After COVID-19 curtailed indoor gatherings in 2020, Texas residents looked to outdoor activities for entertainment on Lake Travis. Business owners are preparing for an equally busy summer season in 2021.
Many described 2020 to be one of the most busy seasons in experience as the beginning of a new boating season approaches.
The Nautical Boat Club is managed by General Manager Patrick Nee who runs what he describes as a boating country club. Members are able to pay monthly dues to enjoy a fleet of boats ranging from pontoon boats to high performance ski boats without the hassle of maintenance.
With reservations being taken over the phone and via email in 2020, Nautical employees were so busy they had to start turning away prospective members before the season was over due to not having enough boats in their fleet for everyone.
Nee described it as “people were literally throwing their money at us and we had to turn them away.”
To better prepare for the upcoming season, four additional boats have been added to their fleet as well as starting the hiring process for dock crew sooner than previous years to ensure they have all hands on deck to provide a smooth season.
Members will also have the option of reserving their boats online instead of booking directly with Nautical employees, giving dockhands more time to prepare for the day’s renters and tending to member needs.
Nee hopes these additional measures will help to provide another successful and efficient season.
Traveling nine nautical miles up the lake, with destinations like Devils Cove and Starnes Island, businesses tend to larger crowds looking for popular party locations. This area is known for being more densely populated during peak boating season.
Photo one depicts the welcome sign as one enters Riviera Marina. Photo two, dockhand Stephen Allen uses the forklift to launch rental boats scheduled to go out for the day. Photo three, Riviera provides a large picnic area for renters and tenants to enjoy to day. Photos four and five show the numerous drystack shelters tenants keep their boats stored in year round. Photo credit Danielle Williams
Lance Looper, general manager of Riviera Marina, runs one of the larger marinas on Lake Travis in this area. While Riviera does offer a small variety of boat rentals and party barges, It’s focus primarily on dry storage for privately owned boats.
For dry storage marinas like Riviera, boats are stacked in covered awnings and dockhands work with forklifts to transfer boats to and from the water.
Storing more than 500 boats within the marina, last season Looper and his crew were so busy they found themselves working until midnight most nights to ensure that each boat made it back to its assigned stack after a day out on the water.
In an effort to prepare for this season, Looper had to find ways to maximize efficiency. The first change to be made was establishing a boat rental manager to oversee renters. After working at Riviera for the last seven years, Keith Boline was most qualified for the job.
With Boline in position to help with day to day operations Looper was also able to hire additional forklift drivers to ensure there are more workers to transfer boats continuously.
However, it wasn’t just boat rental companies that experienced the surge the pandemic brought.
Long-time boat owner, David Reynolds, has been on Lake Travis for almost 15 years. In that time he has experienced quite a few monumental events like the four year drought that started in 2008.
Fast forward to 2020, when many boaters traveled to the lake with personal boats in tow to show support for then-President Donald Trump in a boat parade over Labor Day weekend that resulted in five boats capsizing.
As a tenant at a local marina, Reynolds explained that he was able to avoid a majority of the large crowds looking for boating options in 2020. Living close by allows him to “come down, get in the boat, and go.”
Reynolds was among the boaters already out when the Trump parade commenced and described the event as “total chaos”. Boats of all sizes sped down the channel and caused swells not typical for Lake Travis, resulting in his boat taking on water. Due to the design of his boat, he was able to make it home safely.
Aside from that experience, Reynolds said that the biggest difference he’s seen on the lake over the years has been fluctuating lake levels. As Lake Travis is a reservoir lake it’s not uncommon for levels to change throughout the year.