Keeping Afloat in a Pandemic

The Florida SBDC at FAU Helps Delray Yacht Cruises Weather the Storm

Changing young lives

By Lynn Laurenti and Jenifer Rankin

For almost two decades, Joe Reardon of Delray Yacht Cruises has been introducing local residents and out-of-town visitors to the relaxing pleasures of the intracoasta aboard the 90-foot Lady Delray and 105-foot Lady Atlantic, both docked at Veterans Park in Delray Beach.

Business was booming until March 16, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced its recommendation about limiting social gatherings from under 50 to no more than 10. That hit Delray Yacht Cruises like a bombshell, and business declined rapidly.

“We need between 30 and 40 passengers just to break even.… The boat went out today with 20 people on it, but that doesn’t even cover the cost to start it up and move it,” Reardon said. “What’s been the real killer is all the corporate events and weddings that we’ve had to cancel. At the end of the day, we’ve had to refund tens of thousands of dollars to clients and vendors.”

The human toll was also very high. Joe had to lay off 35 employees, people who have worked hard to make every cruise successful. “I hate to think of them having to file for unemployment,” he said. “I went from 40 employees, down to five.”

When business started declining, Reardon contacted a bank with which he had a long-time business relationship and was referred to Jacqueline Ramirez, a growth specialist at the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

Reardon applied for a state-funded Emergency Bridge Loan; however, the application was not approved by the state and he and Ramirez have been forced to come up with new strategies to keep Delray Yacht Cruises afloat. Together, they have been brainstorming ideas with the remainder of Reardon’s crew, to bring in more clientele while safely meeting social distancing standards. They are implementing lower ticket prices for boat excursions and specializing in dinner cruises and Sunday brunches. Delray Yacht has also gone paperless and touch-free when it comes to clients paying. And, of course, he said, “everyone on the boat must wear a mask at all times.”

Reardon said he is not giving up hope.

“Jacqueline and everyone at the FAU SBDC were great. I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “We’re all looking forward to the day when life and business return to normal.