Towboats tend to local waterways

Published online: Aug 26, 2010 News LAURA BOWDEN YANG -
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Candance Trepp is an avid boater who knows there's a long list of things that can go wrong on the water, so it pays to be prepared.

"Things happen out there in the water. You never know," she said. "It's like being on a two-lane road with no brakes and nobody's using the lanes," she said.

Several years ago, Trepp and her husband, who live in Port Orange, were cruising the St. Johns River in their houseboat when they were struck by another boat. Their houseboat took on water and sank within minutes. As the boat went down, Trepp said her foot got caught in the wreckage. She almost didn't make it out alive.

On Aug. 15, Trepp experienced another less-dramatic but far more common boating problem: running out of gas. After towing another stranded boat, Trepp needed a tow herself.

Getting pulled to the dock was so mild compared to some other boating mishaps she's been through that she actually called the experience "relaxing." It was especially relaxing because she has a boating club membership with a national boat-towing company.

"The bill was, like, $250 but because we had BoatU.S., we paid nothing," she said.

In Volusia and Flagler counties, SeaTow and TowBoatU.S. come to the aid of stranded boaters for a fee. Boats for the two companies are hard to miss as they cruise around their home docks in Ponce Inlet -- SeaTow's boats are bright yellow while TowBoatU.S.'s are bright red.

For $149 a year, club members can rest assured that, barring dramatic mitigating circumstances, there is always someone ready to tow them back to a dock 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Capt. Paul Savia has run the local SeaTow franchise for 18 years. Before that, he was in the Coast Guard.

"It was kind of frustrating because it seemed like almost every time we got a call to assist someone, the SeaTow guys would beat me there -- and I was in the Coast Guard," Savia said. "So at the end of my tour of duty, I looked into getting into the private sector and doing this."

These days, the Coast Guard leaves most of the towing and assisting jobs to private tow companies, according to Derrick Dolph of TowBoatU.S. The Coast Guard steps in when there are added elements of danger.


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