Monday, July 22, 2024

New business is looking to make waves on the Cape Fear River

Two of Riverwalk Watersports first potential customers take one of the jet skis for a spin Friday Afternoon.
Two of Riverwalk Watersports first potential customers take one of the jet skis for a spin Friday Afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/CORY MANNION)

WILMINGTON — Looking out from the Riverwalk in Downtown Wilmington, one can imagine gliding through the placid waters on a hot summer day. For many, the prospect of owning a boat or personal watercraft can be a daunting prospect. But Riverwalk Watersports, is looking to make it easier to access the river.

Located in the Port City Marina, Riverwalk Watersports offers jet ski and Pontoon boat rentals with easy access to the Wilmington waterfront, a previously untouched area in the boat rental business.

The business is owned by Chris Livingston, Jeff Skinner and Mike Wessel. According to Jeff, they’re “the three amigos.” This sentiment was echoed by Livingston, saying, “The three of us, we’re in this together.”

The company almost developed over night. According to Skinner, “We put it together kind of quick, and you know, now, here we are.”

“Chris had a limo rental company, and that’s how he got to know Jeff,” Wessel said. “The two of them had the idea of buying a jet ski company, but that fell through. When that fell through we started looking other places.”

“I’d known Chris for a long time, and they reached out to me as someone who might want to run the day to day,” Wessel said. “Chris has a company, Jeff has a job, but the three of us together, it’s been really cool so far.”

“It’s exciting, but it is a lot of work,” he added.

Riverwalk Watersports will initially operate a fleet of two, 20 ft. Lexington Pontoon boats equipped with 60 horsepower Evinrude outboards, and four Yamaha jet skis.

Riverwalk Watersports has a fleet of five Yamaha Jet Skis. Four for rentals, the other held in reserve for lifeguarding.
Riverwalk Watersports has a fleet of five Yamaha watercraft. Four for rentals, the other held in reserve for lifeguarding. (Port City Daily photo/CORY MANNION)

However, if all goes as planned, the company plans on expanding and adding to their fleet of watercraft.

“We’re hoping the only problem we’ll have is needing to buy more skis by July because we’re so busy,” Wessel said.

The company also operates a fifth ski, but the last one will play an all important lifeguard roll. Skinner says that in an emergency situation, customers would easily be able to contact the lifeguard ski for aid.

Exploring the Cape Fear River

Riverwalk Watersports allows customers to explore a wide swath of the Cape Fear River. Customers will be allowed to travel down river to Snow’s Cut, at Carolina Beach, and back up to the Dan Cameron Bridge, between the Wrightsboro area and Sutton Lake.

“From there you can travel all the way down to the Navassa train bridge, it’s just a huge area,” Wessel said. “They can even travel up into the Brunswick River.”

Back in these areas, people will have access to miles of marshlands, providing opportunities to view some of the Cape Fear region’s native wildlife, like alligators. According to Wessel, if you encounter one of these animals, there’s no need for alarm.

“People swim in the ocean where there’s sharks, at least you can see the alligators,” Wessel said. “They’re terrified of the boats and skis and stuff like that.”

Wessel said you may never need to go that far on a jet ski, however, on a pontoon boat that can make for a “great day trip.”

But that’s just for now. According to Wessel, the company would eventually like to expand the territory that customers can cover.

“We’re working with our insurance company on maybe expanding that,” said Wessel. “A lot of people want to rent a boat for the day and go down through Snow’s Cut and into the Intracoastal for a little bit. That’s a pretty good cruise for the day.”

The company is one of the first to open on the Northern extension of the Riverwalk, following restaurants Blackfin Ameripub and Vida Kitchen at Pier 33.

According to Skinner, it took some work to get a location so close to downtown.

“We had to jump through a lot of hoops for them (the city of Wilmington) to allow us here,” Skinner said. “But they were very gracious, and they worked with us. We actually looked at several different areas of where we wanted to go, but this seemed like the best place.”

“Other places were way at the end of the river, out of reach,” he noted. “This is as close to downtown as you can get.”

At a ribbon cutting ceremony held for the company on Friday afternoon, Mayor Bill Saffo expressed his pleasure with Riverwalk Watersports joining the northern Riverwalk extension.

Riverwalk Watersports offers two 20 ft. Pontoon boats for rent. Each comes equipped with a 60 hp "Evinrude" outboard, ice coolers, a 'bimini' top, sound system, and seating for up to 10 people.
Riverwalk Watersports offers two 20 ft. Pontoon boats for rent. Each comes equipped with a 60 hp “Evinrude” outboard, ice coolers, a ‘bimini’ top, sound system, and seating for up to 10 people. (Port City Daily photo/CORY MANNION)

“This is a big thing, this is a really big thing, and it’s something that we’ve wanted for quite some time to have business’s open on this end of our Riverwalk,” Saffo said. “The river is a wonderful environment that everybody should explore, the NE Cape Fear River and everything else.”

Jet ski rentals run $89 per hour, and $69 for a half hour. They also offer two-hour rentals for $159. Guided tours of the river are available on request.

Pontoon rentals start at $149 for an hour, $449 for a four-hour half day and $599 for an eight-hour full day.

For more information, visit the Riverwalk Watersport website at riverwalkwatersports.com, give them a call at (910) 899-8188 or follow them on Facebook. Riverwalk Watersports is located at 10 Harnett Street, in the Port City Marina.

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