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Need a Tow?
With insurance and without
March 2022

e should start at the beginning.

Book of Genesis
In the beginning…. I recommend a BoatUS membership with unlimited gold towing insurance.
john rahm
Captain John Rahm
Remember, BoatUS is the corporate umbrella with TowBoatUS as the towing service provider. TowBoatUS is franchised with geographic areas. Boat owners are fortunate to have a TowBoatUS franchise here in Oriental.

As background information, even though Zimmerman Marine has assumed control of the Deaton Boat Yard, the towing franchise still remains with the Deatons. John, Matt or Zimmerman mechanic Gary will still come to your rescue. Read as: blessing.

Here are some things you should know.

What to do: Digital Dispatch
Your rescue tow boat will be digitally dispatched. After purchasing a BoatUS membership with towing, download the BoatUS application onto your digital device (cell phone). To get towing assistance, open the app, login with your BoatUS membership number and complete the “request a tow” process on your phone.

Your request will be texted to the nearest on-call towing captain. The towing captain will login in with their magic towers (pronounced toh-ers) code and your bundle of digital info (your dilemma) will be sent to the towing captain. The towing captain must respond to the initial text message within five minutes or the next towing captain in line will be contacted.

Make sure the BoatUS app has access to your location because the app will attempt to automatically drop a pin (your location) to the tow boat captain. (Super helpful.)

What to do: Old School
Assistance can still be obtained by voice.

The BoatUS operator will enter your request on your behalf and then execute the digital process described above.

The first question asked will be your BoatUS number. Have the number ready. Towing is a business and payment will be required. BoatUS will pay TowBoatUS for your rescue if your towing insurance is proper and up to date. BoatUS membership costs $25 and Unlimited Gold Towing is $175 for $200 worth of peace of mind.

Heads up, there is another service level – Unlimited. However, this other service level never made sense to me. I like Unlimited Gold. Learn more at the BoatUS website.

Even towboats get towed.
The Cavalry will Arrive
Response times vary.

Obviously, if you are stuck way the heck out there, it will be some time before the cavalry comes to the rescue. Also, tow boat captains sleep like the rest of us. It might take awhile to roust them out of bed and over to the tow boat.

Be patient. They are coming.

Turn your radio on and tune to Channel 16. The rescuers will call you on the VHF radio (16) when inbound to your location.

In addition, Captain Gary would like you to call early. Meaning, if your vessel has been hard aground all day and now you have called for a tow in the dead of night, your delay has increased the risk to you, him and his towing vessel. None of the three Oriental towing captains are enthused about a bad weather or nighttime tow.

If there is no danger to you or your vessel, they may choose to arrive in better weather or daylight. However, just like the Coast Guard, if your vessel is headed toward the rocks and your family is in peril, the towing captains are absolutely coming right away no matter the weather.

Speaking of the Coast Guard…

Coast Guard Philosophy
The United States Coast Guard views running aground as your personal problem.

If your vessel is not sinking and there is no danger to you or yours, the Coast Guard is not coming. Taking on water while aground is not enough to get the Coast Guard underway. The Coasties are smart enough to know if your vessel is aground, it will not sink. (Savvy.)

The Coasties might, however, call TowBoatUS on your behalf and try to connect you with them.

The Non-Insured
Yes, TowBoatUS will rescue non-BoatUS members and BoatUS members without towing insurance.

The towing fee for the unwise is about $300 per hour. The clock starts when the towing captain arrives at the towboat dock and runs until he leaves the towboat dock.

The night time towing fee is a little north of $300. And, lousy weather might incur an additional cost.

Before being aghast at the non-insured rates, remember you are renting a very specialized boat and hiring a highly skilled captain with special credentials and training.

A sea story to reinforce my point: A non-insured, under-informed friend needed a tow out of the Port Royal Sound to Skull Creek Marina (South Carolina). He was within sight of his destination marina at less than one-half mile. The tow boat came from Beaufort (SC), over fifteen miles away. The entire towing event lasted over six hours and cost two thousand dollars (two boat dollars).

For salt in his wound, just for him, I calculated his towing cost at 80 cents per foot or $4800 per mile. (What are friends for?) Hence, my recommendation for towing insurance and a good reason for this month’s blog.

They Have Arrived
When the towboat arrives, follow the captain’s direction carefully. Safety requires absolute compliance to the captain’s desires.

Sailboats track/tow straight and are usually towed with a single line. However, the towing captain may want the single line through the anchor chute on the bow. Boats with beam are sometime towed with a bridle. Bridle or single line, you will still have to steer your vessel.

Most times, the towboat will use a post/capstan mounted on their aft deck. Failing to steer straight and centered will roll/capsize the towboat. If being towed at night use only the navigation lights. All other lights must be off.

Brand X
Sea Tow is the other company that assists mariners.

Sea Tow has four boats positioned at marinas in Atlantic Beach, Beaufort and Swansboro. They patrol high traffic areas such as Beaufort Inlet, Morehead City, Cape Lookout, Bogue Inlet, Swansboro and Downtown Beaufort.

The local TowBoatUS folks, not Sea Tow, is clearly the best choice for Oriental mariners. TowBoatUS also has service providers in Beaufort, Little Washington and Swansboro. All have unlimited service areas (75 miles offshore) except Swansboro with a 25 mile offshore limit (now you know).

Long distance tows back to Oriental usually involve handoffs between the various TowBoatUS service providers.

Professionals carry liability insurance for a reason.
Good Samaritans, Words to the Wise
A portion of local towing is performed by friends helping friends. A friend in need is a friend indeed…blah, blah, blah. I get it.

However, liability is incurred when lines get strung between boats.

Your recreational insurance policy probably does not cover damage when towing another boat. Your improper towing of another boat could result in a claim against your insurance. Even if you do everything right…

I cite a case where a good Samaritan, towing a boat, pulled the bow cleats completely off an assembly line production boat; fiberglass, toe rail, stanchion, life line, backing plates and all; spectacular damage. It appeared as if the side of the boat exploded from a Ukrainian, US provided, Javelin anti-tank missile (timely and relevant description).

Ultimately, the towers’ insurance paid the boat yard repair bill for the towees’ torn cleats. The towing owner was sued by his insurance company. He was forced to reimburse his own insurance company who subsequently cancelled his policy. (Ouch.)

Rumor: this owner had difficulty getting follow-on insurance because his name got dropped into the all-knowing insurance data base. Lack of adequate insurance resulted in his finance company obtaining their own outrageously priced insurance for the boat. The finance company insurance bill (huge) was automatically added to the loan debt. Now the owner was paying interest on his insurance. His monthly payment was recalculated. Failing to make a few payments resulted in penalties. The financial avalanche cascaded downhill.

It was a Stephen King type nightmare during the daytime.

So, want to tow another boat? Think hard and use caution. One of my favorites is “No good deed goes unpunished.” This was another case in point.

One Last Quote
I attribute my favorite running aground quote to Zimmerman mechanic and towboat captain Gary, who says “people run aground because their speed has exceeded their ability to navigate.”

And, I would add, towing insurance is best when not used.

Fair Winds,
Captain John Rahm (licensed captain with a towing endorsement)

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Captain's Blog on TownDock.net is all about making your time on the water enjoyable. Captain John Rahm teaches sailing and boat handling at Third Wave Sailing.