Thanks to modern technology, the newest nautical lifesaver can fit comfortably in the palm of one's hand.
But a mobile phone application Bluffton-based Jester Communications recently developed for Sea Tow, a marine assistance organization, is doing more than keeping the company afloat.
It's propelling the 14-employee business into uncharted waters, elevating its international profile and earning it a prestigious award along the way.
"It's the most comprehensive marine app available right now," said company president Jared Jester of his newest offering, which smartphone users can download for free.
More than 12,000 have downloaded it since Friday, when New York-based Sea Tow issued a press release touting the app's safety features.
Foremost among them is a program enabling distressed boaters to email Sea Tow responders with a photo and the exact coordinates of their location to hasten rescue.
The app also enables users to monitor the tide, check the weather forecast and track their speed using the phone's built-in GPS.
Favourite Website Awards, an online resource featuring innovative technological products, recognized the app with its "Mobile of the Day" distinction. The app will be featured Monday on the awards' website.
"This solidifies our focus on the marine industry," Jester said, adding that the app's five-star rating enhances his company's reputation. "That boaters and people actually using it would give us that rating is a real feather in our cap."
Sea Tow spokeswoman Kristen Frohnhoefer praised Jester's vision.
"Jared Jester is a very creative individual who's always trying to think about the next thing," she said. "He felt he could execute what we had in mind, and we're very happy with how it came out."
It's not the first honor Jester Communications has received; in February it collected an Innovation Award from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The company isn't limited to the water. It's designed apps for politicians such as Gov. Nikki Haley and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and Jester says he's branching out further.
"While we're on the cusp, or frontier, of this industry, we're trying to tap into as many market sectors as possible," he said, adding that he's exploring app development for churches and salespeople.
Jester moved his company's headquarters from Hilton Head Island to Bluffton about two months ago, and he said he hopes to parlay its success into new employees.
"As we land more clients and become more successful, I'm definitely interested in directing that revenue back into the company," he said. "It's not time for me to make money yet."