SALEM — Perseverance has paid off for Will Cole.
The 31-year-old Gloucester native founded Mahi Mahi Cruises and Events in 2006 soon after graduating from college. He launched his business in Salem Willows Park, where it has survived several storms that badly damaged the Willows pier and interrupted business.
But the popular Cole stuck with it and now has the biggest boat operation in Salem Harbor, now doing business from Pickering Wharf.
In addition to the 47-passenger Finback, the boat he started with, Cole last year acquired the 150-passenger Hannah Glover, which has allowed him to expand considerably.
“We’ve had a lot of growth the last couple of years,” said Whitney Buckley, who manages Mahi Mahi Harbor Cruises and Events. “We’ve gone from a business that can hold 47 passengers to one that now can hold 197.”
The Hannah Glover, which has been on the waterfront for years, has presented both opportunities and challenges. Cole said they virtually gutted the boat in the off-season and continue to make upgrades.
The Hannah Glover has a full-time “job” on weekdays transporting campers to the YMCA camp on Children’s Island, carrying on a tradition that began years ago.
“So many people come out on the boat and tell us a story about remembering as a kid going on the Hannah Glover,” Buckley said.
Mahi Mahi Cruises offers music cruises aboard the Hannah Glover on Thursday nights through the summer, featuring a different band every week. Since Mahi Mahi has a full liquor license, these are over-21 cruises.
The large boat also holds private events. The Salem Children’s Charity, for example, is hosting a fund-raising cruise aboard the boat on Saturday night.
This year, Cole moved his boat business to Pickering Wharf, where Mahi Mahi has a ticket office and a business office nearby. Both boats leave from a dock near Finz restaurant.