On Air: If You Have to Get Your Boat Towed on the Water, Who Do You Call?
Great Lakes Boating & Marine Trades - News

Dave White, New York Sea Grant, Recreation and Tourism Specialist, P: 315-312- 3042, E: dgw9@cornell.edu

Oswego, NY, June 25, 2021 - If you had to get your car towed, you could call an auto club to help you out. 

But "What do I do on the water? You know, who do I call? You know? And it's not Ghostbusters in this case."

Dave White, the Recreation and Tourism Specialist with New York Sea Grant, visited with Steve Penstone at Finger Lakes Daily News to discuss this and other boat safety tips. 

You can listen to White's full conversation on Finger Lakes Radio ...

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Full Transcript: 

Speaker1: [00:00:01] Good morning. It is 8:16 on the Finger Lakes Morning News on this Friday morning. A beautiful weekend coming up. It's going to be hot, hazy, humid chance of showers and sounds like a good weekend to get out on the lake or lakes and enjoy some watercraft, boating, whatever you want. But what happens if something breaks down? Well, here to talk about it, our good friend Dave White from New York Sea Grant. Dave, good morning.

Speaker2: [00:00:29] Hey, [00:00:30] man. How are you?

Speaker1: [00:00:30] I am well. But, yeah, you know, you don't think of it. Everybody's out there. I don't know how they can afford to put gas on the boat these days, but be that as it may, they are out there enjoying the water. And obviously, you know, just like driving a car or a truck or what have you. Something could happen out there. And then you got to figure out what you do.

Speaker2: [00:01:01] You know, Yeah, [00:01:00] it is. It's one of those things that we often don't talk about that we thought, you know, because boating has become so much more popular. We have a lot of new folks out there. You know, it's something you have to think about, you do on the road. You know, you think about, OK, if I had to get towed by a member of an auto club or what, I might be, you know, what do I do on the water? You know, who do I call? You know? And it's not Ghostbusters in this case. So, you know, planning in advance just to say what if something happened? You know, first [00:01:30] thing you always have to say, whenever you're in an emergency situation, whether it be a medical emergency or mechanical, you know, make sure you put your life jacket on just because now you're moving around the boat. You got everybody's a little stressed. So make sure everyone's got the life jacket on. Do the assessment of what you know, what's going on. If it's a medical emergency, immediately call 911 so you can engage our good friends in blue: the Auxiliary, Coast Guard, State Police, sheriff, whomever it may be. So get ready, make that determination. And then, you know, if you've got to, you're going to have to call the tow company and what you [00:02:00] have to do on the water as well as on the road.

Speaker1: [00:02:03] Are there tow companies that operate off of every lake or is it like when you call a tow truck on land where they show up, you may get one from Syracuse coming to Auburn to pick you up or vice versa? How does it work?

Speaker2: [00:02:19] There's a couple there's a couple of companies that are out there and this is doing a little due diligence in advance, you know, do an online search to see who's closest to you TowBoat [00:02:30] US, which is operated in partnership with our good friends at Boat US and SeaTow are the two primary commercial companies that are out there. There's also sometimes local companies that might be on your lake or in your region that will deal it. And so, you know, if you don't know, obviously it's a 911 call and they will be able to say, here's who we need to get you in contact with, but you can check and then have that number with you for either TowBoat US or you can go online and ask for their help or SeaTow. You know, great people [00:03:00] to ask always in these circumstances is your local marina or your local marine dealer, our great boating industry association folks across the Finger Lakes, they'll be able to help you and say, here's who you want to contact or they can get you in touch with somebody that can provide that service to you.

Speaker1: [00:03:15] Yeah. And obviously, as you say, 911 is there. And of course, the the sheriff's office all have the Marine patrols. And hopefully, you know, if you run into a situation when you're on, say, Owasco Lake, the Cayuga county sheriff's office is is out on Owasco [00:03:30] Lake and maybe not on Cayuga Lake. So there's always that. But and is there is there a difficulty in towing boats when you think of the different sized ones, whether it's like a pontoon party boat or a, you know, like a cruiser or what have you? Obviously, there could be some difficulties in, you know, towing different sized boats to shore to get the get them to safety.

Speaker2: [00:03:56] Yeah, it absolutely is. And again, folks just have to be [00:04:00] thinking, OK, so now you're in somewhat of an emergency standpoint. You know, you have to be towed in. I just saw this last week on our lake in the Finger Lakes. A boat out the front of the cottage broke down. He was with some friends and I watched the pontoon boat get towed back by a jet ski because you're going slow. It's just, you know, it's almost underwater once you get the movement going. So, a small boat can control a relatively large boat. But again, you want to think it through if you've never done this before, is, you know, you want to tie to the  [00:04:30]eye in the front of the boat, not to the truck on the side of the boat, you know, because that's not what it's designed to do. You just have to think that through. You want to be safe, make sure everybody's sitting down, you know, those kind of things if you're doing it. And also realize if the sheriff or one of our good friends in blue does come out, they're not going to tell you. I mean, they've they've they've got other focus to work and they'll help get someone to you. And we're really fortunate with boating. As grumpy as I am when I'm not on a boat, I'm really friendly when I'm on a boat. And I think most of us are. The [00:05:00] Good Samaritan Act covers us and the Good Samaritan takes over a lot of times when you're out on the lake and trust me, I grew up spending a lot of time on Seneca Lake being towed back with the boat that we had that really had more mechanical problems than I care to remember in my older age.

Speaker1: [00:05:22] And, you know, one of the things that just came to mind is the fact that so many families who are really inexperienced [00:05:30] maybe rent a boat for a weekend, you know, take it out on the lake and then something happens. And we had we had the incident yesterday, but a mile offshore of the Sodus Point Lighthouse, where a family of four from Horseheads were out on kayaks and all of a sudden they end up in the water and the Wayne County Sheriff's Marine unit had to do a rescue and it narrowly was avoided a tragedy. And, you know, you could have a maybe a similar situation on the [00:06:00] on the Finger Lakes where, you know, a family who's a little inexperienced with handling a boat runs into a problem. And that kind of compounds the issue.

Speaker2: [00:06:09] Absolutely. And, you know, those are two great examples. And that's where, you know, as the person in charge of whatever kind of craft you're out and you know, those folks that were out on Lake Ontario, that that's an emergency basis. That's a 911 call. You need to get emergency folks out of there to help you get out of the water. That's that's an emergency recovery rescue event [00:06:30] where a boat is out on Owasco or Seneca, Cayuga, pick your favorite Finger Lake, you know, if it's mechanical, then it's going to be looked at a little bit differently and also just let folks know just like it is on the highway towing a boat with a private company, a commercial company is not inexpensive. You know, we're going to you're going to run into several hundreds of dollars because, you know, there's there's a lot more that's involved in it, especially depending on where you are and where you [00:07:00] need to be towed back to. So you might want to check with your insurance company, because a lot of insurance companies provide, like many do, a towing rider for a minimal amount to add on to your insurance so that your insurance will cover a good share of the cost to tow your boat back.

Speaker2: [00:07:15] And also realize if you're asking a Good Samaritan or somebody, they're probably going to tow you to shore. They may not you know, they're not going to tell you from one end to Seneca Lake to another, the town off Watkins Glen and you want to get back to Geneva, you're probably going to get towed to Watkins [00:07:30] Glen and then make a phone call for somebody to come and pick you up. I mean, that's those are the things that just you need to be thinking about and be aware of. And just, you know, again, it's an emergency. You got to make things happen. But, you know, the nice thing about being on the water, if you do have a problem, give the emergency wave, put your flag upside down. We always talk about flares, the emergency flag, so that if you do have a problem, you can also get the attention of other boaters and there is no one friendlier than other boaters.

Speaker1: [00:07:56] And lastly, if something  [00:08:00]unforeseen does happen, you just hope that there's not alcohol involved and it just drives home the message not to drink and boat the same as not to drink and drive.

Speaker2: [00:08:14] Yeah, yeah. You know, what I share with a lot of folks is, you know, being out on a boat is like driving the car with the family or driving the RV. It is really the same thing. And you know, the rules of the road as we talk about them, all those things carry over, BWI laws. You know. The person driving the [00:08:30] car is the person in charge, the person operating the helm of the boat is the person in charge. And if you do have a problem, just take a breath for 30 seconds. It'll be OK. There's a lot of people out there to help you. You've got your 911 call. We've got our emergency, our good friends in blue, but also other boaters, your marine dealer, your Marine sales service folks, they're all going to be out there to help you out. So take the breath, kind of get an assessment of the situation. It's going to work out. And you're still going to be able to have a fun day of boating. That's what it's all about. Don't let it ruin [00:09:00] your day.

Speaker1: [00:09:00] Absolutely. And let's hope everybody has a good weekend of boating this week and every weekend through the summer. Dave is always a lot of great information and we appreciate it and look forward to talking again soon.

Speaker2: [00:09:13] Great talking to you, Steve. Have a great weekend. Have a great Fourth of July weekend. Happy Independence Day, my friend.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

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