when he drives by people on the lake, they’ll know who he is.
Boivin completed a Small Vessel Operator Proficiency course about month-and-a-half ago, and is insured to run a water taxi service.
“I’ve been gradually putting the pieces together, and jumping through some hoops to get there, but I’m there,” he remarked.
Boivin also said he’s providing his services at a reasonable rate, adding he’s not going to take advantage of the fact he’s the only licensed water taxi operator around.
“I want to do it at a reasonable rate so my phone starts to ring and I get busy,” he reasoned.
Carol Boivin added that some people have asked her husband if he’s doing the boat taxi service as a hobby because his rates are so low.
For more information on Rainy Lake Boat Taxi, visit rainylakeboattaxi.com or call 274-6381.

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