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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 22, 2024
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@Work: Maho Bay Watersports

George KremerAs the owner of Maho Bay Watersports, it’s a good thing George Kremer can multitask. On a recent morning, he was busy renting snorkel gear, getting several couples into the water with kayaks, dealing with a compressor repair man, and hiring a new person to work in the shop located at Maho Bay Camps. All in the space of an hour.

“It’s gusty today,” he told a couple wanting advice on where they could kayak.

Maho Bay Watersports is an arm of Paradise Aqua Tours, operated by Kremer and Cynthia Smith. Smith handles the hotel and cruise passenger beach, snorkeling and hiking tours to Trunk Bay while Kremer keeps tabs on the Maho Bay watersports operation. In addition to the snorkel gear and kayak rental, the shop rents floats, sand chairs, rash guards, windsurfers, paddleboards, sailboats, and kayaks, does dive tours, and gives sailing lessons.

Now 61, Kremer has put a lot of water under his dive fins. Born in Chicago, Kremer joined the U.S. Air Force soon after he graduated from high school. He worked as an air traffic controller while in the Air Force and planned to follow it with Federal Aviation Administration job. While waiting for a job to open, he headed to the Florida Keys and took up diving, where he attended the College of the Florida Keys and worked as a dive instructor.

He and Smith decided to give the Caribbean a try. He got a job with the long defunct V.I. Diving School on St. Thomas in 1977, where he worked for a couple of years. Other dive and watersports jobs followed at St. Thomas Diving School and Sea Adventures at what was then called Frenchman’s Reef Hotel. While keeping busy with the dive business, he worked as a waiter at Café Normandy in Frenchtown, a job he said was totally out of the realm of his experience but which he enjoyed.

Meanwhile, he and Smith got divorced but continued as business partners. She moved to St. John and heard about the chance to take over operations of what was then a tiny watersports operation at Maho Bay Camps. In 1991, Kremer inked the deal with Maho Bay Camps owner Stanley Selengut and has been at it ever since.

“I like dealing with people,” he said.

Maho Bay Camps gets a mellower group of visitors than many other resorts. Kremer said he’s made friends with some multi-repeat customers, and with a rare exception, the guests are easy to please and happy to enjoy the resort’s rather basic facilities.

Helping customers is the best part of the job, but Kremer said guests don’t see the frustrations that most small businesses on St. John experience.

“Long lines at the bank,” he said, adding a similar situation at the post office adds to his work.

Now married to Gail Van de Bogurt, who owns Maho Bay Clayworks at Maho Bay Camps, he’s the father of two. His daughter with Smith, Krista Kremer, is 33 and lives on St. John. Michaela Kremer, his daughter with former wife Casey Cunningham, is now 20 and lives in New York.

As for the future, that’s uncertain. Maho Bay Camps lease runs out in 2013, and it currently seems unlikely that the tent cottage resort will continue to operate. The Trust for Public Land has tried to negotiate a deal with the owners, Giri-Giri Corp., but has been unsuccessful. The land sits within V.I. National Park.

If Maho Bay Camps closes, Kremer said he’ll semi retire. He might work with Smith doing hiking tours.

“Or I’ll become a freelance captain,” he said.

Reach Maho Bay Watersports at 776-6226, extension 239.

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