A Maryland dad sells his tech company, sails the world with his family, and opens a water cruise company in Ocean City that provides jobs for middle and high school students in Baltimore, through a nonprofit partnership. It’s a tough story to root for, and we haven’t even mentioned the ice cruise yet.
Captain Steve Butz is the owner and operator of OC Bay Hopper and Sail Alyosha, a boating facility in Ocean City with such extensive offerings that it seems hard to leave the event schedule on their website without making a reservation. They have 19 types of cruises, with prices ranging from $15 for a one-way shuttle ride to $150 for tours with food.
The company had a fairly simple start. Butz created a water taxi service to connect North Ocean City to downtown Ocean City, as he knew the area needed water transportation. Its fleet has since grown to four vessels, catering to all kinds of nautical tastes.
Book them for:
- Daily sunset catamaran cruises
- Private charters
- Food-focused getaways from OC Foodie Tours, whose rides offer BBQ, Shore Craft beer, pizza or ice cream
- Nature trips to Assateague Island or coastal bays
- Practical Crab Fishing Trips
The excursion menu is interesting. The company’s history is extremely interesting.
Before being Skipper, Butz was a technical executive. Working for years at a software company, he kept tabs on a bigger plan: “I put my nose to the grindstone, worked every hour, took every plane – but in the back of my head, my beacon was, “I’m doing this because I’m gonna get a boat, we’re gonna sail around the world, I’m gonna take my kids out of school for a year and we’re gonna be together as a family “, ” he says.
And he did.
Butz sold his business in 2014, bought a 50ft catamaran and spent two years training. He began his multi-year circumnavigation in 2016, completed it in 2019, and completed a 12-month leg during which his wife Lisa and their children (13-year-old twins and an 11-year-old, if you can believe ) sailed from Tahiti to Australia.
We sat down with the sea captain to learn more about his vision, his fleet’s offerings, and the scariest thing that happens when you’re out on the ocean with your family of five for a year. in a row.
InsideHook: There’s a lot going on with your boating business. What’s the big picture?
Captain Steve Butz: I had been a social worker in Baltimore City [where I’m a resident] and I really wanted to get back to doing something that would benefit the kids there. I tried to create a high profile business where I could bring in kids and hire them as laborers/first mates. It was a long term plan – I was thinking seven to eight years to grow the business before moving on to workforce development – but with COVID I saw an opportunity to speed things up. So I partnered with a non-profit organization in the city of Baltimore called Next One Up. The children live and work in Ocean City. They have an AR that teaches life skills like grocery shopping, learning to cook, and living on your own. This year we have seven children. These are small numbers, but we are growing.
Your story isn’t the typical tech success story – you hear about successful people in this industry and then jump straight into other opportunities within the industry, but you don’t..
I have partners who were in business with me [who] look at me and think, “What the hell are you doing? People are going to pay you here. And I look at them and say, ‘What are you guys doing?! None of this was great fun. It was a chore!
I think it’s much better to do something where your goal manifests. I was able to find a path that allowed me to marry my passions: passion for water, passion for the children of Baltimore City and passion for Ocean City.
How did you convince your family to put their lives on hold and go to the high seas for a year? And that was before the pandemic, when people started breaking the rules/routines!
It took time to convince, but we had been talking about it for so long that it was almost inevitable. We very strategically chose to miss eighth grade – nothing good happens in eighth grade. [We spent four months in New Zealand and] the children were able to take online lessons there because we had better internet connectivity.
What was the most trying moment at sea?
We were 600 miles off Lisbon, Portugal, and we were in a very bad situation. We finally had 25 foot waves crashing against the boat. My wife had an absolute meltdown, and the kids were sitting in their fancy booths, and I was thinking, “Please! Why do I have to have my family on board for this? So yeah, times like that, they come.
Yeah. How about the best time?
Almost all year round! You would park in an anchorage, each one more beautiful than the other. We spent a week [at Niue in the South Pacific]. You could see 100 feet down, there were whales playing on the back of the boat every morning, there were underwater caves to explore. There were so many of those moments, they far outweighed the pain. [That said] I have no intention of going around the world again. Once was enough.
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