Coast Guard welcomes Sea TowPORT OF ILWACO - A new service is available to recreational boaters who find themselves in trouble on the Columbia River or the ocean.

Sea Tow International, like a AAA membership for boaters, is available at the Port of Ilwaco. Sea Tow Portland/Vancouver, a franchise of Sea Tow Services International Inc., announced on Feb. 15 that it will begin regular marine towing and salvage operations in the Astoria and Ilwaco area beginning this spring. Representatives from Sea Tow were at the Port of Ilwaco Commission meeting last week to describe the services the company provides.

Co-owner Capt. Lyman Louis explained that the company has a commitment to recreational boaters on the Columbia and Willamette rivers and is continually expanding to meet their needs.

"We have plans to keep adding boats as the market shows the need for our services. Our customers prefer to have us available when they have problems so we want to be where they are. That's why expansion to Astoria and Ilwaco was so critical to us."

"I believe Sea Tow offers the Port of Ilwaco many possibilities, especially for salvage projects," Port Manager Mack Funk said.

Lt. Jamie Frederick, commanding officer at U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment, said he has worked "extensively" with Sea Tow. "I think this is great news," he said. "This will be a welcome addition during Buoy 10 and will certainly allow us to focus on distress calls. I look forward to working with these folks."

Frederick said that, if Sea Tow responds to a call, "the Coast Guard also will respond as we always have. Everybody has an obligation to SOLAS - Safety of Life at Sea. Sea Tow is an extra tool for people to use if they're disabled and need to be towed in. It's a great asset and will free us up from routine tows so we'll be more able to respond to emergencies. People shouldn't fear that we won't be there and aren't paying attention. If Sea Tow responds to a call from a disabled boat and comes to tow them in, we'll open a case on every call and will keep communication with the boat every half hour until they're safely in port."

During the Buoy 10 season, Frederick said the Coast Guard can get up to 20 calls a day for tows and handles 400 to 600 cases a year - 70 percent of those in August.

Sea Tow Portland/Vancouver's co-owner, Capt. Deborah Horan said, "Our third boat, Rescue 3 will be stationed in Astoria and be staffed 24 hours a day through the boating season." Sea Tow has operated two boats in the Portland area since 2002.

The membership program provides unlimited free service area towing (to home port, transient dock, or dock to dock); covered ungroundings; fuel drops (not including cost of fuel); jump starts; prop disentanglements; navigational assistance, sea condition reports, radio checks, tidal and community information; worldwide coverage; subscription to Lifelines magazine; and coverage for boats up to 65 feet long. Membership is $119 per year.

Sea Tow International, founded in 1983, also does salvage and spill response. Lyman Louis, a spokesman for the company, said the company has franchises in Portland and Vancouver and are expanding to Ilwaco and Astoria. "We're dedicated to a fast response," Louis said. "We'll have a boat based at Pier 39 in Astoria all season and, based on demand, we're prepared to put in a second boat during the Buoy 10 season."

According to the Sea Tow Web site - www.seatowpdx.com - the company is the world's largest professional marine assistance organization with more than 650 U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to serve members.

Franchises are throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Sea Tow's members are backed by 24-hour service regardless of where they travel and serve more than 120,000 members.

In addition to non-emergency marine assistance, Sea Tow offers trailer and boat protection on the road with the Sea Tow Trailer Care™ program, member discounts at over 1,600 businesses worldwide through its Sea Tow Advantage Network™, and numerous benefits through corporate partnerships with companies that include StarMD, SkyMed, Genmar and others.

Sea Tow will maintain the same close relationship with the Coast Guard and the local law enforcement authorities they have in the Portland area operation, Louis said.

For more information, call Capt. Deborah Horan, Sea Tow Portland/Vancouver, at (503) 452-1189 or e-mail (Deborah@seatowpdx.com).

In other Port of Ilwaco business:

• Funk said he and the commissioners wish the port's former financial officer, Mary DeLong, success in her new position as manager of the Port of Peninsula and "expressed our gratitude to Mary for more than seven years of service. She kept the port finances in exceptionally good order." Funk promoted Melissa Stern to office manager and commissioners approved appointing Stern as port auditor.

• A contract for repaving and painting the airport's runway was awarded to Naselle Rock and Asphalt Co. last week - $114,240 for the paving and $4,175 for painting new strips and numerals on the runway.

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