Out to Sea
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.”
That said, the job can be a blast. “You get to work on the water, run boats fast, and help people,” says Jessup.
Sea Tow members are covered everywhere, from the local harbor out to the outer islands. “Maine to the Virgin Islands,” as Jessup puts it. Weather and wave conditions affect everything, but even if Sea Tow can’t make the run, the member is covered for the first $5,000 of the tow, whether Sea Tow or another operator comes to their aid.
Jessup’s Sea Tow location in Falmouth was carefully chosen: It is situated close to Woods Hole Pass, a notorious navigation hazard. An entire ocean basically gets squeezed through this narrow channel formed between southwest Falmouth the Elizabeth Island archipelago. Tides surge and currents swirl in an area full of big jagged rocks.
In August 2011, a 108-foot luxury charter yacht collided with Great Ledge off Woods Hole. A four-foot hole was ripped in the hull, through which cold seawater began to surge, flooding her. Not only was the ship going down: It was also obstructing a major navigational channel and the boat had 3,000 gallons of diesel on board. Sea Tow got the call, and every resource was brought to bear. Jessup describes the scene when they arrived. “You go down below, you’ve got water in the bilge to your knees, and it’s still rising,” he says. “But you’ve got to get in there.”
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