By Sara Bonadies, SKANEATELES N.Y. (NCC News) – A familiar sight on Skaneateles Lake turns the big 5-0 this year.
For half a century, the Wiles family of Mid-Lakes Navigation have been providing must-see tours across Skaneateles Lake.
The Navigation company began in 1968, when Peter Wiles bought a mail boat to deliver mail around lakefront homes during the summer.
The company soon expanded in 1969, when Wiles decided to turn the mail boat into a tour boat and the rest is history.
“We’ve grown from the small little boat, to the boat we’re on today that can hold up to 100 people,” says Sarah Wiles, co-owner and marketing director of Mid-Lakes Navigation Company, “We also have a mail boat larger than the original, plus a fleet of canal boats on the Erie Canal.”
But keeping a family business running for half a century, hasn’t been easy.
“Every company goes through ups and downs,” says Wiles, “but our roots are here and what we love is here, we are lucky.”
Today the company continues to be family owned and operated.
Sarah’s brother Dan is the Captain of the “Judge Ben Wiles,” the largest tour boat on Skaneateles lake – named after their Grandfather Ben Wiles, who was a judge in Syracuse.
“When people think of my brothers and sisters and my parents, it’s the Wiles family and immediately goes to the boats,” says Dan Wiles.
For two generations, the Wiles family have been out on the water – but Dan Wiles says, it may be their last.
“I don’t believe the next generation will be taking over,” says Wiles, “if you look at small businesses, the third generation is always the hard one and that’s how it turned out for us too.”
But while the company may not last forever – the legacy of the Wiles family who cruised Skaneateles Lake for half a century, will continue to sail on.