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Home · Articles · News · Features · Catch the wind with the...
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Catch the wind with the Nauti-Cat

Robert Downes - August 4th, 2008
Talk about dream jobs: Chien Nowland, 22, spends his days sailing West Grand Traverse Bay and partying with people from all over the world who are thrilled to be guests on his 47-foot catamaran, the Nauti-Cat.
“If you love your job, it doesn’t seem like work,” he says.
But it’s not all fun and games, sailing until the sun goes down each day. “I’m out here every day, seven days a week, with four cruises each day,” he says. “I’m the only captain, so that ends up being about 100 hours per week.”
Captain Nowland is partners in the Nauti-Cat with his father, Jack, who owns the SOS Analytical environmental assessment company in Traverse City. Jack does the books while Chien does the hands-on work. Chien is also the son of Nita Nowland, a well-known local businesswoman and rock singer.
He got started in the family business while still a kid. “I’ve been sailing since the age of 14 on the Nauti-Cat, but my first job was as first mate on my dad’s charter fishing boat when I was eight,” he recalls.
He served his apprenticeship on the water by getting up at 5 a.m., getting the charter boat out of the slip, helping with the fishing gear, docking the boat and cleaning the fish caught by clients.

MOVING ON
At the age of 14, Nowland started working on the Nauti-Cat. “I was unable to serve drinks at that age, so I paid my dues, helping with the kid’s cruises until I was 18,” he says.
He graduated from TC West High School in 2004 and went on to earn his captain’s license in 2006. “I tried college twice, but had a lack of focus,” Nowland says. “I’m an autodidact -- I like to study on my own -- things like music theory.” He also plays alto sax and guitar.
In 2006, the Nauti-Cat’s owner, Russell Schindler, announced that he was bowing out of the business. Jack and Chien purchased the boat the following year and carried on with the popular cruises.
Chien’s contribution has been through sweat equity, running the boat and also installing and removing a massive wooden dock at the West Bay Holiday Inn each spring and fall with the help of friends.

ABOUT THE CAT
At 47 feet in length and 29 feet wide, with a mast that stands 63 feet, the Nauti-Cat is the largest sailing catamaran on the Great Lakes.
It was custom-built in Galveston, Texas in 1987, with double the required fiberglass in its mono-hull. “It’s very easy to sail and easy to get the sails up,” Nowland says.
So how did it come to Northern Michigan?
“Russell brought it up from Galveston in the mid-’90s,” Nowland says. “But a big storm snapped the wooden mast, so they ended up floating it here on a barge up through the Mississippi.”
Today, in addition to its day cruises, the Nauti-Cat is available for private parties and weddings. Last year, for instance, the Kellogg company rented the boat for a run between Bay Harbor and Harbor Springs.
“This is an ocean-going vessel, so we’ve had it out in major storms on Lake Michigan in waves that are easily seven or eight feet high,” Nowland says.
Mostly, however, it’s cruises around West Bay that keep the Nauti-Cat busy. There’s a kid’s cruise from 10-11:30 a.m. ($15); a noon cruise from 12-2:30 p.m. ($22); a happy hour cruise from 3-5:30 p.m. ($28); and a champagne sunset cruise from 7 p.m. on ($35). The boat can accommodate 46 people, and there’s a cash bar and two heads onboard.
So, what next for Captain Nowland? He and his girlfriend Susan Taylor are expecting the birth of a child this winter. And someday, he’d also like to adopt the local habit among captains of working the boats down in the Virgin Islands in the off-season. But in the meantime, there are still plenty of smiles, sunsets and good times on the Bay to attend to as the Nauti-Cat wraps up its summer.
Check out the Nauti-Cat and its sailing opportunities at its dock at the West Bay Holiday Inn, or call 231-947-1730. Web: www.natuti-cat.com




 
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