Uber for Boats Sets Sail
Captain David Yates has spent his whole life on the water.
“Welcome to my office,” he says as he points to his boat filled with friends unwinding after a day at sea.
Yates began fishing when he was just three years old and later began competing in trout tournaments, learning much of what he knew from his father, David Yates Sr, who was a legendary Charleston trout fisherman.
Up until 2000, Yates was involved in the family construction business, but he and his brother, Jeff, shut it down and both obtained Captain’s licenses to pursue their own charter companies.
It’s been 17 years now since Yates has established Yates Sea Charters, offering everything from deep-sea fishing charters to getaway rides for brides and grooms. His brother’s charter business is TyJo Knot.
It was last summer when Yates discovered Uber, “I just thought it was so cool that you could open it up and have the rides waiting right there. I immediately thought, we need this for boats,” Yates says.
He then began developing the idea for HOBA: Hop on a Boat Anywhere by first sitting down with a lawyer who liked his idea and encouraged him to move forward with it. He then sought out an app developer, Tim Barrett, who couldn’t believe the idea didn’t exist yet. HOBA has since come to fruition and has been operating in Charleston since March.
And it seems to be the perfect market for the app—with so many restaurants accessible by water and so many parties and events happening off-shore, people without a boat can sometimes feel left out of these experiences.
“I’m preying on the 80% of people here who don’t have a boat. I want them to feel like one of us. We want to see people in the water. We’re their outlet for that,” Yates says.
HOBA can take you from point A to point B, on rides around the harbor, taxi out to private beaches and Yates has even had bachelor and bachelorette parties. The opportunities are endless.
“I had one mom book me for a few hours so the kids could go tubing. That’s something they probably wouldn’t have been able to do if it weren’t HOBA,” Yates says.
Like Uber, when you pull up the app, you can see who’s available near you. You can also schedule a ride ahead of time.
To find a ride:
1. Download the app and open to view the green boat icons. This is where available boat rides are located.
2. Peruse boats for hourly rates and occupancy.
3. Request a ride. Users will receive a private text from the captain and can negotiate the rate and plan the pick-up point.
“You can be booked in a minute and a half,” Yates says.
Currently, there are approximately 70 different captains on the app. A HOBA captain must have a Captain’s license and a 6-pack minimum, which allows at least six people to be on board for rides.
Yates’ hopes for the app are for people to get excited about it and share it with their friends. “It really is such a cool, unique experience,” he says.
Just in time for summer adventures.