And Then They All Puked…: My Experience As a (Groupon) Montauk Charter Boat Captain by Jeff Nichols



Stricken with a lifelong obsession for offshore fishing, Jeff Nichols had been running part-time charters out of Montauk Harbor, once dubbed “the sport fishing capital of the world,” for ten years with mediocre results. Most of the time, he just brought friends out and considered a trip successful if the customers didn’t stiff him, walk off with his rods and reels, or puke all over him. He bought cheap, remarkably unsafe boats, and so as to not piss off the other charter boat captains, named his operation Second Choice Charters. Then he started a Groupon campaign to boost his modest, if not pathetic, business.

The Groupon campaign worked amazingly well, and Jeff quickly became one of the busiest captains in Montauk, sailing twice a day all week long. But unbeknownst to his customers, he was ill-prepared and grossly underqualified for the job despite being a USCG-licensed captain, not to mention that his boats were filthy and not exactly seaworthy.

The results were horrific. In the notoriously dangerous waters off Montauk Point, Jeff’s escapades resulted in seven Mayday calls and six documented Coast Guard rescues at sea (one including a helicopter). Even though his adventures are sometimes comical, he quickly realizes they are also cautionary tales. Not everyone should be a captain, and the “6 pack captain’s license” in the wrong hands can be a license to kill.

Jeff Nichols’s first book, Trainwreck: My Life as an Idoit, was made into a movie by Lions Gate Films under the title, American Loser, and his second book, Caught, is an eye-opening account of the black market striped bass industry. Jeff has written over the years for Penthousethe New York PostEasthampton Star, and Dans Papers. He now runs the Montauk marine septic boat and monitors Channel 73.