“Had to get towed in,” is not the response you want to give when asked about your weekend.
We’ve analyzed five years of towing claims so you can make sure your answer is “awesome!”
BY CHARLES FORT
Last year, more than 70,000 of you (and some of you more than once) – you know who you are! – called for on-water assistance
from TowBoatU.S. You guys in Florida,
California, and Texas who can boat year-round really keep the phone ringing with
almost a third of all calls, and you sailors
seem to find all the shallows. But everyone can learn a few things about why
boats get towed.
While getting towed is much more
likely to turn out to be a long, boring
afternoon than a dramatic salvage or life-threatening situation, no one wants to be
on the wrong end of a towline.
Frequency by cause
It’s no surprise to learn that mechanical breakdown is the number-one cause
for a tow, and those calls comprise more
than half the calls for service. But if you
think it’s just engine breakdowns that are
the reason, think again. Steering systems,
transmissions, fuel systems, and even
lost props are all examples of mechanical breakdown. Grounding is the second
most common cause for a tow and is
often caused by operator inattention.
Having good charts and knowing how
to use them can keep you out of trouble.
Dead batteries from running lights,
radios, pumps, and stereos (or from keeping batteries past their usable life) are
common problems, too. Consider also
switching light bulbs to LED. With more
electrical demands on modern boats, it’s
more likely a boat will run down its batteries and not be able to start the engine.
Running out of fuel is also a major cause
for a tow, often due to faulty or inaccurate
fuel gauges. Trying to push the limits of
your range is a sure way to find out that
it’s not quite as far as you thought.
Engine overheats round out the top
five reasons for towing service calls.
Failed water pump impellers are a prime
cause, along with corroded manifolds,
clogged intakes, and collapsed hoses.
Frequency by boat size
Big boats get towed more often than
small ones, and boats over 28 feet comprise more than a third of towing calls.
Larger boats have bigger, more complicated engines and transmissions, steering
systems, and fuel systems that tend to be
fussier without the proper maintenance.
Bigger boats and sailboats with keels
also draw more water and can get caught
where smaller ones wouldn’t, and their
running gear hangs down farther in the
water, which can be damaged by shallows, necessitating a tow.
Frequency by state
Folks in Florida are at the top of the list
with 18 percent of the calls for towing
service coming from there. Part of the
reason is likely that the weather is condu-
cive to year-round boating, and it’s such
a great place to boat that lots of inex-
perienced people are out on the water –
learning and having fun. New folks may
not have a good grasp of navigation, and
their boat maintenance skills may not be
up to par. There are also plenty of shift-
ing shoals to get boaters into trouble.
The number two spot goes to New
York and at number three is California,
another place with year-round boating.
The rougher waters of the Pacific Ocean
might be a factor in mixing up crud
in the fuel tank that strangles engines.
Towing claims based on boat length
< 14' 14'– 18' 19'– 22' 23'– 27’ 28'+
Towing claims based on cause of tow