NEWBURYPORT — Jonathan Van Campen is a boat captain who was so interested in getting into the charter business that he actually built a vessel so he could get started.
Van Campen created, co-owns and operates the Ninth Wave, a 48-foot, 48-passenger catamaran docked along the boardwalk. He takes out passengers several times a day, with sunset charters being his most profitable run.
The Merrimac native has captained the craft for a dozen years, but the trip out to the sea is still an exciting adventure.
“I like it when kids come on the boat and learn something about the ocean,” said Van Campen, who graduated from Pentucket High School, Class of ’68. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and a master’s degree in education from Salem State University.
“I also like taking out groups and watching them enjoy the area,” he added. “Some out-of-town visitors don’t even know this is the Merrimack River, but they learn.”
Though the captain’s parents didn’t own boats while he was growing up, many in his family did. Perhaps as a result, he started kayaking in college and later began working at Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury.
His tenure at the boat shop enabled him to learn enough to build his own vessel.
“Jonathan got some help in building the boat, and then jumped into the business like a crazy man,” said Tim Moore, a lifelong friend and sometime boat passenger from Merrimac who has observed the progress of his friend.
“He’s a very capable guy, great with the passengers, and has been able to develop the business on the river. People really enjoy the trips he offers.”
The voluble skipper not only built the Ninth Wave, but he also repairs it when things go wrong. And to keep his skills in trim, he fixes the boats of others in the off-season.