More Tales of the Normal: Sea Tow and the Value of Membership

It’s a happy day when you pull that new boat home from the dealership. Your mind is full of visions of evening cruises, family boat-camping trips, and maybe a little fishing. Nothing but good times, right? Of course, right. But like the Scouts, you have to “Be Prepared.” Because, just like in every other part of your life, unexpected things happen.

 In the opening monolog of the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling used to say, “Submitted for your approval …” the case of one not-so-squared-away boater, Steve, put on this earth with a talent for business … and absolutely nothing else.

 If you’re Steve, or even remotely like him, the value of that Sea Tow membership should become abundantly clear as our story unfolds.

Our First Tale:

Leaves and Clutter

My friend Steve is a slob. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve like a brother, but the man just can’t seem to get things squared away, at least in his personal life. He’s got business nailed, but the wheels are coming off the cart in every other part of his life. That’s especially true on his boat. He keeps it in a slip at the marina below his house, so it’s “ready to go when he is.”


Well, that sweet little sterndrive had been waiting patiently in its slip for quite some time, while Steve plied his trade. Of course, he didn’t bother to stow away all the gear from his last outing, and an assortment of leaves and a couple of zipper bags from the last sandbar lunch had found their way to the deck, along with who knows what else. It’s somewhat similar to the bed of his pick-up truck … an expensive, mobile trash can.


Then it rained. And rained. And rained some more. And those handy scuppers … You know, those little openings in the sides of your vessel that allow water to drain out when it rains and rains and rains some more. Well, those scuppers got plugged by the assortment of detritus which had accumulated on deck. So all that rain collected inside Steve’s sweet little sterndrive and it promptly and unceremoniously sank.


Fortunately, Steve had the forethought … Well, actually his wife insisted, knowing Steve as she does … to maintain his Sea Tow membership, so the captains in yellow and black were able to raise that sweet little submerged sterndrive, clear the scuppers and begin the drying out process.


That carelessness can be more expensive than you might realize, too. Recovery or salvage charges can be costly, and there are also environmental concerns if fuel leaks while your boat is submerged. The list of

potentially expensive problems can be quite ponderous, but Steve is also fortunate to have purchased Sea Insure boat insurance along with his Sea Tow membership. The truth of the matter is that Steve’s wife probably insisted on this as well, knowing Steve, again, as she does.


Sea Insure not only covered the cost of the recovery of Steve’s sweet little submerged sterndrive up to the agreed-upon hull value of the boat, in addition to any damage incurred during recovery, but the policy covers up to $100,000 of marine environmental damage. It also covers just under $1,000,000 in fuel spill liability, and personal property coverage for those items lost during Steve’s personal disaster.


Of course, insurance doesn’t cover everything, but it does ease the pain of what might have been a ruinous episode in the life of Steve the careless boater. And there’s a difference, of course, in insurance. The insurance agent or broker who handles your auto and home insurance, and maybe your health insurance, will generally have a boat policy for their boating customers, so you can shop around for a price that fits your budget, or probably realize some cost savings by bundling your policies with one company. And usually, that’ll work out fine. Unless you’re Steve.


Generally, with salvage or recovery, services are billed on a time and material basis, or a flat fee structure. And, generally, the bill for those services is payable immediately, which means Steve would have to haul out his checkbook as soon as the salvors hauled out his sweet little sterndrive, then file a claim with his insurer. And wait. Except Steve has a Sea Tow membership and Sea Insure insurance, so his out-of-pocket expense is significantly reduced.

By Mike Aldridge

Sea Insure is only available to Sea Tow members, and the customer service agents are boaters. It’s insurance provided by boaters for boaters. As a result, the insurance they provide covered Steve’s recent unpleasantness, and has other unique features most insurers probably wouldn’t imagine and certainly wouldn’t cover. Like coverage for mechanical breakdowns, for scratching and denting damage to your hull, as well as damage from ice and freezing. And that marine environmental damage coverage … it’s commonly excluded from most policies.

Insurance is all about protecting yourself from the unexpected. The captains at Sea Tow have the experience to handle those unexpected events on the water, while the boaters on the Sea Insure team know how to craft an insurance policy that will give Steve’s wife peace of mind, knowing Steve and his sweet little sterndrive are covered.

Also “submitted for your approval,” our story of Bill, the cruise director. He’s a boater fully dedicated to entertaining his friends to the point of distraction. As we’ll see, that’s not always a good thing.

Our Second Tale:

Then There’s Running Aground

If you haven’t run aground, then you’re probably new to boating. It’s one of the most common boating blunders because it’s so easy to do.


There are, of course, intentional groundings … those times you motor up to the sandbar and slid the bow into the shallows and onto the sandy bottom. It’s great fun for Bill to load up his family for an afternoon of play time right there where the main channel bends around that peninsula, which slows the current down so that it drops sediment from up the river and builds that shallow, sandy playground. At the end of the day, sunburned and slightly exhausted, Bill can back off the sand, with one of the older children in the water to assist the effort with a push, and be on his way. Don’t leave the kid, Bill!


It’s those unintended hard groundings, however, that will require something more than a simple heave-ho as when Bill left the sandbar. These things happen in unfamiliar waters or when water-levels drop, revealing hazards usually well below your draft. Or when Captain Bill isn’t paying attention.


On one occasion, Bill had some friends out for a cruise on the lake. The weather was perfect, the water was up, and sun was shining. Perfect! Except Bill and the passengers on the SS Minnow were in an unfamiliar part of the lake and Bill, having a great time, was being more cruise director than able navigator. As a result, the Minnow strayed off the channel and ran directly into the mud. That expensive charcuterie board went flying. Drinks spilled. What a mess.

The real mess, though, might be the hull. Or the outdrive, or the prop. Or all of the above. So Bill must access the situation by first checking to see if the Minnow is taking on water. No. Ok, that’s good.


There are a number of strategies Bill could use to extricate the Minnow from it’s muddy snare, depending on what he’s really hit and how hard. But Bill didn’t take those boating classes he promised himself he would, so he really has no idea what to do next, except use that Sea Tow membership he bought at the last boat show. Now that has suddenly turned into a great investment.


Sea Tow captains actually know the water they work, and they know how to help Bill and his guests still aboard the Minnow, so this becomes a cell phone call to the dispatcher. Their number is right on Bill’s membership card, along with his membership number. Now if he could only give them his precise location.


Groundings are one of the top calls for assistance Sea Tow receives, and they run from annoying situations like Bill’s, to very serious boat-meets-rock incidents. Your Sea Tow membership gives you, and Bill, the assurance that help will soon be underway.

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Other Tales of the Normal.

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Pilot Media publishes boating guides providing comprehensive information on boating and waterfront living. Each edition includes an index of boat related businesses, reference maps, marina & boatyard guides, a directory of waterfront & water-access restaurants - The Pilot's Galley - and a Fishing Guide that includes a directory to area fishing service providers.  Read more >

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