Daniel Island residents Andy and Anita Koszyk were among the first to gather at the dock near Children’s Park along the Wando River shoreline last Thursday morning, eager to get spots on the maiden voyage of the new Daniel Island Ferry.
“Welcome aboard!” said Colby Hollifield, a co-partner in the water taxi service, as the Koszyks and about 20 other island residents got settled on the boat for the much-anticipated journey. “…Enjoy the ride!”
As the vessel pulled away from the dock and began cruising along the Daniel Island shoreline, the guests sat back and soaked in the view.
“You never get to see Daniel Island from this angle, with all the docks and the houses,” said Anita. “You not only can use this for transportation – but for sightseeing!”
Hollifield and his partners – Scott Connelly and Chip Deaton – couldn’t agree more. That’s one of the reasons why the trio decided Daniel Island would be the perfect location for a water taxi service. Connelly and Deaton, who have been operators of Charleston Water Taxi for 13 years, looked into adding Daniel Island years ago, but the timing wasn’t right. Their business currently provides roundtrip service from Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston. Hollifield, a Daniel Island resident who met Connelly through mutual friends, offered to help leverage his island connections to get the project off the ground.
“We just talked about how logical it was and how much sense it makes to run to Daniel Island,” said Hollifield.
After working through some logistical issues, such as dock access, scheduling and defining the product they would offer, the partners are now ready to add Daniel Island to the mix.
“We’re very excited,” said Deaton, as he navigated the boat during last week’s trip. “It’s been on our radar since we started 13 years ago, but it never really happened. It’s needed now. Before it was more of a novelty. I think now is the time.”
“We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” added Connelly. “And we get a lot of Daniel Island residents that ride already.”
With families with children making up the main bulk of their customers, said Connelly, Daniel Island is a natural fit. But they also hope to cater to commuters and plan to offer service for both downtown residents who work on Daniel Island and Daniel Island residents who work downtown.
“There are 10,000 people on Daniel Island,” Connelly continued. “…Traffic is just doing nothing but getting worse. And if we can make this run in 20 minutes for some commuters, instead of putting them on 526 that takes an hour in either direction, that was our main goal.”
The Daniel Island Ferry will offer monthly commuter and family passes through a subscription service, but riders will also be able to log into an app to schedule individual trips as well. They hope to do two early morning commuter runs, a regular daily service, two later commuter runs, and evening rides.
“It’s just another way to get around – and it’s a lot of fun,” added Hollifield. “It’s a completely different vibe. You get on the water for just that 30 minutes and you’re relaxing!”
Ultimately, the Daniel Island Ferry will stop at two locations downtown – the City Waterfront Park and the Charleston Maritime Center. The service will kick off during the upcoming Volvo Car Open and then will run for special events, but full daily service will have to wait until planned construction by the Daniel Island Town Association on a new waterfront dock near Children’s Park is complete.
“That’s the variable that nobody knows,” Hollifield added, referencing the dock construction timeline. “We’re planning on starting by the end of the year.”
The partners have also ordered a new boat for the Daniel Island service that will be climate-controlled and a bit wider than those in their current fleet. In addition, it will also feature bike racks for riders who want to bring a bike downtown to get to and from work or other spots. As they wait for the dock work to get underway, the Daniel Island Ferry team plans to survey residents to determine the best pricing and packages for the service (those interested in providing feedback can take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DR2CCNH).
“We’ve just got to get a feel for how many people are interested,” said Connelly. “That determines our next steps…We want to give them what they want.”
Clearly, the experience during last week’s inaugural run did not disappoint. A social media post by Hollifield’s wife, Heather, the night before the trip helped fill the boat. Not only was it a picture-perfect day, but guests were treated to an appearance by a dolphin, who played in the water off the side of the boat as a massive container ship lumbered by in the distance.
“I think it’s amazing!” said Cait McDonald, a Daniel Island resident who took part in the journey.
“This is so much fun!” added Meara Becotte, who brought along her daughter, Zoe, for the ride. “Such a smart idea.”
“It’s great,” said fellow rider Linda McDonald, a resident of Daniel Pointe. “I would use it for dinner, shopping, or to bring visiting friends. You can see Charleston, as opposed to seeing the highway!”
“It’s super exciting – and a fun experience!” noted rider Nikole Hamilton, also a Daniel Island resident. “And it’s beautiful! It will make going downtown so much easier. We will definitely go downtown much more. It’s a huge benefit to Daniel Island and residents.”
By all accounts, the island community appears ready to dive in to the new concept. As the boat slipped up alongside the edge of the dock after its roundtrip jaunt, Hollifield thanked the riders for taking part in the historic voyage. In return, the three partners received a round of applause from their guests.
For more information, visit “Daniel Island Ferry” on Facebook, call (843) 732-4949 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.