As towing captain and TowBoatUS Gwynns Island owner Richard Hicks heads into the fall rockfish season on the Chesapeake’s Middle Bay, he’s growing his small recreational boat towing company with the purchase of nearby TowBoatUS Ingram Bay, Virginia. Hicks, a former fishing charter captain in Key West, Florida, opened the Gwynns Island location in 1999. Both on the water towing companies are part of a nationwide 24/7 non-emergency on water assistance service, TowBoatUS, that provides tows back to a launch ramp or marina or dock, as well as battery jumps, fuel drop off and ungrounding services.
The Virginia native and USCG licensed Hicks was a fishing charter captain in Key West, Florida for most of the 1990s and began towing boats there as a part-time captain. He moved back home to Gwynns Island in 1999, opening TowBoatUS Gwynns Island. His wife, Shan, is a partner in the business and handles business operations and marketing.
“Rockfish season brings a lot of anglers from away,” says Hicks. “They’ll run across the bay chasing fish and sometimes run out of gas, or have ethanol issues,” referring to engine and fuel system problems associated with the gas additive. “We’ll be there day or night and give you a tow home, a fuel drop off, or pull you off a shoal. Whatever you need, we’re glad to help.”
TowBoatUS’ on the water towing plans for saltwater boaters and anglers is just $149 a year and includes 24/7 on water assistance as well as BoatUS or BoatUS Angler membership. Without a towing plan, boaters face costs that average $600 per incident nationally. Anglers who sign up for BoatUS Angler membership with a towing plan have entry in the tournament cash program, “Weigh to Win,” which pays the highest BoatUS Angler finisher at over 200 B.A.S.S., FLW, LBAA, College Bass or PAA events.
Stationed at TowBoatUS Ingram Bay at Ingram Bay Marina are two response boats: a 25-foot Whaler with twin 200 HP Hondas and a 23-foot Seavee with 250 HP Evinrude. Both have distinctive red hulls and white “TowBoatUS” along their sides, and are fully rigged for towing and salvage work, carrying extra fuel and engine fluids, pumps, dive gear and battery “jump packs.” To see the location on a map, go to www.BoatUS.com/ingrambay.
Boaters can contact both of Hicks’ TowBoatUS locations at 804-725-0453, or by hailing on VHF channel 16, by calling the BoatUS toll-free 24/7 Dispatch Center at 800-391-4869 and via smartphone with the free BoatUS Towing App. BoatUS is also the only towing service that offers satellite messaging services with the SPOT and DeLorme inReach satellite communications services. More information can be found at BoatUS.com/towing or call 800-888-4869.