By George Otto ~ September 19th, 2013. Filed under: Current Issue.
Captain Ryan Pratt, Co-Owner of Sea Tow Treasure Coast
Captain Ryan Pratt
Sea Tow Treasure Coast captains
are building a rescue vessel
to provide enhanced on-water assistance.
By Laura Dunn
Captains Ryan Pratt and Sammy Royal co-own Sea Tow Treasure Coast in Jensen Beach, Florida, serving cruisers on Florida’s Atlantic Coast and on the Indian and St. Lucie rivers from Vero Beach south to Hobe Sound. Captains Pratt and Royal are expert small boat handlers and salvagers with years of experience and a fleet of boats standing by.
This year, as Sea Tow celebrates 30 years of serving cruisers, they are building a one-of-a-kind rescue vessel with their sponsors to showcase how far technology has come within the last few decades. The boat building project displays the latest technology and equipment available to help their captains provide an even more exceptional experience getting our members back to boating quickly and safely. Follow it online at 730.mediamasons.com.
SB: How did the Boat Building Project come about? How is it progressing so far?
RP: Three years ago, I bought two surplus 24-foot Willard 730 rigid inflatable boat hulls from the U.S. Navy. I built one of the hulls out immediately and we used it as our workhorse here at Sea Tow Treasure Coast. The boat proved to be so nimble and responsive in all our daily tasks that I decided it was time to build another one to help expand our presence and to further decrease our response time on the Treasure Coast. We dedicated the boat building project to our corporate parent’s 30th Anniversary of Sea Tow Services International Inc. And so the idea was born to build the best fast response and commercial assistance vessel of its class.
Building out the Sea Tow boat has been a complex process—it entails converting the hull from stern-drive to outboard propulsion, for example—but today, all the fiberglass and paint work is done. The Sea Tow Treasure Coast crew and I are now gearing up for assembly and final fitting. Visit our blog site at boatbuild.seatow.com if you want to follow our progress.
Everyone at Sea Tow Treasure Coast is really excited about our boatbuilding project and thrilled at the response and support we have gotten from our terrific list of sponsors, including Mercury Marine, SIMRAD, FLIR, and Shockwave. We’re going to have a truly unique boat that will help us provide our customers with the best service possible. The thermal imaging on this boat will help us find boaters more easily at night and the Optimus 360 steering will give us unprecedented control over our customer’s boats in tight spaces and during rescue operations. We’ll also have the ability to track 406 EPIRBS from our boat.
SB: Tell us about Sea Tow and how it has changed most over the past 30 years.
RP: After the U.S. Coast Guard received a mandate from Congress to cease providing non-emergency assistance services to boaters, Sea Tow Founder and CEO Captain Joe Frohnhoefer stepped in and created a brand new industry: professional on-water assistance, which has helped make boating safer and more enjoyable for millions of boating enthusiasts around the world. This thriving, franchise-based network has more than 100 locations employing U.S. Coast Guard-licensed Sea Tow captains across the country, with additional offices in Europe and the Caribbean. Every Sea Tow location stands by 24/7/365 to serve our Sea Tow members and other boaters in our territory.
In 2007, Captain Joe created the Sea Tow Foundation – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization – to promote safe boating practices. The Foundation’s goal is to reduce accidents, fatalities and property damage related to recreational boating. Through the efforts of the Sea Tow Foundation, over 150 free Life Jacket Loaner Stations have been established in many U.S. boating regions. (boatingsafety.com)
Sea Tow has also added numerous benefits for our members, including access to affordable marine insurance, professional boating safety and navigation advice, and discounts on marine services and gear through the Sea Tow Advantage Network. In 2012 we launched our Automated Radio Check as a free public service so that boaters can ensure their VHF radio is working properly. (For more information, visit seatow.com/arc.)
SB: What’s new with Sea Tow for the 2013-2014 boating season?
RP: Sea Tow recently launched the Sea Tow App for smartphones, which exceeded 100,000 downloads less than nine months after its release in April 2012; we are on our way to reach 200,000 downloads by early 2014. I am proud to say that I helped Sea Tow develop this free mobile app for iPhone and Android smartphones. In addition to providing users with fingertip access to up-to-date marine weather forecasts, alerts and radar; tide tables and graphs; GPS location, speed and heading, the Sea Tow App also lets them call for on-water assistance with the swipe of a finger, while the GPS function provides their exact geographical coordinates, helping responders to find them more quickly (seatow.com/app).
SB: What are some challenges you are facing in this economy and industry?
RP: While the recent economic downturn affected some in the marine industry, Sea Tow membership numbers didn’t decline. Our members, who are truly devoted to boating and fishing, haven’t let the economy keep them from the pastimes they love.
SB: I bet you have quite a few great company stories; please tell me some of them.
RP: While Sea Tow’s primary mission is to provide non-emergency assistance to boaters, our captains are often first on the scene of an on-water emergency. Quite a few of my fellow Sea Tow Captains have saved boaters’ lives.
One dramatic rescue took place last year in Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach. Sea Tow Fort Lauderdale Captain Greg Mallek observed a 23-foot boat trying to transit inbound through the inlet in rough conditions. The small boat suddenly capsized, ejecting its female passenger overboard dangerously near a reef. After notifying Sea Tow dispatch and asking them to call for help, Captain Greg maneuvered his 33-foot Sea Tow RIB next to the woman in the water and pulled her safely aboard. He took her to shore, where she was transferred to an ambulance and ultimately made a full recovery.
As for me, I feel like I have seen it all in my time on the water. I find the most gratifying thing about my job is helping people out of a bad situation.
SB: What kind of boat do you own and how often do you go boating?
RP: Since I’m rebuilding my personal boat—a 16-foot Zodiac Hurricane RIB with a 40-hp Mercury—it is in pieces right now. I named her Trinity after my three daughters. Recently, I have been too busy to do much boating “off the clock,” but once the Sea Tow 30th Anniversary Boat Building Project is finished, I plan to get back on the water with my family.