By Liesel Schmidt
Anyone who’s ever spent time trying to get around Destin knows well the headaches of contending with traffic on the heavily congested streets through town—most especially on Highway 98. And when you’re out for a fun time, dealing with the stressors of aggressive drivers, roadway hiccups, or even just everyday commuters can put a definite damper on the day. It’s a headache that seems to be the price of admission, whether you’re a local going out for a night on the town or a tourist looking to explore. When Jimmy Crawford and Crystal Newborn teamed up to start Destin Water Taxi in 2011, they turned this daily frustration into a business plan that can really hold water.
Using their backgrounds in boating, their proficiency of the water, and their love of the area as their springboard, Crawford and Newborn became true captains of their own destinies, offering their clients a method of transportation that was entertaining, unique, and anything but mainstream. “We offer a fun, convenient transportation alternative for a number of destinations along the water like Holiday Isle, Norriego Point, HarborWalk Village, and every restaurant and bar on the harbor,” says Crawford, a USCG Master Merchant Marine who seemingly grew his sea legs before he could navigate on land. “Traffic gets extremely busy here during the height of tourist season, and our clients love having a different way to arrive at their destination—all while relaxing and enjoying the view from the water with a cocktail in their hand.”
Rather than tasking more conventional boats with their daily fare, Destin Water Taxi uses a floating fleet of three boats including a custom-built Carolina skiff and two very unique vessels—old motor whaleboats that were once used as tenders, Liberty boats, or lifeboats by the Navy. “They would hang on the side of the Navy vessels until it was time to drop them into the water and transport soldiers or supplies to and from land,” Crawford explains. Now in their new line of work, the whaleboats comprise DWT’s convoy of cabs, though a simple sightseeing cruise at sunset is often on the itinerary, as well. In fact, cruises are one of their top services, including harbor cruises, sunset cruises, cocktail cruises, and firework cruises that allow passengers to take in the sights, the sounds, and the smells of the water and fall in love with the beauty all around them.
A love for the water—and for the area—is one of Crawford and Newborn’s best assets, and they bring their passion to bare every day that they put hand to helm. It comes out in their interaction with their clients—from the minute they step foot onboard until they get to their final destination—and comes heavily into play as they fill the role not only of captains, but also of tour guides. “One of the absolute best things about this business—aside from being outside and on the water—is having the opportunity to meet and chat with new people everyday,” says Newborn, herself a USCG Master Merchant Marine. “Most of our clients are on vacation, so they’re happy and excited to be here and explore new and fun things; and we love sharing the history of Destin and showing them everything our Destin harbor has to offer.”
Now in their sixth season, DWT is looking forward to a continuation of their success as their boats travel the waterways serving clients who become more than just passengers—they become friends.
For information on rates and destinations served by Destin Water Taxi, call Captain Jimmy at (850) 499-6679 or Captain Crystal at (850) 499-1909 or visit www.destinwatertaxi.com.