Sea Tow’s Gold Card membership costs only $169 per annum, and members get free towing, fuel drops, battery jump-starts, prop disentanglements, and dock-to-dock tows. In addition to providing coverage on boats owned by a member, Sea Tow provides services for members who are captains of other boats, no matter if the boat is a charter, a rental boat, a for-hire boat, or a vessel borrowed from a friend. Whether a casual pastime, a serious hobby, or a full-time career, those who are regularly at sea know that trouble can come at any time.
And trouble does come. Jessup says typically Sea Tow responds to 250 to 300 calls per year, most during the busy boating season and in the shoulder seasons that bracket it. The most common issue is fuel, either lack thereof—a boat out of fuel can’t simply pull over to the side of the road and wait, like a car—or mechanical problems resulting from the controversial new ethanol additives, mandatory in marine engines for the past several years.
While considered a renewable energy, ethanol also contains alcohol, which is naturally hydrophilic (meaning it attracts water) and is itself a corrosive.
Jessup says that for his captains, knowledge of tides, winds, and waves are compulsory—the kind of hard-won knowledge gleaned only from years of experience on a particular body of water and knowing how that area responds to different wind and weather conditions. “The weather is the biggest challenge we face,” he says. “It’s an ongoing challenge and you can’t change it. No two sets of conditions are the same.”