Cindy McCaffery, vice president of program development for Sea Tow Services International, answers the questions this week:
Q: What is the mission of Sea Tow?
A: Sea Tow believes that in all things we do, we help people enjoy boating. This means that we have an entire network of U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains and support staff ready to assist boaters along the coast and on lakes throughout the country. From recreational power boaters, sailors, fishermen, water-sports enthusiasts to professional mariners — we cover them all!
Q: What services does Sea Tow offer?
A: Sea Tow membership includes towing, fuel drops, jump-starts, prop disentanglements. … On water assistance, when members receive these services, their invoice is zero because they are a member!
Q: What is the most-common method used to notify Sea Tow?
A: Many boaters call their local Sea Tow. Others call 1-800- SEA-TOW (800-473-2869). Or boaters may call for assistance on VHF 16. Our captains are monitoring their radios 24/7, 365 days a year.
Q: What are the benefits of being a member of Sea Tow?
A: Sea Tow members have priority, which means we service members before nonmembers. And once the service is complete, the invoice is zero. If you are a non-member, you pay for the service, which includes the time of when the captain leaves the dock, services you and returns to the dock. That is an hourly fee. An average tow could be $660-750. Our Members saved over $15 million last year.
Q: How often is there a rescue mission?
A: We focus on non-emergency cases on the water, such as a boater has run aground, run out of fuel. However, oftentimes, we are the first responder because we are out patrolling and on scene first. We could be involved in hundreds of cases each year throughout our franchise network.
Q: What is the frequency of rescuing people?
A: This is hard to tell and varies by area. Higher-volume areas, year-round boating areas would have a higher incident level.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles faced in this industry?
A: Hmm, this is a little open-ended. If we talk about boating as an industry, some people may feel like it is unapproachable or expensive. However, there are many ways to enter boating — fractional-ownership clubs, renting boats — and boat manufacturers and dealers have affordable financing programs. If we talk about the assistance industry, in terms of challenges, some may say, “I can take care of that on the water,” and may not be a believer in on-water assistance. Or they may take the chance and not join Sea Tow. I always like to say, “We are the peace of mind of the water when you need it the most!”
Q: How many Sea Tow boats/employees are affiliated with this industry?
A: We have 98 franchise locations throughout the U.S. — over 600 vessels standing by and hundreds of staff, of salespeople, captains — a full team.
Q: Are there any top safety precautions our readers should be aware of?
A: Wow! We have lots of them. Two that we like to champion through our Sea Tow Foundation, boatingsafety.com, are to wear a properly fitting life jacket and to designate a sober skipper. We have lots of resources on our website!
Q: Where can they go to find out more information on Sea Tow and how to contact in the event that a need arises?
A: More info on Sea Tow: seatow.com or call 1-800-SEATOW. If you are in need of assistance on the water, hail Sea Tow on VHF 16 or call our 800 number! We will get you to a Sea Tow captain!