Find a Slip With the Touch of a Smartphone
By Christine Sampson
Boaters looking to plan trips or snag last-minute slips on the South Fork — and also up and down the East Coast, all the way to the Caribbean and even to Central America and Australia — have two Long Island businessmen and boating enthusiasts to thank for a mobile app that can help them do just that.
Keith Cooper and Todd Brice launched their app, SlipFinder, in 2015, as a service primarily for transient boaters looking to instantly book slips on-the-go. This summer they are rolling out a second version with new features, including one that allows people to book at marinas in advance, which they added in response to customer feedback.
“Our biggest challenge, so to speak, was learning that the same-day traveler market is a lot smaller and there are a lot of boaters that want to use an app for booking but who want to do it a week out or months out,” Cooper said in an interview. “We’ve gone to a lot of boat shows, and all the feedback has been positive. Some of the marina adoptions haven’t been as fast in some areas as we liked, but we’re making some adjustments with this new version.”
South Fork boaters can find nearby marinas including Star Island Yacht Club in Montauk, Gardiner’s Marina and Halsey’s Marina in East Hampton, Ponquogue Marine Basin and Bay Watch Hotel and Marina in Hampton Bays, and more. In 2015, SlipFinder featured about 120 marinas in its database, but has grown to about 300 now.
Reveka Boudouvas, owner and property manager at Bay Watch Hotel and Marina, has been partnering with SlipFinder for two years. She rates the app as “exceptional” because not only has its users found her marina, but those users also find her hotel in the process.
“It’s a twofold situation in my case. It is very helpful for the boaters,” Boudouvas said in an interview. “It has established business that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I have no issues.”
The app is free for both boaters and marinas to use. Its locator function operates both by area map and by marina name searches. Users make a profile for their boats, including details such as the make, model, size and other features, and then look for marina slips that fit their profiles. In a separate interface for marina administrators, they can respond to boaters’ requests and add or remove a slip’s availability on the app once it has been booked or freed up.
One of the surprises Cooper and Brice have encountered as they continue developing and promoting their app is the demographic of people who are actually using it.
“A lot of boaters that have come up to us at shows saying they have liked it are in the retired category — not in the younger group that you would think would gravitate toward technology,” Cooper said. “That was a cool surprise, but at the same time we know that boaters are good with technology because they use GPSs and boats themselves sometimes have complicated technology just to operate them.”
Over the last two years, Cooper said, the app’s user database grew 300 percent since its inception. Although SlipFinder is not the only app out there offering this sort of function — others that come to mind are Dockwa, Waterway Guides and Snag-a-Slip — Cooper said the market feedback he and Mr. Brice have gotten is encouraging.
“It’s been very exciting,” Cooper said. “At the boat shows, you meet people from all walks of life, and they come up to you with feedback and they want to show you your app is on their phone.”