Boating on the River Derwent and the waterways of Southern Tasmania offers a unique pleasure that delights every sense and draws boating enthusiasts to Tasmania from around the world. Exploring Southern Tasmania by boat is a spectacular experience offering a new angle and perspective on the natural beauty of Hobart and its surrounds. Right now, however, there is no easy way to hire a boat in Hobart and a self-drive experience is out of the picture. To explore the water in the company of friends or family at your own pace remains a privilege open only to boat owners and their friends. But one man has made it his mission to open up this opportunity to all so many more can respectfully marvel at Hobart and its surrounding natural beauty from the water.
After visiting Tasmania in 2011, Douw Loots and his wife, Edelweiss, fell in love with everything about Tasmania. Its natural beauty, lifestyle and family friendly community appealed so much they relocated permanently in 2014. When Douw’s parents visited in late 2016, Douw was keen to hire a boat to show them Hobart and its surrounds by sea but he found his only options were expensive large yacht charters, boat tours with fixed itineraries or fishing charters.
With an engineering background, an eye for a gap in the marketplace and a passion for the sea and recreational boating, Douw launched a new business, ‘Ondine – Boat hire for the refined explorer’. Douw is passionate about making sure all locals and tourists can discover the majestic beauty of Tasmania from the water and his solution is a self-drive hire boat service.
Then, it was a case of finding the right boat. There were several criteria to be met:
- An efficient low-speed hull – safe, comfortable and stable on Tasmanian waters
- An enclosed cabin to cater for the colder climate
- A cabin above deck with large windows to enjoy the view
- Full on-board toilet facilities
- Entertainment area with bar fridge
- Easily accessible for less able bodied
- Clean lines and simplicity, no clutter or bling
- It had to be a beautiful boat!
“It is important to us that we get the Ondine boats custom built for comfort and safety and we wanted to engage a local boat builder for the job,” said Douw. “Our decision to commission electric boats was made because they have such a light environmental footprint and they are quiet under cruise conditions, allowing customers to enjoy the sea and conversation without competing with a noisy engine.” Taking some cues from the self-driving car boom, Douw is using his system development and automation background to custom build an innovative driver assistance and navigation system which will be simple and easy for everyone to use.
Douw’s builder suggested he consider Van Diemen Luxury Craft as local boat designers and manufacturers. “Finding someone who could build this kind of boat right here in Tasmania was very exciting and I organised a trip up to Launceston straight away” Douw said. “Andrew and Jo understood our vision right from the get go and we have been working with them ever since to develop our boats.”
Ondine self-drive boats will take full advantage of the latest technology including GPS navigation, advanced collision avoidance, touch screen controls, radar and cruise control. With dual Torqeedo pod drives and solar recharging, the units will provide smooth luxury cruising for up to 8 guests. Ondine boat hire will operate from Hobart to start, with plans to extend to Kettering and the Huon River.
When can we see one of these boats? Douw says, “The design stage is complete and we are ready to build the prototype in marine ply. We want to raise awareness of the project and put out the call to investors. That’s a struggle in itself, but we are confident the market is there and we have the right design to meet it.” Douw has plans to work with local designers and artist to create custom interiors for the boats to give each boat a unique appeal and personality. The goal is to create a comfy lounge and intimate social space that celebrates nature, art, our rich maritime history and Tasmania.
Ondine refined boat hire is currently taking expressions of interest from investors. Read more
You can support Ondine by filling in the online survey on the website