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Dockshare links boaters with slips

By Greg Ellison

(Oct. 15, 2020) Throwing a line to boaters seeking a short-term mooring rental at private docks is the concept of a new app developed by Ocean Pines residents Nate and Gina Young.

Along with a four-member team, the couple has developed Dockshare, an online platform that caters to boaters looking for a temporary mooring solution.

“We’re in the very early stages,” Nate Young said. “The concept came to being about July 2019.”

After investing with his brother to buy an Ocean Pines waterfront property more than three years ago, Nate Young said his family began making occasional excursions to Ocean City and Assateague Island, which helped spark the concept of renting vacant dock spaces.

“From being down there and having a little pontoon boat and being somewhat limited on where we could go [or] where we would feel comfortable going.”

One day last year while on the verge of driving across the Route 90 bridge to pick his kids up from summer camp in Ocean City, the couple had a revelation.

“My wife and I were like, ‘Hey, we could ride over on the pontoon boat, pick them up in Ocean City and be back in Ocean Pines pretty quickly,’” he said.

Avoiding the summer traffic crush seemed a perk until reaching their destination.

“We couldn’t find a safe place to pull close by but getting over there you see there are all these empty docks … that just sit vacant all summer long,” he said.

Based on personal needs and recognizing an apparent demand, Gina and Nate Young began brainstorming.

“You have folks that would love to be in Ocean City and would love an alternative to the 90 bridge,” he said. “To be able to do that by boat, how fun is that? Especially in the socially distancing situation that we’re all in.”

Nate Young said the business-minded couple share a drive to explore new pathways for fun and profit.

“I’m a real estate agent and she runs a staging business, so we’re kind of entrepreneurial in nature,” he said. “It’s not out of character for us to be like, ‘Let’s try this thing and see if we can make it happen.’”

After running the concept by fellow boaters and acquaintances near their year-round home in northern Baltimore County, the consensus was favorable.

“People said, ‘This is a great idea. Why isn’t anyone doing this?” he said.

Turns out, some comparable ventures did exist, but the Youngs found that they tended to focus on commercial marinas.

“They’ll resell empty docks at marinas but nothing of its kind in Maryland, and especially in the Ocean City area, which is where it lends itself to be the most profitable for folks,” he said.

Dockshare users would be able to locate available dock space to rent by the hour, day, week or even monthly.

“You can rent the dock for an hour and someone could go get Dumser’s ice cream and be able to go there by boat,” he said. “It’s a fun experience and I’d pay $40 every day to avoid having to drive through Ocean City and get there in a fun, different kind of way.”

Dockshare could also offer a means to interest a younger demographic in nautical pursuits.

“I’m 42, but folks younger than me may think that boating’s out of reach for them or how is it relevant,” he said. “I think that more millennial base will understand this concept very well because of Uber [and] Airbnb.”

Nate Young discovered an affinity for boating while still in his early twenties after spending a year living on what developed into an inadvertent houseboat permanently docked in Canton.

“My brother and I ended up buying this 42-foot wooden boat built in 1948,” he said. “It never moved [after] we had it towed up from Kent Island.”

What started as an earnest attempt at rebuilding the 1948 Owens 42-foot Triple Stateroom Cruiser eventually became affordable water-based digs in Canton.

“We tried to get the boat running,” he said. “We hired our friend’s dad to try to get the engines running, but it was so difficult to work on something that old and really not know what we were doing.”

Nevertheless, the experience left the siblings with a taste for salt life.

“It was kind of what hooked us into boating in the first place,” he said.

While still getting marketing underway for Dockshare, the team is now focused on attracting dock owners to the platform.

“If we can get the dock owners to get onboard and speak to their insurance company about liability,” he said. “That’s been the number one question is who’s liable.”

Young said insurance industry experts believe the coverage needs are relatively minimal.

“If they know you’re renting out part of your property for short-term rental, it’s just a rider that you have on your policy,” he said. “As the site develops, we’re hoping to build some of those safety checks in there so people can upload their certificate of insurance [or] boater safety card.”

Young said as word spreads about Dockshare, the hope is waterfront property owners will embrace the opportunity to tap into a previously unimagined source of income.

“We’re trying to get them to understand there is some value in their empty dock,” he said.

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