Pete Murphy was 12 in the 1970s when he piloted the waters of Port Jefferson, NY, exploring and fishing in a 12-foot aluminum boat with a small outboard motor. Today he’s Captain Pete Murphy, and for the past 20 years, he’s been running Sea Tow Port Jefferson in New York, helping old and new friends stay safe on the popular recreational waters of Long Island Sound. Now 50, he is perfectly at home on the busy waters.
“In the Navy, I learned how to drive a small boat, how to maintain boats, and also did a lot of maintenance on the ships,” Captain Murphy said. “When I got out of the service, I worked for three companies on Long Island. We built docks and one company had a small barge with a crane on it that we pushed around from job to job.”
In 1996, Captain Murphy discovered the opportunity that changed his life: He purchased the Sea Tow Port Jefferson franchise from the original owner who founded the business in 1991.
“Sea Tow was right in the realm of what I was doing, and it was on the harbor where I grew up boating,” Captain Murphy said. “It just made sense. I took over the franchise on July 3, 1996, the day before the July Fourth weekend.”
Captain Murphy started with two boats, no staff and only 36 members in his Area of Responsibility, which extends along 25 miles of coastline from the Nissequogue River in Kings Park east to the Wading River, and halfway across Long Island Sound.
“For the first two years I did everything by myself,” he said. “It was slow growth. Now we have thousands of members, and I have expanded the fleet and the staff.”
His fleet includes three boats, all in the water in Port Jefferson: a 26-foot Boston Whaler with twin outboards and two 24-foot inboard-powered Privateers. He has one full-time captain and two-part-time captains.
He also started another business, Murphy’s Marine Service, to install the temporary moorings for Port Jefferson each spring, and take them out in the fall. In addition, he runs a taxi service for boat owners to their boats tied up on mooring balls.
“It definitely keeps me busy,” said Captain Murphy, who has a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard master’s license, which he recertifies every five years through ongoing training. “The mooring and the taxi service are a perfect complement to Sea Tow.”
Capt. Murphy and his wife of 15 years, Melissa, have five children: Abigail, 16; Matthew, 14; Peter, 12; Lilah Grace, 7; and Liam, 5. “We have a 24-foot Four Winns, and we love to go boating,” he said. “The fishing is great in the sound for fluke, bluefish and striped bass. It’s a great family activity to get out in the boat, and the kids love it.”
“When I first started the business, I had to charge most people for what I did because they weren’t members,” Captain Murphy said. “Twenty years later, they love Sea Tow. It’s a big change in perception and a credit to Sea Tow and the value it brings to boaters.”