A bill to add safety measures at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks failed to get approval from lawmakers this year. After two deaths at the destination spot in 2012, the legislation was meant to prevent electrical shock drownings at boat docks.
But a new company is looking to improve watercraft safety with an operation that just started over the holiday weekend. It’s the brain child of Zach Hatraf, whose best friend died while intoxicated 11 years ago when his jet ski collided with a boat.
The tragic incident inspired Hatraf to come up with a way to free people from operating watercraft when drinking alcohol, and offer safe transportation on the lake.
For the past nine years, Hatraf has run “Who’s Your Captain” on Lake of the Ozarks. The business has been successful to the point that he’s employed 35 drivers during the peak of summer season on the lake.
Now, Hatraf is starting what’s been called the Uber for Boats, complete with Android and IOS Apps to order service. Given the prevalence of nightspots and restaurant/bars on Lake of the Ozarke, it’s a given that boat rental businesses know they rent watercraft to people who will drink behind the wheel.
Hatraf says it’s a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. He calls his new operation an option to avoid drinking and driving on the lake.
“It’s a way for people to get a ride on the water right now, conveniently, safely, affordably from any dock to any dock. If that existed, then we’d no longer have the excuse for our behavior of boating intoxicated and doing these things.”
Hatraf is seeking to revolutionize recreational boating through the use of technology and empowering entrepreneurs. He claims to have 57 drivers prepared to serve the 250,000 people per weekend that, according to Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau, visit the destination over the summer season.
The service, which is called “Anchor”, has started off offering trips from point A to point B, or a cruise which would have the same starting and ending spot.
“They don’t want to worry about their boat falling through” said Hatraf. They don’t want to have to worry about hefty deposits. They don’t want to worry about scheduling and how many friends are going to be there. They would like a technology based service to take care of all of those problems for them. And that’s what we’re going to be building on.”
A boat ride through Anchor will carry up to 12 people, although Hatraf says larger groups can affordably order two boats at a time if two people have downloaded the app.
The business has partnered with four major entertainment spots on the water to offer Memorial Day weekend promo codes – Topsider, Backwater Jacks, Coconuts and Lazy Gators.
Hatraf thinks groups of people will find it more attractive to use an Uber like water service to travel around the lake than taking a land based taxicab. “The math, really when you simplify it, make a lot of sense for this to be slightly more expensive that traveling by land, but a whole lot more fun and entertaining.”
The 57 drivers employed through Anchor go through background check, which includes criminal record, motor vehicle report, and in-person vessel inspections.