Locally developed app looks to make boating more social and safer

Arkansas-developed app, RaftUp, offers an S.O.S function to users to let them get in touch with other app users in case of an emergency. (Photo: KATV)

Thousands of Arkansans will hit the waterways this weekend for the Memorial Day unofficial start to summer. A locally developed app is looking to make the boating trip more social and overall safer.

The app is called RaftUp, and it was designed to create a sense of community on the waterfront. The program uses geo-positioning to create an online network of boaters and points of interest close by to make potentially unfamiliar territory seem like home.

"You take this RaftUp app to any body of water and you can use it there, and you become part of the community," said Corey Boelkens, founder and CEO of RaftUp.

Boelkens said the app set out to redesign the boater's map - not so much for navigation purposes - but rather helping mariners find the nearest marina, a local restaurant, beach or a place to gas up. The app has local Game & Fish Commission fish shelter locations programmed to help fishermen find the best places to cast their rod.

RaftUp uses GPS tracking to help locate the user and what places may be around that boater. But the GPS tracking also lets you see other app users in the area, even see what they are doing if they choose to share that information. App users can post about parties or events they're hosting, allowing those nearby to join in on the fun.

"Think about it," said Boelkens. "We have an interactive map for every body of water in the country."

But the interactive map and tracker also come in handy when a boater is in need of help.

"If you're boating and your boat breaks down and you call the marina - if they're really busy, who else do you call," questioned Boelkens.

Boelkens said that's where the app's SOS button comes in handy. Users can denote what sort of boat trouble they're encountering and how many people are on the boat on the SOS function. When activated, the SOS function sends a push alert to users in the area alerting them of your situation.

"You'll be able to see the user and their position," said Boelkens. "Every 20 seconds we update that person's position."

The trouble many stranded boaters encounter, is trying to let people know exactly where they are when running into boat problems. The up-to-the-minute GPS locator helps the rescuing party find the user signaling SOS - even if it's dark out or if the boat floats from its original location when calling for assistance.

Boelkens said the Little Rock Fire Department is considering using the app to help locate stranded boaters, and the Osage Beach Fire Department in Missouri is asking RaftUp to design software to let them be notified when boaters need help.

RaftUp also plans to roll out a concierge function, connecting users to boat towing services and potentially future delivery services to rush last minute groceries or beverages to boaters too busy to come back to shore.

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