‘School boat’ still setting sail across Lake Norman
by Staff Writer
MOORESVILLE – Not that long ago, engines idled lazily while motorists applied make-up, ate breakfast and called friends to mentally escape the boredom of morning traffic on Brawley School Road.
Although the route was widened last year, Scott Huseby, of The Point, avoided a nearly two-hour, 40-mile round-trip commute to SouthLake Christian Academy in Huntersville for the past six years by transporting his sons to school by boat.
“Even after Brawley was widened, Highway 73 was still a traffic nightmare,” Huseby said. “With me working in Charlotte and our kids going to school in Huntersville, my wife actually wanted to move rather than deal with the commute. But I was determined to find a way to stay in this paradise we lived in, so I jumped on our Jet Ski in search of a community dock near SouthLake.”
Having found one, Huseby, president of Huesby Inc., a national litigation support company, carved out some flexibility in his schedule to enjoy quality time with his boys, Kody, 15, Chase, 14, and Scott, 11, on the 5.2-mile, 15-minute dash across the glossy water.
Soon, others noticed that Huseby’s sons always got to school on time.
“Before long, I started bringing other people’s kids to school, first on a 21-foot boat, then on a 26-foot boat, and finally the demand got me to buy a 34-foot formula boat with heaters, a cabin for kids to read, a GPS, radar, weather canopy and autopilot that lets the boat drive itself when it gets really foggy,” Huseby said.
This school year, Huseby serves as skipper for 19 SouthLake students with several more on a waiting list.
“This is the fifth year Scott has taken my three kids to school, and he is so gracious to do it,” Point resident Tori Springate said. “The kids really look up to Captain Scott. He always has a smile on his face, and he’s so good with them.”
Back at SouthLake, Huseby has become something of a celebrity.
“I think it’s really creative and saves the parents a lot of time,” Phillip Horton, assistant head of SouthLake, said. “Many other parents wish they could boat their students to school.”
Huseby will cancel the morning commute if there is a severe thunderstorm, but the real challenge to his peaceful passage came from community residents who lived near the dock he used several years ago.
“The neighbors put up “no trespassing” signs at the community dock and wrote to the school about the liability issue of kids getting off at that dock. The school actually asked me to stop at one point, but I was undeterred,” Huseby said.
He found a vacant lot a half-mile from the school, but that was too far for its littlest students to reach comfortably on foot.
In 2007, he found a property 100 yards and one small hill climb from SouthLake. He built a dock on site, and soon, “The Principle’s Office” was landing there daily.
“I named my new boat that because it was obviously a play on words, but it was also about the principle of the thing,” Huseby said.
Huseby said riding the school’s buses would force the kids up 45 minutes earlier than they wake now, and it would also cost parents a quarterly fee. Yet Huseby isn’t making money – even to help cover gas expenses – for his good Samaritan behavior.
“The parents drop their kids off at a community dock at The Point and have signed waivers to protect the neighborhood from liability. But they can’t pay me for my services because it’s a felony to hire people who don’t have a level-two captain’s license for commercial services,” he said.
Huseby only offers a morning shuttle service, and his older boys ride a Jet Ski to get to afternoon lacrosse or wrestling practice. He says he may continue the service even after his sons graduate.
“You might see a fisherman or two, but boating is peaceful and quiet and a great way to start the day,” he said. “I know I’m helping parents out and cutting down on car pollution, so if kids still want to ride with me in the future, I’d be happy to take them.”