By Mariah Hoffman
Those who live in the Lowcountry are unusually lucky to have summer-like weather nearly all year long, along with great waterways to explore. People visiting from far and wide miss out on the purely South Carolina experience of fishing in back rivers and touring the many harbors of Charleston.
That was until Hop on a Boat Anywhere (HOBA), a South Carolina-based boat sharing company, introduced the service just five months ago.
HOBA is much like the ridesharing apps Lyft and Uber. HOBA has a similar look and feel to its automotive counterparts, and its easy-to-use interface, requesting service, and payment options will seem familiar to HOBA novices and ridesharing experts.
“That’s the idea behind it,” says David Yates, South Carolina native and owner of HOBA. “The second I opened the Uber app, it just clicked and I thought it could really work for boats.”
HOBA’s app displays available boats in your area. A user chooses which boat they want to reserve, whether right then or for a future trip. The passenger then talks to HOBA’s Coast Guard-certified captain through the app about any logistics, such as pick up time and location and the specific trip wanted.
“We offer a variety of trips for the passenger to choose from,” says Yates. “I’ve taken some passengers out on fishing trips, tours of the harbor, taxi rides from one island to another. They can go on day trips at sea or a fishing trip for an afternoon.”
Other boat sharing companies are also available, but HOBA’s unique app, special events, ability to plan future trips, and top-of-the-line captains set it apart from the competition.
HOBA has also hosted a variety of special events, including an eclipse party for the total eclipse and a waterway clean up.
With all the new adventures coming down the pipeline for this blue-collar worker turned tech entrepreneur, Yates also admits there are still some challenges that lay ahead.
“To give our passengers the safest ride possible, we make sure to vet our captains extensively during the application process,” he says. “We require each captain to be Coast Guard certified and to know the waters well enough to navigate easily.”
HOBA’s standards are high, and Yates admits that encouraging captains to sign on has been a small challenge. To that, Yates says, “Bear with me.”
Ridesharing companies also had problems when they were first launched, including trouble proving themselves as a viable means of compensation. HOBA offers its captains an 80 percent return from their rides and also allows them to set their own prices.
Yates says one of the most rewarding aspects of HOBA isn’t just the money, but the ability to meet people from all walks of life.
“I was the first captain at HOBA and what I loved most was meeting new people,” he says. “I met some of my earliest supporters, great friends, and truly interesting people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s not only an experience for them as the passenger, but also for you as the captain to have that opportunity to make connections.”
Yates says he looks forward to his returning passengers as well as new ones who would find him through word of mouth or the app.
Since the app’s launch this year, Yates has taken a back seat as a captain in hopes more captains will become interested and available.
“With Charleston being surrounded by water and now the ability for tourists to take their experience to another level, HOBA is tapping into a demand higher than expected,” Yates says. “Now we need captains willing to meet the demand.”
The wild success of HOBA grows every day and Yates is excited for what lies ahead for the app and the improvements that will help it become a nationwide force to be reckoned with.
Although HOBA is only five months old and changing daily with live testing, Yates is already looking towards the future and his next adventure in the tech industry.
“I have a few projects in the works,” he says. “The one closest to becoming public is completely different than HOBA, but just as innovative.”
But Yates notes, his first priority is improving HOBA and growing his business to dominate new waters around the country.