Tow firms expect busy weekend on the water

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This holiday weekend, BoatU.S. Towing Services is projecting that 3,400 recreational boaters and anglers nationwide will need some type of on-the-water assistance. The biggest reason why boaters will need a tow back to a marina or launch ramp is likely the result of incomplete spring commissioning, as well as fuel that has gone bad during the long winter storage period. Battery jump-starts, fuel dropoffs, and ungrounding services are other common reasons why boaters may call for a helping hand.

"We expect the switchboards at our 24-hour Atlantic and Pacific call centers will start to light up on Thursday the 21st and stay busy through the holiday weekend," said BoatU.S. Towing Services Vice President Jerry Cardarelli. The towing service, which includes the TowBoatU.S. and Vessel Assist branded fleets, has more than 290 locations on coastal waters as well as freshwater lakes and rivers throughout the U.S.

The Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start of the recreational boating season in which many boats hit the water for the first time. Some boaters rush spring commissioning items, only to have problems later on the water. A free Spring Safety Pre-launch Checklist is available online at BoatUS.com/freebiesspringlist.htm.

Others may have not followed recommendations on how to store E-10 fuel over the winter, leading to bad gas in the spring.

Since the beginning of the year, favorable weather patterns in many parts of the country have caused an uptick in the volume of calls for assistance. "Year to date, we are up 5 percent in the number of towing incidents in Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland, largely because of good weather," Cardarelli added.

Cardarelli also believes that the nation's economic troubles are having an impact on the increasing volume of calls. "Recreational boating is largely middle class, and right now many household budgets are tight, leaving less money for maintenance and repair on the family boat. The leads to more breakdowns," said Cardarelli.

Another factor has been fuel prices. "Lower fuel prices bring more people out on the water, which also correlates to increased use of towing services," he said.

Like an auto club, BoatU.S. offers freshwater "unlimited" on-the-water assistance plans starting at $53 a year and saltwater plans at $135. Without a towing plan, boaters face costs that nationally average about $600 per incident. For information on BoatU.S. Towing Services, call 800-888-4869 or click here.