"It has always been a dream of mine to have a career that celebrated my love of being on the water," said Captain Merighi. "Creating a private BYOB tiki cruise has been an idea I have floated around for years. Now, as I look beyond graduating from Saint Joseph's University, I decided it was time to bring the idea to life and create my own business. With the pandemic still gripping our everyday life, people deserve a place where they can safely escape their worries on the shore, soak up some sunshine and kick back while indulging in a cold drink."
"Of all the boats in the area, I truly think Kick Back Tiki Cruises is the most perfect fit for Jersey Shore goers," said Sawyer. "We are a private cruise experience for parties of six, to come out and make their experience whatever they want it to be. We have great versatility on our custom-made boat which includes Bluetooth speakers, charging ports, the Yeti cooler for some cold beverages, the seated bar, the Adirondack chairs, the LED lights, etc. You can use all of our special features to kick back with your family, relax, and enjoy the views or to have some cocktails and make it a party on the water!"
For their inaugural season, Kick Back Tiki Cruises will set sail from West Wildwood, at the former B and E Marina at 26th Avenue. They will offer private chartered BYO cruises for up to six people at a time. Cruises come in a variety of themes and stops along the way, with most cruises coming in at two hours long, plus a special three-and-a-half-hour long restaurant or sandbar excursion. Cruises can visit a sandbar such as Champagne Island, visit Lazy Bass in Grassy Sound or stop at the Wharf in Wildwood. The boat goes up to 15 MPH so heading to 2 Mile Landing is also a popular option.
All cruises are perfect for any occasion from date nights, to family outings, to bachelor and bachelorette parties, friend cruises, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, and the list can go on, and on. The owners also can't wait to host their first wedding proposal - fingers crossed that love is in the air (or on the water) this summer.
While on board, passengers can sit back and relax, talk, sightsee, listen to music, dance, enjoy the sun, capture the sunset, tan, drink, dine, and whatever they define as kicking back. Passengers have access to all amenities onboard - including an onboard bathroom.
Sawyer laughed and said, "One of the biggest features and difference makers is the bathroom. It may sound funny and you might not think it’s a big deal—but when the ladies are out there for a few hours enjoying themselves, it REALLY comes in handy. We have been on boats without it before and it’s made the experience much worse for the customers, so we knew we had to add that as a must-have feature when we were building it out."
While having fun and relaxing is the goal, passengers can enjoy a safe experience with a Coast Guard certified captain, who will also be temperature checked daily. All surfaces of the boat and bar are also cleaned after every single tour.
While Kick Back Tiki Cruises are BYOB for both food and drink, the owners have partnered with well-known local restaurant The Salty Mermaid Bar and Grille to provide different catering and picnic options for cruise guests, such as a charcuterie board, slider platter, various types of wraps, burrata board, and even shrimp cocktail. All platters are prepared for six people and will be conveniently delivered to the tiki boat just before your private tiki cruise.
Located within walking distance from Kick Back, the Salty Mermaid (2507 Delaware Ave, North Wildwood, NJ) is the perfect spot to enjoy a great meal and drink before, during, or after each cruise.
PRIVATE CRUISE OPTIONS
The full list of cruise options and details are as follows:
* Rise and Shine Tours - 9:00 am to 11:00 am, $350, All ages
Step aboard for the best start to any morning --- on a floating tiki boat that is! Kick start the day while enjoying a cruise along the back bays of Wildwood while sipping on coffee, tea, mimosas, and more. Design your dream morning cruise.
* Mid Day Lunch Tour, 11:30 am to 1:30 am, $400, All ages
Bask in the midday sunshine. Start boozin’ early or just relax, kick back, and take in the nature and scenery of the back bays in Wildwood. Options for lunch are available through The Salty Mermaid or bring your own picnic basket.
* Afternoon Tour, 2:00pm to 4:00pm, $400, All ages
Enjoy the beautiful summer weather in Wildwood on an afternoon back bay tour. This is the perfect pregame to the happy hour or dinner in Wildwood.
* Happy Hour, 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm, $450, All ages
What is better than a tiki boat? Happy Hour on a tiki boat! Cruise along the back bays of Wildwood, NJ, and enjoy a cold drink (or a few) during Happy Hour. Make it simple with cold beers, bring seasonal cocktails, add finger foods and enjoy.
* Sunset Tour, 7:00pm to 9:00pm, $475, All ages
There's just something about riding off into the sunset on your own private tiki boat. Kick Back captains are trained sunset professionals and will take passengers to the best places to view the sunset and take some awesome photos.
* Wildwood by Night Tour, 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm, $500, All ages
Party after dark aboard Wildwood's best tiki boat. Cruise the back bays of Wildwood while taking in the views of the stars or turn up the music and dancing all night long!
* Restaurant or Sandbar Excursion
Private excursion for up to six passengers. Passengers can pick from their choice of water-side restaurant or sandbar in perfect tiki boat style. Please call us to reserve a specific date. A restaurant excursion is perfect to travel to the Wharf, the Lazy Bass, the Ship n Shore, Beach Creek or any of your other favorite restaurants! If you would like to extend a trip over 3.5 hours in advance, please call.
PANDEMIC FRIENDSHIP TURNS INTO NEW BUSINESS
Captain Merighi and Sawyer met in the summer of 2021 while enjoying the waves on a booze cruise, ironically enough. They both struck up a friendship and partnership that celebrates their love of the water, their drive to start a business with potential for expansion and to provide a much-needed service during these challenging times. While they met on a booze cruise, they wanted Kick Back Tiki Cruises to be casual, carefree, and laid back - hence the name to kick back and relax.
“I think it's no coincidence that Matt and I met on a boat in summer 2021, on a private booze cruise, nonetheless," said Merighi. "We immediately connected and shared similar goals and visions on what would soon become our new business venture. We are both really passionate about our love of the water, the shore in general, and of Wildwood. We just clicked instantly and everything made sense."
He added, "I saw that Matt could bring an invaluable skill set to the idea of developing the most unique private boat cruise in New Jersey. With my knowledge of boating and hospitality combined with Matt’s skills in marketing and advertisements, we make the perfect team.”
Sawyer said, "Entrepreneurship is in our blood, as we both come from families who own their own businesses, so starting our own company was a sensical next step. Between my marketing and event background and Tim’s knowledge of all the operational logistics to start a boat business from scratch, we decided to make our dreams a reality."
When asked why Wildwood, the duo immediately will tell you it was a no-brainer. Merighi enthusiastically said, "Wildwood is arguably the best in terms of dockside restaurant options, beautiful sunset viewing locations, and offers the best waterways to cruise along for a service like ours; there's nowhere we would rather be. I grew up fishing and boating in the back bays of Wildwood. I have a long history here. It is my home and my favorite place on the planet."
Sawyer agreed and said, "I grew up visiting all of the different shore towns as a kid and as a young adult. Wildwood will always hold a special place in my heart as I have plenty of friends there and have made tons of visits. It’s known for family activities, live entertainment, great bars, and restaurants—the works. We thought there was an opportunity to extend that fun atmosphere out to the water. We saw it as a perfect fit for locals and vacationers alike who will love the routes we take filled with beautiful views and all the accommodations to go with it to help our customers find their paradise."
Looking ahead to the future, both owners will tell you they want to start small, perfect the experience, learn from launching their first business, and then grow in the future. They have big plans - but they want to offer the best possible experience in the here and now. For future years, however, they are ready to sail to new ports and cities, and they plan to expand in big ways. But more on that after the summer of 2022 wraps up this fall. Short Term, though, they are going to enjoy every wave, every cruise, and make Kick Back Tiki Cruises a household name in Wildwood and beyond.
ABOUT MATTHEW SAWYER
Matt Sawyer is a Real Estate Agent at Berkshire Hathaway Home Service, Ocean City, NJ, and the owner of Love My Life Entertainment. Sawyer ran marketing and promotions for nightlife and concert events in Philadelphia for over a decade. When the pandemic hit, all that came to a halt and he moved to Ocean City and got his realtor's license.
Sawyer said, "This will probably sound corny, but I’ve always had a passion for making the people around me happy. I really wanted to put an emphasis on that with my Philly concert and event business, Love My Life Entertainment. I wanted people to know that they were going to have a great time if they were coming out to something I put together. When a covid hit and I was forced to put my business on hold, I decided to relocate to Ocean City, NJ, and make a pivot in my career by becoming a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway. I love doing that and I’ve had early success with it. As much as I enjoy being a realtor, I missed being in the “experience” business too. When I first spoke to Tim, I knew it was a perfect opportunity to keep my passion alive. After the last few years, all of us have had to deal with Covid, this just felt like an incredible business to allow people, even just for a few hours, to put their worries aside, kick back, and relax. The way I see it, between finding shore homes for my clients and bringing a fun experience like Kick Back Tiki Cruises to Wildwood—I get to see a lot of happy faces through both. To me, that’s all the more reason to do this."
ABOUT CAPTAIN TIM MERIGHI
Captain Tim Merighi was born in Vineland and grew up fishing frequently with his father in Wildwood. He gets his entrepreneurial spirit from growing up in his family’s business, Merighi’s Savoy Inn. Located in Vineland, NJ, the savoy has been serving guests since 1954 and is renowned as one of South Jersey’s most popular and enduring family bistros. As the Covid Pandemic began to grip the United States in Early 2020, Merighi saw an opportunity to turn his passion for fishing and boating, into more of a lifestyle and career choice. After getting his Captain's License at age 20, Merighi was soon running fishing charters, working as a private captain and mate, as well as running private cruises up and down the many shore towns in the state of NJ. Merighi, a rising senior at Saint Joseph's University studying Finance, has since realized his dream, combining his passion of life on the saltwater with his career.