East Boothbay’s Chris Makridis just didn’t see the New England Patriots’ Feb. 5 Super Bowl Championship parade, he was in it. Makridis drove one of the 24 duck boats transporting New England Patriots players, coaches, team management, cheerleaders and other personnel through the parade route from Boylston Street to New Chardon Street.
For Makridis, championship parades are becoming old hat. This was his fifth since he began working for Boston Duck Tours in 2008. He has piloted three Patriot and two Red Sox parade duck boats since becoming a captain. Prior to this year’s parade, Makridis spoke to Super Bowl LIII Most Valuable Player Julian Edelman.
“It’s really amazing how different players look in person. Brady walked in (the Prudential Building) with his daughter without anyone noticing him. His beard was trimmed a little, but nobody noticed. Same with Edelman. He had a beard, but nothing like the big bushy one he wore during the playoffs,” Makridis said. “He asked me for directions, and I told him then thanked him for a great game and great season.”
The parade began around 11:30 a.m. and Makridis expected to transport Patriots alumni in a duck boat constructed for 36 people. He wondered what retired football greats he would transport. “I was thinking Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, but it was some guy named ‘Fitzy’ who I never heard of,” he said.
Fitzy, aka Paul Fitzgerald, is the alter ego of comedian and social media Patriot commentator Nick Stevens of Braintree, Massachusetts. Nevertheless, Makridis has transported big stars in past parades. Following the Red Sox World Series championship in October, Makridis transported one of the biggest names in baseball: Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale. During a parade stop, he handed the ace the World Series trophy.
So what’s it like to drive in a Boston championship parade? “It’s surreal,” he said. “For the Red Sox parade, you start inside Fenway Park. You drive in through center field, and to the right you see the Green Monster. Like I said, being on the field is one of those surreal moments.”
Past Patriot parades have been as cold as when one thinks of a New England February. In 2015, the parade happened a few days after a blizzard. Spectators watched the parade standing atop snowbanks. In 2017, it was cold and snowy, but the weather on Feb. 5 was more like spring. The temperature reached 60 F producing the biggest crowd of any parade Makridis can remember. “It was the loudest and biggest one by far. It dwarfed the others,” he said. “I wear earplugs, and after the parade my ears were still ringing.”
So how does one become a duck boat driver? Well, for Makridis, his story comes by the way of Cyprus. In 1974, his family left the Republic of Cyprus after the Turkish army invaded the eastern Mediterranean island’s northern section. The family moved to Braintree, Massachusetts where 7-year-old Chris knew little English. “I learned watching educational PBS shows. I watched ‘Sesame Street,’ ‘Zoom’ and ‘Mr. Rogers,’” he said.
Makridis attended Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. He majored in fine arts and minored in political science. After graduation, he spent 25 years as an advertising consultant for small Boston businesses. He specialized in developing company websites and logos until 2007 when the Great Recession hit.
“About 60 percent of my business was in the real estate sector. So when the recession hit most of my business went with it,” he said. This resulted in Makridis having more time for other pursuits. “I spent a lot of time working on my boat, and I met a man from Boston Duck Tours. He asked me about my experience, and I told him I had enough hours to receive my captain’s license.”
Driving a duck boat in Boston didn’t appeal to him at first. But the man kept at him for six months, and eventually Makridis had a change of heart. “I thought I had a job offer, but it wasn’t. It was a tryout with 42 other guys competing for three positions. I did well enough for a second interview, and got the job,” he said.
So for the past 12 years, Makridis has worked for Boston Duck Tours. From March 20 to Thanksgiving, Makridis is a duck boat captain guiding tourists on an 80-minute tour of Boston’s cultural and historical sites. He works a 12-hour shift four days a week in his tour guide persona “Jason the Argonaut.”
“All the tour guides are characters. All have some connection to Boston. Mine is being Greek. Greece is the ‘Cradle of Democracy’ and Boston is the ‘Birthplace of the Revolution’ plus there is a connection with the marathon,” he said. “My first tour I did the introduction in Greek and told them to row like they were on a galleon and were going on a world cruise.”
So what is a duck boat and why are they used to tour the city of Boston? A duck boat is an amphibious vehicle developed by engineers and military leaders for World War II land and sea travel. The name DUKD or duck is an acronym: D stands for the year 1942, U stands for utility vehicle, K means military vehicle and W stands for double axle.
In 1994, Boston Duck Tours co-founder Andy Wilson visited Disney World in Florida and took a Tennessee wilderness tour. In Orlando, Florida, Wilson enjoyed the theme park tour given by various Disney characters and, in woods outside Nashville, he enjoyed splashing around in the mud riding in a duck boat.
“He is an entrepreneur and combined the character narration with these vehicles,” Makaridis said. And it seems in Makridis’ new vocation, his nautical and narrating skills are a winning combination. “I love my job. I love the city of Boston and I love showing it off,” he said. “I meet people from all over the world and want them to feel good about the city after a tour.”
The Patriots Parade was a nice interruption in Makridis’ off-season. The parade interrupted his return to Ocean Point where he bought a home last year. He likes the Boothbay region for its beauty and welcoming people. He also said there is always something going on which makes for an interesting place to call home.