Twice in the last month, SPOT Assist Maritime service with BoatUS Towing Services has proven invaluable for a couple of offshore anglers with disabled fishing vessels far out in the Gulf of Mexico. SPOT combines satellite messaging communications and GPS technology with the nation’s largest fleet of towboats for recreational boaters. By enrolling in SPOT Assist Maritime and pressing the non-emergency “Help” button on their handheld SPOT Satellite GPS Messengers, each angler was able to summon TowBoatUS assistance and safely return to shore.
In the first case, which occurred in the early hours of July 4th, Capt. Lee Eckler of TowBoatUS Tarpon Springs, FL, received a dispatch from the BoatUS 24-hour call center indicating a mariner was summoning towboat assistance from a location 25 miles offshore of Anclote Key – far beyond cell phone range. With the SPOT and BoatUS partnership, Capt. Eckler was immediately provided with precise GPS coordinates as well as name, contact information, type and color of boat, which was identified as a 17-foot center console. Upon arrival on scene, he found three anglers with a dead engine “loaded for fishing,” said Eckler.
Alone on the water, there were no Good Samaritans for miles around. Incredulously, Eckler learned the trio had broken down long before reaching their desired destination – a fishing spot some 60 miles out in the Gulf. “It was a textbook SPOT dispatch case. We knew exactly were they were, which greatly speeded response times,” said Eckler.
In the second case, an angler requested towboat assistance in the early morning hours of July 12th after his 30-foot power catamaran became disabled approximately 52 miles offshore of Tarpon Springs, FL. As with all SPOT cases, especially when contact via cell phone and VHF cannot be made, BoatUS call center dispatchers also notified the US Coast Guard, which elected to dispatch a helicopter and response boat to verify everyone onboard was safe. Capt. George “Red” Ingram, also of TowBoatUS Tarpon Springs, responded to the disabled vessel and towed it safely back to the owner’s dock by the early afternoon. A broken lower unit was the source of the angler’s troubles.
“When VHF and cell phones were unavailable, the SPOT satellite-based service was able to summon a towboat for non-emergency assistance miles offshore,” said BoatUS Towing Services Vice President Jerry Cardarelli. “That’s a valuable communications tool to add to any boater’s toolbox.”
BoatUS Towing Services offers towing plans for freshwater lakes and rivers for just $34 annually and just $125 for saltwater, plus BoatUS or BoatUS Angler membership of $24. SPOT units start at $99.99 plus a $99.99 annual basic SPOT service plan. To add SPOT Assist Maritime to a BoatUS membership, there is a one-time $10 SPOT Link connection fee. SPOT Assist for Maritime is available throughout the continental US as well as coastal British Columbia and select regions of Northern Mexico and the Bahamas.
BoatUS strongly recommends boaters have a properly registered and GPS enabled DSC-VHF radio aboard to be able to hail the closest potential rescuers – fellow boaters and the US Coast Guard – in an emergency. For offshore passages, BoatUS also recommends having an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon).
For more information on SPOT Assist Maritime, visit www.findmespot.com/assist.
Logo courtesy of BoatUS