The History of Solunar Services
by Joe Payne
Back in the early 1980's, Jack Payne and his youngest son Joe decided their fishing needed help. It wasn't that we weren't catching fish, but rather we were frustrated why certain trips produced great fishing and others were a waste of good boat gas.
We started looking at this Solunar Theory stuff pretty hard. The problem was the original Solunar tables weren't specific to our vacation property in northeastern Minnesota. Plus, local time zones and daylight savings made it confusing to know for sure of the proper time to go fishing. Being the computer-savvy pair that we were, we started to write a program that could accommodate for these factors.
Unfortunately, neither of us had a clue how to do astronomy calculations. The Solunar Theory is based completely on astronomy events such as moonrise, sunrise and the moons position relative to the earth. You don't just sit down and multiply PI by something and come out with your local moon up time. We needed help.
After we got back to Indiana later that year, we enlisted the help of an astronomer who knew the exact equations necessary and could assist us with the programming language we had chosen. Next came the testing and debugging. The astronomer worked out all the solar and lunar computations, Dad and I worked on how to adjust the times for various time zones and daylight savings time.
Finally came the fun part. We started using the solunar calculations during our fishing trips the next year at our summer vacation property. Months and years of trips were documented, recorded and compared to Solunar. If we weren't convinced it worked before, we sure as heck were now!
Dad began sharing his Solunar results with the local campgrounds and newspapers in our area. As word got around, people starting asking for tables of their own. Solunar Services was born.
In 1995, my older brother Jim and myself went in together to buy Dad a Christmas present. Dad was the worst person to buy gifts for, so we came up with something that we were sure he didn't already have - a domain name. I designed the first web site for Dad and then taught him how to make modifications to it. Dad took it from there and built his Solunar Services online business entirely from that original design.
Solunar Services has come along way since that time. Customers helped Dad create a weekly format more suited to newspapers. Fishing and hunting tips were added. Time zone boundaries were tweaked.
Then the international orders started coming in. First it was Canada. Then came the really far away places like Panama and New Zealand. Our calculations weren't originally designed for the southern hemisphere of the planet. But Dad had studied the equations well, so he was able to modify the programming to eventually handle any location on the entire planet. The astronomer really did his work well.
All along this sorted path of hobby-to-business, I was the family computer guru. At any moment I could get a desperate call for help from Dad about his computer. I can't get my email. The computer crashes when it prints a table. The internet is down again. Supporting Dad's computer issues helped keep me abreast of his changes over the years.
Dad built an extraordinary base of loyal customers, many of whom renew their tables year after year without question. Some times people would forget to pay him, but that was ok with Dad. He knew they were going to order again next year. They could just make it up to him on their next order. That was Dad. He enjoyed sharing Solunar so much, the money just wasn't that important to him.
Jack Payne passed away February 18th, 2007 at the age of 80.