Johnathan Herne and Gina Benjamin: How our dream came true.
Johnathan Herne has worked within the marine industry for over 20 years, fishing, operating the local ferry boats, and more recently within the marine tourism industry. Along with his partner Gina started looking online for a vessel around about September 2012. Johnathan was very specific in what was needed; he wanted a boat which was a multipurpose vessel and able to offer not only tours which are currently offered on island, but also a wider variety of tours, including game fishing which is a very popular sport. Jonathan said “We must have looked at hundreds of boats before we finally identified the Enchanted Isle”.
Developing the project
The couple then went on to describe the development of the project, which involved talking to Enterprise St Helena and the bank who advised that they would need a complete business plan. Gina commented “Initially we got third party support however there was so much information required that we ended up scrapping the draft and I rewrote the entire plan myself! This was a learning experience for Gina, who had never before written a business plan.
Facing the challenges
Highlighting the challenges that they faced; Johnathan chuckled “We did not realise just how complex the project was going to be until we really got stuck into it. It was very stressful, a lot of hard work, and we were in and out of so many meetings it was unbelievable”.
The couple explained that they were very much working on demand – they needed various pieces of documentation before their request for funding would be considered, this included; insurance for the vessel which is currently not available on the island. After many agonising months they said “Solomon & Company managed to identify an overseas company who agreed to provide a full and comprehensive insurance package to us – our insurance covers the vessel whilst moored, in operation, passenger liability, all of our machinery and the engine”.
At this stage of the project Johnathan and Gina were finally able to submit an application for joint funding to the Bank of St Helena in the form of a loan and Enterprise St Helena under equity funding. They said “We were over the moon when we received a positive response”.
Our happy ending
Enchanted Isle arrived safely aboard the RMS on Tuesday, 16th September, the couple describes seeing her tied up in James Bay as a “happy sight” and after some minor works, inspection and licensing she was taken for her first spin on Friday, 19th September.
The Enchanted Isle ran like a dream, slicing through the swells, no rolling around; so steadfast travelling through the seaway.
Gina commented that they were on board Enchanted Isle on Saturday when they heard the MFV Extractor radioing up to say she was eight miles out and on her way home. We decided to surprise the crew, so off we went out to sea to meet her. The skipper of the Extractor said “It was somewhat tearful for me to be met yesterday 3 miles out by the enchanting Enchanted Isle who steamed alongside the Extractor until we reached our mooring. After we moored they came alongside us and took the Extractor crew on board for a ride into the steps, they both are clearly ecstatic. I know the amount of time and effort Johnny and Gina put into getting this venture up and running, it must indeed be a great relief to finally have the boat under foot”.
Enchanted Isle cannot be accused of standing idle because on Sunday morning she took her first commercial trip with 15 people aboard who were fortunate enough to sight dolphins and eight whales! Passenger feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many comments on the “Smooth ride!”
In closing the couple said “We have to place on record our thanks to the Bank of St Helena and Enterprise St Helena for their support in realising our dream. Our thanks to our family who have been so supportive and gave so much encouragement as we have worked through this project these past few years. Skipper, Trevor Thomas, and Mr Graham Sim for your inspirational works and encouragement, Members of the St Helena Legislative Council who have expressed so much interest in our project and again, provided encouragement. To everyone who has kept us going when we often felt like giving up – thank you!!And finally, to all our future customers, we are here to serve you! We want to offer you “The Saint Experience”. Thank you to those who have already requested tours and to those who are considering…you will not regret it!”
Enchanted Isle Limited – For the Saint Experience.