On the Money: The Vineyard Way

Many Vineyarders are compelled to work multiple jobs. Some wouldn’t have it any other way. Mike Poirier of Edgartown has three jobs, but he’s not complaining. “I like all of my jobs. I never get burned out on any of them because I’m changing hats so often.”

Mike, fifty-three, moved here as a house painter in 1982 from Whitman. “I came to the Vineyard to paint a house for a client and never left. I didn’t care what I did, I just wanted to be here.” He arrived with his then-wife and little else, and found work with the Conover family at the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown, doing “a little bit of everything. The job morphed into project management for Conover Restorations.” (Job number one.) Through that job, Mike met clients who wanted him to tend to the homes he’d helped build, so he started Great Harbor Property Management, and now cares for twelve high-end properties. (Job number two.)

But fishing and boating were a big part of what attracted Mike to the Island: “My father instilled that in me. We fished a lot when we came to the Vineyard....That first winter I worked overtime to buy Gery Conover’s little thirteen-foot Whaler.” Since then, Mike has traded up several times to his current rides: Deceiver, a thirty-two-foot center-console SeaVee with two 300-horsepower outboards, which he uses to indulge his offshore tuna-fishing habit; and Alibi, an all-wood twenty-five-foot 1964 Lyman, on which he’s conducting tours in Edgartown harbor beginning this summer. (Job number three.)

For years Mike harbored the thought of being a charter captain, but he knew that the market for fishing charters was largely saturated. It was while captaining yachts for Edgartown’s private Boathouse club that Mike realized his niche: not hard-core offshore fishing, but relaxed Edgartown harbor cruises. “The passengers loved it, being on an old boat, being in the harbor.” He found Alibi (then called Smoothy) for sale and persuaded the owner to sell it to him for below its market value with the promise that Mike would care for it and keep it in Edgartown harbor. Over the past winter, he totally restored the boat. “Everything I learned over the last thirty years went into this boat,” he says. “It’s such a pretty boat.”

Mike says the fishing charter captains are happy to have him doing evening cruises: “The fishing guys hate doing them. They have to wash all the blood off the boat.”

Mike strives to provide a classic, elegant, cocktail-hour feel (though the cruises are BYOB) for about $150 an hour. His experience in both construction and estate-management has been essential to knowing what customers want: a perfect evening on the water, with every detail thought out. “You’re catering to the customers, giving them their ‘Vineyard experience.’”

This attention to the Vineyard experience of others has allowed Mike to build his own life on the Island he adores. While he’s not wealthy, he was able to raise a daughter who’s in graduate school, and now he can do as he pleases. “‘Successful’ is being able to do the things you want to do....I can fish, play golf, be on the water,” he says. “It took me a long time to make the right connections, and to figure out what I wanted to do....The Island’s really afforded me a great opportunity, one that wasn’t available to me where I grew up.”

Q: What are the hidden costs of owning a boat on the Vineyard?

A: Mike Poirier, owner of Deceiver Charters: The costs are crazy. Fuel is around $5 a gallon, and Deceiver’s tank is 320 gallons. One trip 80 miles offshore on Deceiver uses between 250 and 300 gallons [$1,250 to $1,500]. A trip to Nantucket and back is 50 gallons. Insurance is expensive. Dockage, if you can get it, is nearly $6,000 for the season. Maintenance: Bottom paint alone is about $150 a gallon, and I use a couple gallons annually; I just replaced three batteries at $250 apiece; you have to have the boat hauled in the fall, winterized, covered, and recommissioned in the spring. Safety equipment: A Type-1 life vest, which you need for every passenger, is $50; flare kit; radios....I would estimate the purchase price for Alibi will be only 20 percent of my costs this year for that boat.