“When you break down on the water, you can’t pull over to the curb and walk home,” says Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer III, the chief operating officer of Sea Tow International.
So true. Despite the best maintenance regimen and careful planning, circumstances beyond your control happen often in the demanding briny environment. Engines and components break down unexpectedly. Fuel gauges are not very accurate. Batteries fail. Or a super-negative low tide sucks more water off that sandbar than you’ve ever seen before, leaving you high and dry. These and similar incidents are why a good towing policy is invaluable.
“Guys thank us all the time for saving their fishing day,” says Scott Croft of BoatUS, which operates the TowBoatUS (or Vessel Assist in California) service program. “They’ve caught a bunch of fish, but when their engine won’t start at the end of the trip, we get them and their catch back to the dock safely.”
Time Is Money
Frohnhoefer says the average towing time for vessels needing assistance is 21/4 to 21/2 hours, at a rate of $325 per hour. The clock starts ticking when the tow boat leaves the dock and doesn’t end until it’s tied up again. So with a normal towing charge being upwards of $700, or up to $1,000, for a soft ungrounding, it’s easier on the wallet to budget for an annual service agreement or a towing rider premium than it is to shell out money out-of-pocket.
Sea Tow and BoatUS towing plans are both member services. Sea Tow’s Gold membership is $169 annually, while BoatUS charges $149 for its unlimited towing package. The two organizations have many similarities, and a few differences as well. Both give priority to members needing assistance during high-volume periods, like holidays and weekends. Both have boats on standby in the water to respond quickly to calls. Sea Tow (trademarked with yellow hulls) has 100 franchise locations, with more than 300 ports covered, while BoatUS (red hulls) has 305 locations in North America. The service range varies by location.