Pelican Breeze Foundation struggles financially

Published 9:45 am Friday, March 11, 2011

Pelican Breeze Foundation members are asking for the public’s assistance to help their organization stay afloat.

First Mate Cheryl Page said the nonprofit organization, known for its tours of Albert Lea Lake, is struggling — both financially and for volunteers.

“I’m real passionate about the fact that it’s not going to be here if we don’t get help,” Page said. “I don’t think people think it takes time and money to run something like that.”

Email newsletter signup

She said each year, the organization incurs expenses including insurance and liability, liquor license fees, inspection costs, gas costs, dock installation and general maintenance costs.

She noted the organization is looking for ideas for a unique fundraiser, along with additional volunteers to operate the boat. She said there have been a few retirements in the crew, so there is a shortage of crew members.

Specifically, they’re looking for captains, who actually drive the boat, and first mates, who narrate, serve beverages and help the captain when needed.

Page said if there were 10 volunteers of each, volunteers would only need to commit to a maximum of one week per month from June through September. Both first mate and captain positions require a commitment to take tours that last either 1 1/2 hours or two hours long.

A captain must achieve his or her boiler license.

In her own experience as a first mate — her husband is a captain — Page said she has loved meeting the people on the cruises and hearing their stories.

“I’ve learned a lot from passengers that I didn’t know,” she said.

Over the years, the Pelican Breeze has provided tours from people across the United States and several different countries.

During the summer months, the boat gives public and private cruises, which include historic narration. Sometimes there are organizations or businesses that hold meetings or social gatherings, and occasionally, there is special entertainment, including singing, humor and even wine tasting.

There have been weddings, reunions and kids parties there, too.

Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Susie Petersen called the Pelican Breeze a “great attraction for tourism.”

“I just hope it continues,” Petersen said. “It’s a big attraction. I think it would be terrible if we lost that.”

According to history from the organization, the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau purchased the original Pelican Breeze boat in 1997.

Jean Eaton, the director of the CVB at the time, had been a passenger on the boat in Ortonville and had shared her experience about it with the board. When inquiring how to find a similar boat, they found out the people in Ortonville were selling it and purchased the boat.

In 1999, the CVB chose to no longer financially support the boat, so community members came forward and founded a nonprofit foundation, leasing it.

That boat operated for 10 years, and then four years ago, the organization purchased a new boat, the Pelican Breeze II.

Eaton, who is still involved as a volunteer with the Pelican Breeze Foundation, said buying the new boat for the community has been stressful. She said the organization needs community support.

“It would be a real shame to lose it,” Eaton said. “If we lose this boat, we’ll never get another one like it.”

She said the boat includes many amenities not in the first one, including actual restrooms.

Fun facts
Tidbits about Albert Lea Lake given during the Pelican Breeze tour:
• There are 2,654 acres of surface water area in the lake.
• The maximum depth is 6 feet, while the median depth is 3.5 feet.
• The lake was originally named Fox Lake by U.S. Army Lt. Albert Miller Lea in 1835. The name was changed to Albert Lea Lake by 1856.
• There are approximately 25 species of trees along the shore of the lake including, white oak, red oak, pin oak, walnut, poplar, maple, basswood and elm.
• Fish in the lake include black bullheads, orange spotted sunfish, carp, highbred sunfish, bluegill and northern pike.

Get involved
What: Find out about the Pelican Breeze
When: 6:30 p.m. March 16
Where: Multipurpose room, second floor City Hall
Information: Call 383-2630