(Sept. 28, 2018) A new “boat Uber” hit the bay in mid-August and will continue offering water transportation until the end of October.
OC Bay Hopper is a water taxi service set up in a kiosk near Food Lion on 117th Street. Co-owners and brothers, Steve and David Butz, partnered with Jeff Mason and came up with the idea last year. The plan was set into motion in February.
A web-based app allows guests to see where the boat is currently located, and who is driving it at the time, similar to Uber.
“We decided to launch a business that is geared toward getting folks out on the water to do their transportation,” David Butz said. “Ocean City has a great bus system, everyone knows about it. But they also have a great water transportation system. There’s ton of canals connecting thousands and thousands of houses. Folks can use that to transport themselves to the popular bars.
“My daughters work in Ocean Pines, [and] I know that on Saturday, it’s no less than 30 minutes from Ocean City to get across to the mainland,” he continued. “It’s a mess. We take our boat along Route 90 bridge just to pass people on the bridge. You definitely can get around faster. We [also] see beautiful birds that are native. [Guests] get a ride and a little bit of nature as well which is great.”
The process of creating the business took longer than the brothers expected, which is why the bay shuttle opened so late in the season, Butz said.
“We made the decision back in February to go for it,” Butz said. “You have to get your captains lined up [and] all your credentials. The process of getting the boat certified and inspected for commercial use is a daunting process. We got all that done by the end of July.
“So we were ‘operational’ the beginning of August,” he continued. “We had our certification, all our insurance in place, and we were looking for a place to have as our home base for operations. We got the kiosk in mid-August.”
Currently, OC Bay Hopper has one boat and four licensed captains available. The owners plan on adding a fifth captain and three more boats by the time the business reopens for next season in May.
“Three boats [will] serve as a transportation taxi and one will be more of a sight-seeing boat, a 50-foot Catamaran,” Butz said. “Instead of just one boat floating you’ll see all kinds of boats. What we’re doing over the next couple of months is launching the app for folks that are just captains, have the captains license or have a six-pack license and can take [more] people.”
The service will provide transportation from as far north as Harpoon Hanna’s in Fenwick Island, all the way down to West Ocean City. Trips to Ocean Pines will also be available.
Prices will range depending on various factors, such as how many “zones” are crossed and whether the ride is private or guests are willing to accept other travelers. A ride from uptown to midtown will cost $15.
“We have different zones that we put together: North, Central and South,” Butz said. “It depends on how many zones you’re crossing. [For example,] Harpoon Hanna’s to M.R. Ducks [downtown on Talbot Street] you’re going over several zones. The cost would be $20 a person.
“They can [also] mark this as a private trip, meaning they chartered the boat out, and that costs a little bit more money,” he continued. “Then we have the concept of ride sharing.”
Ride sharing costs $10 a person.
According to Butz, once the business is fully set, the transportation service permanent hours will take place from Springfest to Sunfest (May to September). Hours will be noon to midnight Thursday through Sunday and noon to twilight Monday through Wednesday.
“It’s been an absolutely thrill taking those first customers out and they were thrilled to see us,” Butz said.
OC Bay Hopper will continue to offer transportation services on the weekends until the end of October, and will return in May of 2019.
During the winter, the company will launch its Captain’s app, similar to Uber Drivers. An app of the transportation service available on iOS Androids and iPhones will be available over the winter as well.
For more information, visit www.ocbayhopper.com or call 410-777-5145.