KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO
Longtime Greenport fishing boat captains Dave Brennan (left) and Rob Spitzenberg stand aboard their new boat, the Peconic Star Express, the first and only cruiser to offer a day trip excursion to Block Island directly from the North Fork.
Faced with ever-increasing catch restrictions from the state, professional recreational fisherman on Long Island have had to find other ways to boost business.
Greenport boat captains Rob Spitzenberg and Dave Brennan have decided to shift their focus slightly from fishing to day-trip excursions to Block Island with their new boat, the Peconic Star Express — the first and only opportunity for North Forkers to take a day trip directly from Greenport to Rhode Island’s popular party island.
“With the regulations getting tougher, we’re trying not to do business as usual,” Mr. Spitzenberg said. “We’re trying to do as many non-fishing events as possible.”
While Mr. Brennan, a longtime recreational fisherman, continues to run his fleet of charter and party fishing boats — long known for their striped bass, bluefish, fluke and porgie fishing — Mr. Spitzenberg, 40, will run the Peconic Star Express, an 80-foot, 150-passenger refurbished 1974 aluminum cruiser that will sail from Greenport’s railroad dock next to the Shelter Island ferry.
The boat has been open for business for about three weeks and is available for fishing, the Block Island trips, lighthouse viewing, weddings and rehearsal dinners, moonlight cruises and other special events. Mr. Spitzenberg said he’s already taken several small groups to Block Island and expects that aspect of the business to pick up after high school graduations, when families have more time to enjoy the water and the island.
“This seemed like a great fit along with the fishing boats,” he said. “And everyone loves to go to Block Island. But the options are limited to get there from the North Fork. You really couldn’t take a day trip over there until now.”
Block Island excursions are scheduled on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the summer, and additional days could be scheduled “according to demand,” Mr. Spitzenberg said. The trip costs $89 for adults, $79 for those 62 and older and $49 for children 12 and under. There are no additional fees to bring bicycles or surfboards on board.
The boat departs Greenport at 8 a.m. and leaves Block Island at 5 p.m. Mr. Spitzenberg said that passengers get to spend five to six hours on the island, depending how on weather conditions affect the speed of the boat, which cruises during the trip at about 18 knots.
“Most other boats don’t have the speed or comfort that we do to make it to Block Island and back for the day,” Mr. Spitzenberg said.
The Peconic Star Express also has the latest in navigation, communication and fish-finding equipment. It features a new stereo system and a spacious galley with a snack bar and plenty of electrical outlets to charge phones and laptops.
Mr. Spitzenberg, who has been working with Mr. Brennan since 1981, said that Mr. Brennan approached him last November about the multi-use concept for the boat — and he was sold right away. They acquired the Peconic Star Express from the Captree Fishing Fleet in Babylon in February and spent months overhauling it.
Mr. Spitzenberg added that a versatile approach to recreational boating simply makes sense in a tough economic climate — made even more difficult due to ever-stricter catch limits.
“We’re doing everything we can to think outside the box,” he said.