A trip on the Osprey isn't a typical tourist outing.
Passengers of the 42-foot boat won't have to strain to see over others' heads to catch a glimpse of what the hidden tour guide is describing. Instead, a small group of friends can enjoy a Coke- or a Corona - while taking in the Chesapeake Bay with the captain by their side.
Unlike many vessels in the water tour industry, the Osprey boards a maximum of six passengers at a time. For $125 per hour (two hours minimum), customers can charter the boat for any destination. Restaurants along the water for lunch or dinner are popular choices.
The Osprey's captain, Butch Petrey, admits he went out on a leap of faith in starting the tour business. He bought the boat a few years ago when it was in dire straits and took out a credit line to make it first class.
"I thought, why not put the Osprey to work and have her pay for herself," Petrey said. "Let's do wine and cheese cruises, and let's find a city that has the same thoughts that I do." Petrey's initial proposal was rejected by two other cities before Hampton welcomed his business with open arms.
Sam Martinette, a media strategist for the Hampton Convention Center, pulled out all the stops in coordinating the Osprey's christening, the event kicking off Petrey's tours. Bagpipes, pirates and champagne were part of the ceremony. The Yacht Club loaned the floating dock for the christening. Norfolk Councilman Don Williams and Hampton Councilman Randy Gilliland stood side by side as rum was sprinkled on the stern. Petrey is also the owner of The Old Man and The Seafood, a seafood catering and delivery business he began about two years ago. He moved the business to Hampton when he decided to begin the Osprey tours and brought loyal customers with him.
George Consolvo, a Suffolk lawyer, was one of Petrey's customers who showed up to witness the Osprey's re-dedication ceremony. He has learned one of Petrey's business goals: Treat customers the way you want to be treated.
"It's a business motto people tend to follow, whether it's a seafood delivery or tours," Consolvo said of Petrey's reliable customer service. "I'm certain that will carry on to this business."
Petrey worked for Motorola and Nextel for more than 20 years before he decided to do something different.
Now, Petrey makes the tours his passion.
"We don't go fishing, we don't go out on the ocean - we go on the lower Chesapeake Bay," he said. "We know what we do."
Petrey is building relationships with local businesses, and he's hoping to strike deals with Hampton restaurants to have their appetizers brought out to the boat. Waiters would mention specials to the passengers, who would have the option of dining in the restaurant while the Osprey is anchored.
In addition, Petrey has talked to a few developers about taking potential buyers out to view properties. Sometimes viewing properties is best from the water.
The Osprey will set off from its dock on Settlers Landing in downtown Hampton for its first tour this week. Tours are scheduled to be available daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. April through October.