Tuesday, April 12, 2011


When the “Dolley Madison” slipped out of the Gangplank Marina last April 2, it wasn’t only her maiden voyage – it also signaled the fruition of one Fil-Am’s vision for a better way of moving through the nation’s capital.

Shaun Guevarra just turned 30, but he already personifies the potential of an upcoming generation of Fil-Am entrepreneurs in the Metro DC region.

Guevarra is president of the American River Taxi (ART) which is the only water taxi service in Washington DC. The “Dolley Madison” – built in Florida – is their first boat.

He revealed that two bigger boats are under construction in New York and are scheduled to join the ART flotilla after June.

“We’re now just trying to get it known, to get the general ridership,” he tells the Manila Mail during their “soft launch”.

The Potomac River and its tributaries were the commercial and transport arteries for DC, Virginia and Maryland before freeways were built.

Today, Washington DC is spending billions to reinvigorate the waterfront, including the expansion of facilities to encourage greater use of river resources.

ART is Guevarra’s first business venture and he’s trying to cash in on the renewed focus on the Potomac River.

“You dive into something you really enjoy and are willing to explore, you put all the hard work in and you can see the fruit coming,” he stressed.

For now, the “Dolley Madison” has three stops: the SW Waterfront – now known as the Wharf; the Washington Harbor in Georgetown; and the Diamond Teague terminal (also known as the Navy Yard), the river access to Nationals Stadium.

“We’re the only water taxi operating in DC right now,” he declared. A large part of his business will come from Nat’s fans looking for a better way to take them to the ball game.

“We have 81 home games this year and for each game, we’re looking at how long it takes by car, bus or train. We’re definitely faster than Metro only because of the size of the crowd you’ll see on the subway,” Guevarra explained.

“At $9 hop-off, hop-on (the price of an ART ride), it’s a lot cheaper than driving to the stadium, parking and the hassle of finding a spot,” he added.

And he pointed out taking the water taxi allows patrons to see DC from a different perspective. “With the onset of summer, it’s a nicer way to see and move around DC,” he averred.

“This morning, on the way to Georgetown there was a sailboat race on the north end and our passengers got a chance to see the race,” he recounted their maiden voyage.

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, the Guevarra family later moved to Orlando, Florida. His mother is Canadian and his father is from Tanauan, Batangas.

“If we want to make this work, it’s really up to us,” he said, adding “We could have hired more people but we preferred to be hands on so we can really learn all aspects of this business.”

He revealed that even as owner of the company, he sometimes does deck-handing chores. “It’s really tricky for the captain. He says ‘you’re the boss, you should just give me the command’,” Guevarra chuckles.

“I want to instill in the whole company that every person is really part of this family business,” he explained.

They are also trying to reach out to the community, including the Fil-Ams of Metro DC. Guevarra said they are working with street kids in the Earth Conservation Corps and will bring some of them for training as deck hands and staff members.

He says starting small is part of the plan but he’s confident his business will grow side by side with the community they strive to serve.


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