While in graduate school near Boston, Charles was first introduced to the world famous Boston Duck Tours. This innovative company used vintage World War II DUKWs to give land and water tours of Boston and the surrounding area. Charles instantly saw an opportunity for similar tours in Portland, Oregon.
Once Charles returned to Portland in 1999, he spent the majority of his time establishing Ethos Music Center, a nonprofit he founded that became the largest music school in Oregon under Charles’ leadership. In the back of Charles’ mind, however, was a plan to start the Portland Duck Tours.
In 2003, Charles got his feet wet by purchasing a 1967 Amphicar off Ebay. When the car arrived, Charles used it to start mapping out a route on land and water while figuring out an enormous amount of regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Oregon, and the City of Portland. Charles’ Amphicar was a hit and was one reason for the selection of Charles as one of the “Best of Portland” by Willamette Week.
In 2006, newly weds Charles and Sarah Lewis took the plunge and purchased a brand new 46 passenger amphibious bus they named McCall’s Mallard after Oregon’s legendary governor. Unlike the old World War II DUKWs, the Portland Ducks’ bus was built out of aluminum so it couldn’t rust and was filled with foam so it couldn’t sink.
For nearly two years, the Portland Duck Tours enjoyed their famed status as Portland’s fastest tour bus (on water), earning rave reviews from the media and passengers alike. Charles and Sarah employed 2 U.S. Coast Guard certified Captains and 3 tour guides. Even while concurrently managing Ethos Music Center and running for Portland City Council, Charles ran all of the business’ day to day operations and maintained the vehicle. The Portland Duck Tours offered environmentally friendly tours powered by biodiesel and 5% of all profits were donated to charity.
In 2008, Charles and Sarah sold the Portland Duck Tours for a profit in order to focus on Charles’ campaign for Portland City Council and to make way for their own little duckling, a baby girl born in June.
Notable achievements at the Portland Duck Tours
• Purchased and maintained 46 passenger amphibious bus for land and water tours
• Researched and complied with all Oregon State, City of Portland and Coast Guard Regulations
• Established on-line ticketing system, website, and automated telephone ticketing system
• Coordinated drug testing, staff drills, on-going training, repairs, and Coast Guard Inspections
• Facilitated charters for schools, assisted living groups, corporations, and government entities
• Sold business for a profit in order to focus on campaign for Portland City Council
• Recognized as one of the “Best of Portland” by Willamette Week
Select articles featuring the Portland Duck Tours and Charles Lewis