Neil Kinner - Owner/Founder of Maine BayCycle

What is Maine BayCycle?

Maine BayCycle is a human powered, BYOB cruise boat for up to 15 passengers. It’s ideal for birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, team building or simply getting onto the water in a fun setting. Guests sit along an ice chest laden bar down the center of the boat and power a large paddle wheel on the stern with bicycle pedals. The pedaling can be as intense or leisurely as desired—there’s no goal other than enjoying yourself. 

Can you tell us about your cross-country journey from one Portland to another towing your brand new, pedal-powered paddle boat? What kind of emotions were you experiencing?

I set out for Oregon to pick up the boat minutes after I closed on the loans that financed the construction. It was early May and I already had my U.S. Coast Guard passenger vessel inspection scheduled for the end of the month and my first customers booked for June 1st. The drive out didn't worry me, it would be my second round-trip, cross-country drive in the last year and I knew I could make it in a few days. I gave myself a few hours in Chicago to see family and one day in Portland, Oregon to see friends and the people who introduced me to these boats in the first place, BrewGroup PDX, a great organization that I unabashedly modeled my operation on. 

The drive back was the difficult part. The boat is long, wide and prone to being blown around in the wind. Naturally, there were tornado warnings and 50 mile-per-hour winds each day as I drove through Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa. As that wasn’t nerve wracking enough, I had no idea if any of this would work. There’s no real market research on human powered boats. The closest sister ship at the time was on a lake in Minnesota, not the Atlantic Ocean. On top of that, I had no way to advertise the boat before getting it to Maine and in the water. I don’t know that I have ever been more stressed than those seven days of driving. I do know that if I am ever able to add another boat I won’t be the one towing it here. 

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When did you realize your passion for boating and the ocean would become a career path?  

I began working on the water when I was 17 or 18 years old. My family runs a small company on Peaks Island, Lionel Plante Associates. Part of that company is transporting commercial vehicles to the islands of Casco Bay. It wasn’t until I was almost done with my political science degree that I realized making a career out of working on the water may be my best course. The economic climate of 2009 did that sort of thing to graduates. I then spent five years with Lionel Plante Associates learning the bay and getting an inkling of an idea that I’d like to have my own company one day. 

What are one challenge and one lesson you’ve learned from your experience as an owner/founder?

The biggest challenge I encountered in starting Maine BayCycle, other than physically going to get the boat, was securing financing. I had never done anything like that before and didn’t have the first clue how. Creating a business plan and presenting it to loan officers took several months of work, and in the end, I quite enjoyed it. Even with the help I had, I learned quickly that nothing happens unless you are invested 100% and put in the work yourself. No one can, or is going to, do it otherwise. 

Can you give us one invaluable resource that has helped you in the development and growth of Maine BayCycle?

I could not have put together that financing without the help of the Maine Small Business Development Center at the University of Southern Maine.  When I went to them with my one-page business plan, that I thought was pretty good, I had no idea it would turn into a 50-page proposal. But without that, I would never have been able to convince anyone that my idea was sound. With their help, I was able to secure loans through Gorham Savings Bank and the City of Portland’s Economic Development Department, another amazing resource available to new businesses. I cannot recommend both of them enough. 

What are your top two MBC memories so far?

My top two memories of Maine BayCycle so far are the day I pulled into Portland on my way back from Oregon and detached the trailer from the truck, for obvious reasons, and the morning that Ted McInerney of WMTW did the weather forecast live from the boat. We were in the middle of the harbor watching the sunrise at 5:00am and the weather could not have been better. 

Where is your dream location for the next Maine BayCycle? 

My dream location for the next boat would either be Bar Harbor or somewhere in the Sebago Lake region. That sort of thing is a little way away right now, but it’s something that I would really like to make happen. 

What is your favorite inspirational/motivational quote?

To be completely honest, I don’t have a favorite inspirational quote. I even tried to Google something that maybe would spark some memory of one that I liked, but no luck. There’s one about working smarter, not harder, that I always liked. But it’s hard to work smart, too. Maybe I’ll find a quote I like someday.

In one word, describe yourself:

I suppose if I had to pick one word to describe myself it would be ‘level’. I try to keep everything balanced and not get worked up. It’s generally served me well.

 "Maine BayCycle is New England's first and only human powered party boat. Bring your friends and your favorite local brews for a 90 minute cruise of the Portland waterfront. Featuring ten pedal stations and seating for four more, Maine BayCycle is a great way to enjoy Casco Bay."  BOOK ONLINE

"Maine BayCycle is New England's first and only human powered party boat. Bring your friends and your favorite local brews for a 90 minute cruise of the Portland waterfront. Featuring ten pedal stations and seating for four more, Maine BayCycle is a great way to enjoy Casco Bay." BOOK ONLINE