Eagle One Enterprises' tours underway: Family dives into wildlife tour business, seeks to provide off-season services to locals

Jesse Tiffany, captain, stands for a portrait next to the 1970 Rawson which his family will operate as a whale watching tour boat in the area this season. The vessel was built in 1970 and is powered by a Detroit diesel. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Summer in Ketchikan means many local companies will experience in an increase in business and clients. Eagle One Enterprises, a new Ketchikan tour company, is late to the start of the season, but eager to begin building its own business.

The company, which aims to operate year-round, is focusing on whale-watching and wildlife-viewing.

Eagle One Enterprises has already taken tours to Whiskey Cove and Mountain Point.

In the off-season, the business will gravitate away from whale and wildlife watching and offer its vessel to experienced hunters and divers for overnight trips. The boat can comfortably lodge six guests overnight, and was once a fishing vessel in the early 1980s.

"It's completely customizable," Jesse Tiffany said about the Eagle One trips. "If they (clients) have a ship that leaves in ten hours, we can take them out for six, seven hours."

Melanie and Jesse Tiffany, the operators of the business, had bounced around the idea of starting a small tour business for some time, but their eldest daughter urged them to act on it after she heard a presentation on small Alaska businesses in school.

"It's been an idea that's been swimming around in my husband's head for a number of years," said Melanie Tiffany, who has a background in administrative work and currently operates a daycare business. "Once he (Jesse Tiffany) has an idea, he's an absolute go-getter."

Jesse Tiffany is a tugboat captain with 27 years of experience on the water. The work can take him away from Ketchikan and his family of three children for a month or longer. They hope that starting Eagle One Enterprises will bring him closer to home.

"This is our one chance," Melanie Tiffany added, "If we're going to do this, we better do this now. We're not getting any younger."

After the couple decided to begin pursuing the idea, it wasn't long before they thought they had found a suitable vessel for the business. The boat was called the "Eagle One," and the name went on the business and boating licenses for the new organization. That vessel was found to be in poor condition, and they went in search of a better-maintained boat. The Eagle One name transferred to their current boat.

The Eagle One has a maximum occupancy of 23 people.

"It's nice. It's comfortable." Jesse Tiffany said. "We've been around the island (in the boat), sightseeing."

Eagle One Enterprises was up and running by mid-May.

"The first trip we took out, we picked a few people up and went out, and shot right over to Whiskey Cove," Jesse Tiffany said about Eagle One Enterprises' first tour group, which went out May 18.

Although the business is still getting underway, they hope that they can expand in the future. Melanie Tiffany said that they would like to purchase land, in addition to another boat, as a destination to take their clients. Ideally, she said, it would include a small coffee shop or other amenities.

"It's been really great, the feedback we've had from people. Everyone we've talked to here in town has been so encouraging. And I think that's been wonderful to have that kind of support, because sometimes when you have a dream, it's easy to negative self-talk yourself out of doing it," Melanie Tiffany said about Ketchikan's attitude towards their new business.

"This experience has been like, 'no, you can't stick your toe in the water. We're throwing you in,'" she added.