Sea Tow Services International, the world’s largest professional marine assistance organization, welcomed Rear Admiral William Baumgartner, the Coast Guard’s 7th District Commander, and Captain David McBride, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Chief of Search of Rescue, to its annual awards ceremony and dinner on Dec. 2, 2010, as part of the company’s 28th Annual Meeting held Dec. 1-3, 2010, in Delray Beach, Fla.
Together with Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer, Sea Tow’s founder/CEO, RADM Baumgartner and CAPT McBride presented eight Sea Tow captains with Awards for Efforts Above and Beyond. RADM Baumgartner also presented the Sea Tow captains with his challenge coin, a military honor rooted in the U.S. Navy that acknowledges the receiver’s courage, strength, leadership and commitment to duty. These captains were recognized for saving the lives of boaters who found themselves in perilous situations during the course of 2010. The Sea Tow captains were commended for outstanding performance of duty, going above and beyond to save lives, and bringing great credit to Sea Tow and the marine assistance industry. The honorees and a brief summary of events that occurred follow:
Capt. Richard Vitale of Sea Tow Shinnecock/Moriches (N.Y.) saved the lives of five boaters in two capsizings during July 2010. Both incidents occurred in the breaking surf of Moriches Inlet along the south shore of Long Island, N.Y. Capt. Vitale responded alongside local fire and police departments and the U.S. Coast Guard, however, in each situation it was Capt. Vitale who was able to successfully maneuver into the dangerous surf to assist the boaters. Despite the ordeals, all five boaters later reported being in good health.
Capt. Ethan Maass, owner Sea Tow South Shore (Mass.) was honored for his quick actions to stop a runaway boat in Plymouth Harbor on July 17. In communicating with the harbormaster, Capt. Maass learned that the boat’s two occupants had already been rescued. However, because the 17-foot Boston Whaler was circling unmanned at a high rate of speed, it posed a serious threat to a group of boats and kayakers on the water as well as to pedestrians on the nearby breakwater. Capt. Maass rigged his towline with a boat fender and positioned it so that the 17-foot Boston Whaler ran over it, fouling the prop and enabling him to bring it under control. Capt. Maass’ quick actions prevented the boat from causing damage to other vessels or injuring innocent bystanders.
Capt. Drew Orr and Capt. Jamie Kavanaugh of Sea Tow Brunswick (Ga.) were honored for their response to a Mayday call originating near St. Simons Island, Ga., on July 26. Arriving on scene, Capt. Orr found a sailboat caught in the surf. Working with a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew, Capt. Orr maneuvered his vessel into the surf, dramatically reducing the distance the rescue swimmer and pilot had to cover in order to bring the three sailors to safety. Capt. Kavanaugh then worked to undertake the vessel into tow, bringing it to safety as well. This case is also an excellent example of Sea Tow’s ongoing, cooperative work with U.S. Coast Guard units nationwide.
Capt. Doug Miller & Capt. Mike Crouch of Sea Tow Charleston (S.C.) were commended for responding to a call for help from an injured boater on July 30. Upon arriving on scene, Capt. Miller found the mother of two young children with a severe cut to her leg that left it nearly severed at the femoral head. Bleeding profusely, Capt. Miller notified the Coast Guard and requested assistance. Sea Tow Capt. Mike Crouch, a state-licensed emergency medical technician, arrived on scene shortly thereafter and fashioned a tourniquet from dock lines so the woman could be evacuated to shore for emergency medical care. The Sea Tow captains’ quick, focused thinking and swift action saved the woman’s life and, ultimately, her leg.
Capt. Rand Pratt, owner of Sea Tow Key Biscayne (Fla.) was recognized for his response to an Aug. 12 Mayday call in the vicinity of Dinner Key Marina near Miami. While responding to a disabled vessel, a woman’s voice crackled on the radio saying she was having trouble breathing. Capt. Pratt diverted from his original call to assist. Once on scene he relayed her vital signs to the U.S. Coast Guard and evacuated her to his vessel for transport to medical personnel waiting on shore.
Capt. Brenda Bedell of Sea Tow Key Biscayne (Fla.) was recognized for her quick work in the vicinity of Pacific Reef Light in the Florida Keys on Aug. 28. After a hysterical radio call and a Coast Guard Urgent Marine Information Broadcast, she located two young and panicked boys in a quickly drifting boat. The three adults with them went diving and were reported as missing after the boat broke from its anchor. Capt. Bedell calmed the boys enough to ascertain that they were okay and helped them determine their original position. After a 15-minute search up the drift line, Capt. Bedell located and recovered one of the divers. A true multi-agency search and rescue effort, the two other divers were found by the U.S. Coast Guard and a Good Samaritan.
Sea Tow also honored several franchises for their accomplishments this year. Its Rookie of the Year Award – which is granted to a new franchise owner who displays excellence in operations, growth and customer service – went to the Kern family of Texas. Establishing a Sea Tow dynasty in the state, so to speak, Capt. William Kern took the reins at Sea Tow Galveston in late December 2009. Then, in May 2010, his brother, Capt. Michael Kern partnered with their mother, Rhonda Kern, to acquire Sea Tow Central Texas, which serves Lakes Austin, Travis, LBJ and Buchanan.
The Kern brothers are fourth generation Merchant Mariners and have made significant improvements in each franchise since taking ownership of the locations. Of particular note in Sea Tow’s decision to recognize the Kerns are significant improvements in the quality and number of Sea Tow boats they operate, and a truly impressive dedication to customer service and boater safety in the communities they serve. Their accomplishments are so similar, and the entire family’s involvement in the franchises is so extensive that the awards committee felt the Kerns deserved to be recognized as a family for Rookie of the Year.
Sea Tow Port Jefferson was honored as Sea Tow’s Franchise of the Year. Owned by Capt. Pete Murphy for the past 14 years, the franchise was recognized for its excellence in operations, compliance and customer service, as well as for Capt. Murphy’s extensive involvement as a representative in the company’s National Marketing Council. Described as a reserved, “behind the scenes kind of guy,” he was an instrumental participant in major efforts undertaken by the Council over the past two years. Lauded as an exemplary representative, not just for the franchise owners in his region, but for owners nationwide, Capt. Murphy and his team at Sea Tow Port Jefferson are a true asset to Sea Tow.
Finally, Sea Tow’s annual award ceremony would not have been complete without recognizing two major milestones. Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer is often credited as being one of the men who, by establishing Sea Tow, helped to create the recreational marine assistance towing industry. But he could not have done it without the support and hard work of franchise owners willing to dedicate their lives to this 24/7/365 lifestyle. Thus, Sea Tow celebrated the 25th anniversaries of the company’s two longest-standing owners: Capt. Will Beck, owner of Sea Tow Palm Beach (Fla.), and Capt. Dave DuVall, owner of Sea Tow Maryland Central Chesapeake (Annapolis, Md.). Both men have been a part of the Sea Tow network for 25 years and are integral players not only in the marine assistance industry, but in the growth of Sea Tow, and the safety of the boating communities they serve.