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Old 11-06-2015, 07:52 AM   #1
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Towing companies

Greetings all,

Since I'm getting close to making the transition from a river boater to the Gulf coast, the idea of boat towing companies has been creeping into my head.

I'm not 100% sure how these companies work, but I think I have an idea. Do most fellow forum members feel it a good idea to have an account with one of these outfits? Any recommendations as to who I might consider?

Conall
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:24 AM   #2
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Most of them are pretty much the same in terms of contracts.

It is the service the local franchises provide that is the diffrence...it can be quite different based on attitude, equipment, area size, etc.

Where I tow, most boaters are with the company I work for because the boat I run is the only towboat for at least an hour in each direction...makes sense to them I guess.

Many cruisers actually have both major companies for this very reason. The quickest to respond gets the nod. For less than an addition $200 it is worth it to them.

Some here have a good argument against tow insurance. For the number of times they have needed tows, it is cheaper to be self insured. Good and hard to argue point.

So it is up to you whether you need it atvall...and usually best to see the operations where you primarily boat...there could be a huge difference in professionalism...if you can use that word for that type of work.
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:29 AM   #3
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Conall, the answer is yes! Where do you plan on being based? The two major tow companies are franchises, and range of service can vary by location. Best to ask around.


We have always been TowBoatUS members and found them very helpful when we were full time cruising up and down the east coast and the eastern gulf coast. Needed their services once in Little River SC and once out of Morehead City and both providers were excellent technically and "bedside manner" wise. I also found the local branches very helpful at providing accurate local knowledge about inlets and shoal-prone areas, and used them a lot for that area. No direct experience with SeaTow other than their excellent automatic radio check system, but they certainly have their followers.
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:34 AM   #4
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psneeld,

Can you explain how maritime salvage laws work in relation to towing? We hear nightmare stories of tow companies bending, and/or breaking, the laws by demanding insane prices to get your boat back from them. It seems to have some relation to a designation of soft grounding versus hard grounding. In addition, can you give us some pointers on how to avoid these scams and pitfalls? What we should ask during a tow service call? What we should and should not sign? Finally, what to do if we have to abandon our vessel during a tow?

Thanks.
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:41 AM   #5
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I was a SeaTow operator for a couple years, a couple decades ago. I have been an on and off BoatUS member for the past 10 years.

They are close in benefits. You DO have to worry about where you will boat. The 'cut off' for coverage (river, inland, oceans) is slightly different between the two. Ask and get the info before you buy.

If you intend on doing the Loop SeaTow is non existent in most of the Great Lakes.

I spent about 10 years with boat us insurance with towing with my previous sailboat. But never used the towing. Eventually I just dropped the 'towing' part of the insurance. The sails were my 'get home' engine.

Now that I have a single engine trawler I have no other means of 'getting home' so I got towing coverage.

Regarding coverage, they have different levels of coverage, and can cover trailer towing or insurance. Call them up and get comparisons. Towing ranges from 80 to 200 a year depending upon coverage you want and where you will boat. The further south you go, the longer the season, the more the price is.

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Old 11-06-2015, 08:46 AM   #6
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Most are not aware that there is tow coverage on their marine insurance policy- and that coverage is not limited to a commercial tow provider.
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:58 AM   #7
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The way the contract is written, there is a difference between hard and soft groundng. Hard groundings are covered by your hull insurance. Soft groundings are covered by towing. When a boat runs aground and can be just 'popped off' the bottom, with no damage (still has water tight integrity) it is usually (but not always) considered a soft grounding. If a vessel needs patching, pumping and escorting to a travel lift slip it is a hard grounding.

The cases where there is confusion (or greed) on either part is where the disputes can arise. There is also an issue when a boater does NOT have adequate grounding insurance to cover possible damage.

To put it simply, when you just need a tow, are out of fuel, or batteries are dead the towing company is all you need. BUT if you need salvage then your boat hull insurance is what is used to pay. The difference between towing and salvage is the issue.
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pau Hana View Post
Most are not aware that there is tow coverage on their marine insurance policy- and that coverage is not limited to a commercial tow provider.
But it is usually limited to just a couple hundred dollars.
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:17 AM   #9
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Yes and no.

If there is an event such as running out of fuel, having repair parts brought to you, etc., the limit is the amount shown on the second page.

On the other hand- if there is a claim event generated (struck a submerged object, sinking, fire, etc., the tow bill is part of the claim and not limited to the line item amount on the policy.

We're just closing a claim in the Portland area- a 32' Luhrs sunk at the dock, and is a total loss. The bill to refloat the boat and tow her to the yard for haulout is about $9k- and insurance is paying the amount in full.

2nd example- a good friend with a 66' Grand Alaskan had a soft grounding, and the bill between the divers refloating the boat and the tugboat providing tow muscle eclipsed $10k- again, paid for by his insurance.

The key is having the right policy.
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:32 AM   #10
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I have Boat US when we go on a "long" cruise, past Apalachicola, Fl I add Sea Tow membership too. Never had to use either,yet, so can't opine on which is best. It probably varies by area.
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:40 AM   #11
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Tom.B

Quote:
Can you explain how maritime salvage laws work in relation to towing? We hear nightmare stories of tow companies bending, and/or breaking, the laws by demanding insane prices to get your boat back from them.
I can't explain it, still learning myself. I found some resources that will help you get started on the subject.

Towing vs. Salvage - Towing Services - BoatUS

Difference Between Towing and Salvage - Towing Services - BoatUS

Marine Assist - Towing Vs Salvage
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:45 AM   #12
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I'm going to be based out of Cape Coral, but first have to get there starting from mobile bay....so wester Fl and northern gulf for the next year. No ambitious plans for a year or so, with only western Florida planned.

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Old 11-06-2015, 09:50 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pau Hana View Post
Yes and no.

The key is having the right policy.
Thats the key. The scenarios you describe in detail are hard groundings. Anything that requires more than a 'yank' or a bottle of gas will be argued over as being hard. Anything that requires special talent (diver, tugs, patches) is hard. This is how the arguments start.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:08 AM   #14
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I buy boat insurance for peace of mind. I figure is Murphy Law. Of we have it, seen probably will not need if, BUT if we did not then probably will. for 20 years have used Boat Us as they have good coverage in the Seattle area.

The few times we may have needed a tow, I was able to jury rig and limp to a, marina. If we cruise to remote area we will tow our 19 ft run about that can tow the Eagle. We carrying most normal everyday parts will a full set of tools. Our insurance policy does cover towing that we would use if the towing cost became expensive. Mostly peace of mind.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:29 AM   #15
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Usually, as Pau Hana described, it is fairly clear to the insurance companies and the tow/salvage companies what is covered by insurance....regardless of what you want to call it. When the insurance company coughs up thousands of dollars, regardless of what you call it, that is really all that matters. Insurance companies do not part with money easily. I had a buddy that let his 20 something son use his Sea Ray 32. He ran it up on a sandbar. Boat was not damaged but they certainly were not going to get ungrounded on their own. Called Sea Tow(THEY WERE MEMBERS). They ungrounded the boat. The bill was $3800. And the insurance paid it. The end.

The one thing you do get when you use someone like TowBoatUS(and hopefully Sea Tow), is a code of ethics as it relates to tow and salvage. Somebody posted links up above provided by Boat US as to their practices as it relates to this subject.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:47 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cappy208 View Post
Thats the key. The scenarios you describe in detail are hard groundings. Anything that requires more than a 'yank' or a bottle of gas will be argued over as being hard. Anything that requires special talent (diver, tugs, patches) is hard. This is how the arguments start.
I'll respectfully disagree, brother- from the insurance standpoint, no policy I've ever read delineates what constitutes a grounding as you describe. Claims will simply be told the vessel is aground, and that's that. No argument.

In the case of the Grand Alaskan, it was simply a grounding (I just call claims to ask their side). The specifics- the vessel was on its mooring ball outside the residence, and the wind/weather came up. the mooring line parted, and the vessel was pushed up by wave action into the shallows. The divers were called to place lift bags in place to lift the 125k lb vessel enough to break mud suction and let the tug do its job.

No rocks or perforating damage to the hull. just stuck in the mud.
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Old 11-06-2015, 11:47 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PauHana;
The specifics- the vessel was on its mooring ball outside the residence,and the wind/weather came up. the mooring line parted, and the vessel waspushed up by wave action into the shallows.

Peter;
Using the above as a hypothetical, do you often see, or hear of, claims denied because of lack of care, neglect, improper equipment etc?

When I read "mooring line parted," I think of an escape hatch for the insurer.
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:13 PM   #18
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I have a Tow-Salvage agreement that I keep on the boat. Basically it says that the tow boat operator and the boat owner agree that the boat and its occupants are not in imminent danger and both parties agree that what is needed is a tow, not a salvage of the boat.


If anyone wants a copy of it you can PM me with your email address and I'll send you the Word file. Feel free to amend it however you want.
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:38 PM   #19
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Quote:
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Peter;
Usingthe above as a hypothetical, do you often see, or hear of, claims denied becauseof lack of care, neglect, improperequipment etc?

WhenI read "mooring line parted," I think of an escape hatch for theinsurer.
At this time, there is still an investigation re the mooring line. The client has receipts that show the line was purchased in the past 6 months, and the recovered lines show evidence of a clean break (as in being cut). So far the investigation has concluded that the insured is not acting fraudulently (vessel is paid for, household is debt free, ships and maintenance logs are impeccable).

As to claims denials- it does happen, but not often. You'll hear about the claim that is denied due the above list, (and the insured is certain that his f###ing insurance company is crap)- you won't hear about the hundreds of claims processed and paid without incident.

In my experience, the insuring company is looking for ways to pay the claim within the wording of the policy language.
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Old 11-06-2015, 12:48 PM   #20
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My problem in understanding this topic has to do with federal maritime salvage laws. If you get off your boat under peril, the salvage company then (the way I understand it) OWNS your boat under some sort of lien. There are huge loopholes in how much they can charge and how long it takes to resolve disputes. In the meantime, you still have a boat that needs fixing, and as is often the case, have to keep paying for.

The interweb is littered with accounts of tow/salvage companies that have made it difficult to trust even the largest of towing organizations. Compounded by the fact that both of the biggest operate under a model of franchise companies that carry their name, therefore, not always consistent in service levels, pricing, or employee hiring. Otherwise, you wouldn't hear things like you do around our local waters... That the Sea Tow guys suck and for everyone to use Tow Boat US... That is a constant chatter I have heard from everyone in this area, whereas, the opposite is true in other areas.

All I want to learn is how to protect us from that? I feel like we can trust, to a greater degree, what our community members say about it, thus the inquiry.
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