August 2007

A Wild Ride: Nature's Best Thrills on the Water

Author: Linda Hopkins

It’s no secret that Blair Willis and Scott Mooneyhan want to take you for a ride. Teaming up to create Live Oac (pronounced līve ōak) “The Lowcountry’s Outdoor Adventure Company,” the two seasoned outdoorsmen are making a career of sharing area waters, offering customized boating experiences that are sure to become cherished memories.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing sunset cruise, an educational eco tour, fishing, water sports, or perhaps an entire day of outdoor adventure, Live Oac has the ride for you. Step aboard one of two identical Hurricane Sundecks and experience “the SUV of deck boats.” According to Willis, the difference is in the details. The boats are equipped with a sunshade over the entire back. By limiting the passenger load to six instead of the ten people the boat accommodates, everyone onboard can choose the sunny seat up front or opt for the shade. The full windshield is a big advantage, too, especially on cooler days, he said. There’s also a restroom below deck—a nice convenience for longer trips.

Location, location, location
Operating out of a small, friendly marina on Skull Creek, with instant access to the waters surrounding the Pinckney Island nature refuge, Live Oac offers more than a sweet ride. “Our business is about exploring and seeing places; having the best access is key,” said Willis.

“Within minutes, we can pull out and be in a totally remote, wild area, not surrounded by development,” he said. Quick access to Dolphin Head guarantees excellent year-round dolphin activity. And when you’re ready to dip more than your toes in the water, just a few minutes away is a quiet creek where you can choose from a number of towable options, including wakeboards, kneeboards, water skis, or a water tube. Bordered by trees and marsh, waters are calm regardless of weather conditions. “>From other island marinas, you would travel 30 or 45 minutes to get to that kind of location,” said Willis.

Experience counts
With superior equipment and a prime location, what truly sets Willis and Mooneyhan apart from the competition is the experience and personal dedication they bring onboard. After a decade working with another Lowcountry outdoor adventure company, Willis set out on his own last year. “I grew up as a waterman,” he said, recalling youthful adventures, including canoeing, boating and waterskiing. “I’ve been doing this all my life.”

Mooneyhan, who studied outdoor recreation in college, also grew up boating. He met Willis while working as a kayak guide and partnered with Live Oac in March. “We’re trying to put together something that is unique,” he said.

Combining boating expertise with a rich knowledge of the Lowcountry’s ecosystem, Live Oac tours take sightseeing to a new level. “It’s not about pointing out a certain bird. What’s happening out there is the important thing—the way things are interacting,” said Willis. “You have to teach to the youngest level,” he said. (When a four-year-old asked him what oysters ate, Willis was able to convey the concept of microscopic organisms in the water by comparing them to Cheerios.)

What you want, when you want it
Because Live Oac is a small, owner-operated service, Willis and Mooneyhan offer unrivaled flexibility in terms of service and scheduling. Activities can be combined for a truly custom adventure. “We find out what someone expects and craft an excursion to meet and exceed those expectations,” said Willis.

Live Oac also handles bookings on other boats ideal for experiences such as inshore flat boat fishing or serious offshore fishing. “If we don’t offer it, we can send you in the right direction. We would rather help you find what’s right for you than convert you to something else,” said Willis.

Regardless of the services you choose, providing a safe and enjoyable experience is the primary goal. Both Willis and Mooneyhan are US Coast Guard licensed captains and certified water ski instructors, trained and certified in first aid and CPR. “Safety is very important, especially when you are experiencing things outside in wild nature,” said Willis, a former EMT. A big question is weather, and sometimes a trip must be cancelled, he said. “At the risk of alienating a customer, when the decision needs to be made, safety is number one. This is our profession and we have to make that call.”

Willis and Mooneyhan are committed to making Live Oac the best possible water adventure you can have. “The kinds of things we’re out there doing are the things we enjoy on our days off,” said Willis. “We’re not doing this because it’s a fun job. That’s a big part of it. But for me, it’s born out of a desire to share the experience with other people.”

“Hopefully they will leave with a memory—pulling up a baby shark or getting on an inner tube for the first time,” said Mooneyhan. “It’s a success when someone onboard speaks up and says, ‘This was the best thing we’ve done on the whole vacation.’”

Discover the possibilities. Visit www.liveoac.com and take advantage of the online reservation system, or call 888-254-8362 for more information.

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