Want a Boat Slip Tonight? There’s an App for That

Boaters can browse and book same-day slips through SlipFinder
Keith Cooper, a co-creator of the SlipFinder app, found himself a boat berth last week at the Star Island Yacht Club in Montauk. Christine Sampson

Several local marinas have signed up to offer slips through a new mobile app created by two Long Island boating enthusiasts.

Boaters can browse and book same-day slips through SlipFinder locally at places such as the Star Island Marina in Montauk, and Halsey Marina, 3 Mile Harbor Marina, Harbor Marina, and Gardiner’s Marina on Three Mile Harbor, and nationally at about 120 others. Keith Cooper, one of SlipFinder’s creators, said the idea was born partly from a desire to help adventurous boaters explore new areas and partly from a quest to help marinas update their technology.

“Because marinas are seasonal in a good portion of the country, for that reason some have been slower to catch up with how you can do reservations,” Mr. Cooper said last week in Montauk aboard his boat, Sandy Finn. “Some now have reservations services via their websites, but we also wanted to create a platform that would allow a boater, at the touch of a button, to book a slip.”

SlipFinder launched in April. The team behind the app consists of Mr. Cooper, a Garden City resident who has a background in sales, and his friend Todd Brice, a former information technology professional who now owns and operates Yacht Service, a marina in Amityville. They hired Clevertech, a New York City app development company, to actually code the app, and hired three local employees to help them run the business. Mr. Brice’s wife, Anna, and Mr. Cooper’s wife, Sandra, have been instrumental in marketing the business. Sometimes, Mr. Cooper said, his wife will use a stand-up paddleboard to approach boaters in harbors and marinas, hand out cards and cup coozies, and talk about SlipFinder.

The app has some competition out there, particularly in Dockwa, a similar system that originated in Newport, R.I. InnovateLI, a Long Island business publication, called SlipFinder “the nautical Airbnb.”

Lynn Mendelman of Seacoast Enterprises Associates Inc., which manages Halsey Marina, 3 Mile Harbor Marina, Harbor Marina, and Gardiner’s Marina, said while those marinas have yet to get regular bookings through SlipFinder, they like the product and its creators.

“They’re working very, very hard,” Ms. Mendelman said. “They’re perfect start-up-company kinds of guys. They definitely bend over backwards for you.”

The SlipFinder app has two interfaces, one for boaters and one for marinas. On the boaters’ side, they first create profiles for their boats based on size and other features and then browse marinas that have available slips that fit their profiles. On the marinas’ side, managers can toggle the online availability of their slips on and off to reflect what they might book through their own systems. Both the boater and the marina staff receive confirmation via text messages or email.

“We’re trying to fill in the gaps and help increase occupancy,” Mr. Cooper said. “Here’s an extra tool, an extra platform that you can use.”

The app generates money for the company by charging the boaters a booking fee. Mr. Cooper declined to say how many slips have been booked so far, but said there is revenue coming in.

“There’s so much technology on the boats, but as far as the marinas, you’re still calling on the radio or on their phone,” Mr. Cooper said. “If you’re planning for two weeks out that’s great, but if you’re calling on a Saturday morning for a spot . . . it’s time-consuming and sometimes it can be frustrating. The ability that you can open your phone and find a place where you’re going to go today is pretty encouraging.”