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May 19, 2015 1:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Phone App Will Help Boaters Find Docking

May 20, 2015 9:13 AM

The Northeast is a boater’s heaven in the summertime. From the Delaware Water Gap to Downeast Maine, the rambling coastline, slashed and pockmarked with innumerable small harbors, coastal estuaries and maritime communities, is an endless resource for exploration.

From harbors on the East End, all of the southern Connecticut and Rhode Island coast and parts of Massachusetts are within easy reach of those looking for destinations for day-trips or short excursions by boat.

But finding accommodations for a boat—namely, an open slip that is tailor-made for a boat of a certain length and width—can be a chore, and a long shot to fit the bill on short notice.

But this summer, boaters in search of slips near and far will have a new tool to help them track down a hidden spot here or there for their yacht, stinkpot or blowboat. Earlier this spring two Long Island boaters launched the mobile app SlipFinder, which maps and catalogs open slips at marinas around the Northeast and down the East Coast, according to the size boat they can accommodate.

For years, hungry diners have used mobile phone apps to search out available restaurant reservations, and motorists have used them to parse out parking lot prices. SlipFinder founder Keith Cooper says that it’s about time that boaters, owners of some of the most advanced technology in any hobbyist’s hands, should be able to avail themselves of similar services.

“We’re boaters, and we found that boating hasn’t really caught up to the rest of the world as far as mobile technology goes, so boaters get into a rut and go to the same places over and over again,” Mr. Cooper said of the thinking he and partner, Todd Brice, employed in creating SlipFinder. “We thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could come up with a system to show boaters where there are slips available.”

The slip finder app has dual functions for boaters and for marina owners. Marina owners who sign up set up a catalog of all their slips and number them, with a price link. When one is open, the marina operator simply logs into the app and clicks the corresponding slip to show that it’s available and for how long.

Boaters, in turn, fill out information in their app about their boat’s size, width, draft and so on. When they are planning a journey, or are on the water in search of a slip, they can open the app and it will display a map showing their location, based on the GPS signal of their phone. Any marinas that have slips that fit their boat will show up on the map as a green dot. The boater can immediately tap into the marina’s slip list and book the slip, which will automatically take it off the available list, to avoid double bookings.

There is no charge to marinas to sign up and use the listing, other than to pay the credit card fees for bookings, Mr. Cooper said. Boaters pay a booking fee to SlipFinder, based on the price of the slip.

SlipFinder is free and available now in both IOS and Android app stores.

Thus far SlipFinder, which launched just last month, has about 90 marinas from Maine to the Bahamas signed up and is expecting to get many more by the time the summer boating season gets into full swing. Mr. Cooper said he expects the busy boating destinations of Fire Island and Watch Hill, Rhode Island, to be among the most heavily used areas on the app’s list.

“If you only have the weekends, and you factor in bad weather and other activities, you don’t have a lot of time to use your boat,” said Mr. Cooper, who also works as an office furniture salesman. “The convenience of it is exciting.”

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