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Old 06-12-2010, 10:22   #1
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BoatUS or Sea Tow ?

Which one to choose? First year cruising will be mainly between New Bern and Baltimore. It appears that both companies have a decent presence throughout that range and their unlimited tow coverage costs about the same.

So, any reason to go with one over the other?

Comments, feedback, experience and/or stories appreciated.
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Old 06-12-2010, 10:36   #2
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Originally Posted by DWJensen View Post
Which one to choose? First year cruising will be mainly between New Bern and Baltimore. It appears that both companies have a decent presence throughout that range and their unlimited tow coverage costs about the same.

So, any reason to go with one over the other?

Comments, feedback, experience and/or stories appreciated.
While both companies are good, I think BoatUS offers a number of advantages/services beyond simple towing that give it the advantage. It might be wise to make a side by side comparison of the services offered. The savings on transient slip fees at cooperating marinas alone may sway you vote in favor of BoatUS.

FWIW...
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Old 06-12-2010, 10:43   #3
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I have SeaTow, and I am a Boat US member. I have used SeaTow twice in 3 years and have paid for many, many years of membership in savings. In both cases they were on scene in just a few minutes longer than the run from their home port and both occasions were on a Saturday. In the same boating area I spent nearly 3 hours waiting for a tow from Boat US (again on a Saturday) on a friends boat who had Boat US towing. Further study found that SeaTow operates more boats in our area so the probability they have a boat at the dock at any given moment is higher...
In all three cases we were in no immediate danger and the towboat captains were professional and provided adequate service. So, while both may advertise "coverage" in your area, it would be worth calling the home bases of both and see how many boats they actually have in operation.
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Old 06-12-2010, 12:19   #4
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I have had TowBoatUS for since 1999, have used them at least 12 times.

Both memberships cost $149 per year.

Both memberships give you tows, jump starts, parts runs, fuel drops(minus cost of fuel), soft un-groundings, local marina discounts, free local knowledge, etc.

At TowBoatUS that includes your BoatUS/West Marine Advantage membership for shopping discounts.

TowBoatUS covers the card holder and his/her family, for any boat they own, borrow, or rent.

Sea Tow only covers the individual boat listed on the card. Own two boats, then you need to buy two cards. Some Sea Tow franchises will tell you they cover the same as TowBoatUS, and another franchise will tell you different. TowBoatUS is the same across the board.

Sea-Tow tends to have a lot more horror stories and for good reasons:

When you pay your $149 to Sea Tow, that money stays in the local franchise's pocket, and that is how he pays his captains for the year, and fuel, and boats. He has your money before he has even done anything for you.

When you pay your $149 to TowBoatUS, that money goes to BoatUS HQ. When you call a TowBoat from TowBoatUS and get lets say a $750 tow, TowBoatUS HQ will send the towing franchise check for $750.

#1 Sea Tow horror story- Your 25' boat runs aground on a sand bar, everyone is fine and the boat is OK, just not where you wanna be. Sea Tow come on scene and takes the tow boat over an hour or to to pull to deep water. What should be a covered soft ungrounding is now a salvage because of the amount of time the Sea Tow boat had to be on scene. Sea Tow now hits you for a $5,000 salvage bill.

Same thing with TowBoatUS, but once your are pulled free and floating you sign the invoice with a balance of $0, with lets say $1,250 billed back to BoatUS. And you are on your way.

#2 Sea Tow horror story- You call for a tow at lets say 1pm, and you are waiting and waiting. You see a yellow boat come in your direction, but they wave and go buy you around 2pm. Later on around 3pm you see the same yellow boat go buy you towing another boat, it's your marina buddy John, who you know does not have Sea Tow or TowBoatUS. So around 4pm the yellow boat comes on scene, takes you in tow, and you head back to the marina.

The next day at the marina you ask John what happened, "Broke down, needed a tow, and paid $1,500 for it" You ask what time did he call Sea Tow? "Around 1:30pm" Yes, he called AFTER you called them, and got quicker services being further away.

You ask your self why would a Sea Tow boat go after a non member and leave a paying card carrying member to wait? Sea Tow already has your $149, John is a chance for them to make some new money.

The moral of the stories, when Sea Tow sends a boat to get someone Sea Tow is losing money, and they are always looking for a way to re-coop the loss.

When TowBoatUS sends a boat the captain and franchise is making money.

Who would you rather come get you?

I may be a little bias, but like I said, been a member since 1999, and get towed about once a year.
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Old 06-12-2010, 13:12   #5
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I think that your occupation as a Tow Boat US driver may be biasing your opinion and perhaps put a negative slant on SEA TOW.
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Old 06-12-2010, 13:22   #6
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I have been a member since 1999, and yes a TowBoatUS Captain since 2009.

I have been a member for 10 years before I was an employe for the reasons above.

Look up this topic on The Hull Truth, or most fishing forums, the results are usually the same.

Just giving my $0.02 on what I think.
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Old 06-12-2010, 14:50   #7
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I've had a bad experience with SeaTow- I had a small, steady but controlled leak from a sheared bolt on my Cutlass Bearing flange and made it to a dock along the ICW (important to note that the bolt hole had been successfully plugged, the water flow had stopped, and my bilge pump capacity was more than enough to stay ahead of the intrusion before it the hole was plugged). SeaTow refused to tow me because A) I was 'taking on water' and "they do not do salvage"; B) because my membership was only 28 days old and it doesn't fully kick in for a full month even though when I purchased the membership I was told it started 24 hours after you give your credit card number; and C) they only tow dock-to-dock from your home dock, never from a random dock and dock-to-dock tows must be scheduled several days in advance. I was also told the phone conversation was being recorded and I shouldn't 'incriminate myself' though I don't know what law I was breaking by asking for a tow from a towing service that I was a member of.

Anyway, my horror story aside, if a TowBoat US captain will post a reply such as above without identifying himself as being a TowBoat US captain, I guess I'll stick with SeaTow for now.
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Old 06-12-2010, 15:13   #8
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Location makes a difference. I have been running charters out of Ocean City MD for 25 years. Tow Boat US is the dominant force off MD & DE. One of the issues is how big are their boats in your area. In my area, the MD & DE Tow Boat US companies have 40'+ crew boats as part of their fleet. If I need to be towed in from 40 miles off shore, the 25' boats aren't going to get it done (they will run out of fuel before they can tow you in). I'm sure the 25' boats are fine for pulling you off a sand bar, but if you cruise offshore they aren't going to cut it.

All that having been said, when I start cruising, I'll have both policies. An extra $149 will be the cheapest thing I'll likely buy for cruising each year.

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Old 06-12-2010, 17:01   #9
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Do not be tempted to sign up for a company called "Vessel Assist".

They are the worst tow company on the Chesapeake.

My friend needed a tow of 1/2 mile from a yard to a dock.

$750.00 ..........

Vessel was seaworthy in all respects....just moving a boat
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Old 06-12-2010, 17:09   #10
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I had Seatow when I started cruising. Never needed a tow but heard too many horror stories and actually was there when a horror story happened to a buddy boat. Switched to Tow boat US. Had my first tow in 20 years a couple of years ago. Tow Boat US was great. Towed me to the marina I chose in Key Biscayne. Excellent service. Just renewed my membership today. Heading out soon. Don't leave port without it.
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Old 06-12-2010, 17:14   #11
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99% of the time, when you are a member of one of the two major towing companies, you don't pay out of pocket per tow.

Both companies bill from when the boat leaves the dock, to when the boat returns to the dock. So if it takes the towboat an hour to get to you, and only 15 mins to tow you 1/2 mile, and another hour back that is 2 hour 15 min of time billed. Lets say the tower's rate is $250 an hour, so $250 x 2.25 hrs is $562.50.

After sunset, small craft advisories, and gale warnings have higher rates.

But, as long as boat owner is a member with Sea Tow or TowBoatUS, 99% they pay nothing out of pocket.
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Old 06-12-2010, 17:30   #12
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Just curious - is it common for people to have tow insurance? Perhaps it's just the group of people I cruise with in the PNW, or perhaps that it's just not come up... I don't know anyone who carries tow insurance here. I have C-Tow's (I think one of the large vessel assist companies here on Canada's West Coast) number saved to my phone, but have never needed it. We seem to perhaps foolishly, perhaps selfishly, rely upon the goodwill of strangers. Of course, we are always ready to lend a hand, and have done so twice since purchase in June.

What about a dinghy? When we bought our boat, she had significant engine troubles. We simply ensured that the dinghy was always ready to quickly tie up with and tow us out of trouble.

What am I missing here?
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Old 06-12-2010, 18:00   #13
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Just curious - is it common for people to have tow insurance? Perhaps it's just the group of people I cruise with in the PNW, or perhaps that it's just not come up...
Nobody I know back in Toronto has it, other than what's on your boat insurance policy. But if you're cruising on the US East Coast and doing a bit of ICW you're a fool if you go without it. A bit over $100 a year. One tow will cost usually more than $500 but the main thing is it gives you peace of mind in those shallow spots.
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Old 06-12-2010, 18:29   #14
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Which one to choose?
I have Seatow because the base is close to where we live. I also know the Hampton Roads Boat US skipper too and he is a great guy. At this point in time they both cost about the the same and deliver well. If the nearest skipper is a long way away they won't get there as fast. Geography is the point. I could go with either and know I'm in good hands.

Both Boat US and Seatow are franchises. It's the skipper in the boat that will come not the corporate franchise. If in doubt call the skipper! Get to know the people that could haul you home. It sure feels nice when you call to know who is on the other end.

They don't charge for just talking! I've been hauled by the Seatow in Annapolis once and he was amazing. It's the folks that show up and not the company. They put up the big money and stick their necks out.

A haul into Rock Hall 5 miles out was free. He said: "Congratulations you just saved $750." If you need them every 5 or 6 years you break even. You really can't be towed any place close for under $500. You pay by the hour from the time they leave until they get back. They can charge more when it really is nasty out there too.
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Old 06-12-2010, 18:30   #15
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After losing our engine at Isle of Palms, SC and having a two day tow to Charleston Boat works by TowBoatUS all I can say is that they were very professional and handled our boat with great care. TowBoat US must answer to BoatUS as they are the ones paying the bill, who does SeaTow answer to? Now I have had problems with TowBoat US with answering a Channel 16 call and have had to call them on a cell phone. I think they really need to work on this.
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