He’s a one-man food boat skipper looking to fill your bellies with delicious cuisine without ever having to leave the cool waters of Lake James.
Originally from Virginia, but now Marion resident Mark McGuire is owner, chef and captain of Smoke on the Water, his pontoon-sized boat serving fresh food to hungry customers on Lake James. Smoke on the Water is basically a floating “food truck” serving Smokey dogs, a jalapeno cheddar dog, a Reuben dog, meatball subs, Mama’s summer bean salad, cold drinks, ice cream and tons of snacks.
“I’ve had some really positive feedback. Everyone that I have met is excited that I am doing this, and they want to see it grow and blossom. I have some fans already,” McGuire said to The McDowell News. “It’s really cool to see the community around Lake James supporting what I am doing.
“I’m not going to say I’m the first,” he added, “but I’m one of the first in this new (food boat) movement on Lake James.”
Boaters can dock up to him or he will deliver lake-wide and dockside on Saturdays and Sundays. Folks wondering how to spot Smoke on the Water on the lake can look for the bright flags advertising ice cream and hot dogs. They are hard to miss.
“I have a bunch of bumpers along the side of the boat, and I have bungee cords where I can hook them up,” he explained. “They stand there and talk to me while I’m preparing their food. I can do two pontoons at one time, one on each side. I’ve had some wave runners roll up. It’s interesting to see all the different types of vehicles, but if I’m at the beach, I will just beach straight forward and people can order from the front or the side.”
His boat is equipped with a grill, coolers, freezer, coffee pot, toaster, running water and a generator. When The McDowell News spoke with McGuire, he was preparing for the 2019 Memorial Day weekend.
“Memorial weekend is going to be my big push,” said McGuire.
As he learns the ropes around Lake James, McGuire finds customers in busier spots of the lake. He is also available for dockside catering with a two-week notice by calling him at 828-337-0794. All forms of payment are accepted, including cards, cash and Apple pay.
“If they are having a party or event, they can call me up and tell me how many people, and book me, and I will come exclusively to them,” McGuire said.
Once the holiday weekend is over, McGuire plans to enclose a kitchen area on his boat, adding a smoker and some refrigeration systems to the setup. He said the McDowell County Health Department has been helpful in making his dream a reality.
“My enclosure for the boat is on its way, and I’m going to take the month of June off and it will turn into a full kitchen, fully inspected,” he said. “I have a commissary lined up already. Come July, I will be full time on the water 9 to 5, seven days a week.”
He doesn’t plan to close up shop – or boat – when the weather cools.
“If I’m not out here all year, I will be on the weekend,” he said. “There are always fishermen out here and boaters. I just want to let this blossom on Lake James, and I’m definitely not going anywhere.”
Hopefully soon, McGuire said, he will offer beer and wine, and eventually have a separate boat just for alcohol. His ABC license is pending.
“I’m driving the paperwork to Raleigh myself,” McGuire said. “I’ll probably do a smaller boat for the alcohol. My goal is to find property on the lake and eventually run my business right off the lake. And travel to other lakes.”
You can find Smoke on the Water on Facebook and Twitter.