Great Lakes Angler Blog

Most boaters should tow for free

Thursday, June 05, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- Tossing a towline to a disabled boat and bringing it back safely to the launch ramp is a time honored act of kindness that recreational boaters have always done for each other. But what happens if the Good Samaritan tossing the line decides to charge for their services? Is there much of a difference between a Good Sam looking for a little extra gas money and a professional towing service charging for on water towing services?

According to Boat Owners Association of The United States, once money changes hands for a routine tow, a Good Sam is opened up to a world of liability they may not want in their lap. Accepting money also requires a mariner’s credential – such as a Captain’s license – and would require commercial registration of the towing vessel.

While Boat Owners Association of The United States offers the largest on water towing fleet in the US, it understands the law of averages: There are 12 million registered recreational vessels in the nation and some are bound to breakdown. In 2013, the BoatUS 24-hour dispatch centers alone received 70,000 requests for on water assistance, and the boat owners group says there are likely thousands of Good Samaritans each year lending a helping hand to other boaters. Said BoatUS Towing Services Vice President Adam Wheeler, “Towing is a job best left for the professionals, but many boaters often find themselves in areas where professional assistance is not available."

While Good Samaritan laws vary from state to state, they generally provide that anyone who renders aid to injured persons is not liable for any damages if the assistance is provided in good faith, without compensation or other consideration, and without gross negligence. And in fact, in some states, failing to render emergency assistance to the persons involved can also possibly put you in trouble with the law – but there is no duty to require a Good Sam to tow or “save” a boat.

For federally designated ‘navigable’ waterways, federal law trumps state law and says that the master or individual involved in rendering assistance “is not liable for damages as a result of rendering assistance or for an act or omission in providing or arranging salvage, towage, medical treatment or other assistance when the individual acts as an ordinary, reasonable and prudent individual would have acted under the circumstances.”

“A boater who does not charge for rendering assistance is protected under the Good Samaritan laws for any damages or injuries that might occur during the tow,” said Wheeler. “If money exchanges hands and someone gets injured or the disabled boat gets damaged, you’re no longer considered a Good Sam and would be opening the door to much more liability. You may be even personally liable, depending on your insurance policy – if you have one. It’s just something else to think about before throwing a towline and asking for money. A commercial towing company carries insurance to cover those types of mishaps.”

For boaters committed to being a Good Samaritan, BoatUS has these tips:

  1. Never put yourself in danger or go beyond your capabilities.
  2. For the safety of everyone, always report disabled vessels to the Coast Guard or other authority.
  3. Ensure that your cleats are properly backed and you have the properly sized tow line (some lines can stretch and suddenly break).
  4. Understand that once you start towing, the Good Sam has a duty for the safety and care for those aboard the disabled vessel.
  5. Minimize risk by having everyone don their life jackets and remain seated – away from the bow in case a line parts or cleat gives way.
  6. Maintain headway for control, but don’t tow any faster than leaving a small wake.
  7. Be careful to prevent other boat traffic from crossing the towline. Keep a horn or whistle available to warn others to stay clear.
  8. Always tow to the nearest safe place. While it may not be near where anyone wants to go, it will shorten the time of the tow and minimize any exposure liability, and gets passengers to a place where they can fix the boat or arrange for a proper tow. The BoatUS 24-hour Dispatch Center can be reached at 800-391-4869 or via the free BoatUS Towing App.
  9. Another option is to stand close by, but not undertake the tow and wait for a responder to arrive while staying close just in case of emergencies. A Good Sam could also remain on the right side of the law - and keep potential liability low - by simply removing the disabled boat’s occupants and returning them to the dock, while arranging for a local tow of the broken down (and safely anchored) boat.

“It’s always good to help out a fellow boater because sooner or later, it could be you asking for a tow back to the dock,” said Wheeler. “However, the best backstop for routine on water troubles is to consider a BoatUS annual towing plan.” BoatUS towing plans start at $67 annually (freshwater boaters) and include BoatUS or BoatUS Angler membership. For more, go to


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Why Boaters Hate Ethanol

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – If you own a boat, you may have heard by now that a government mandate has been increasing the amount of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply, which not only damages boat engine and fuel systems but can present very real safety concerns. Mandating the increasing use of the ethanol was legislation passed in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which BoatUS, along with a coalition of world hunger, oil and gas industry, environmental, and restaurant groups, petroleum distributors, meat and poultry producers, and auto and power equipment manufacturers, is now fighting to repeal. That’s because the Standard no longer reflects America’s fuel usage, which has been on a decline and is opposite of the legislation’s assumptions made nearly a decade ago.

No matter what side of the coin you’re on, it’s clear the RFS isn’t working for recreational boat owners. Here’s a short video from the American Petroleum Institute, one of BoatUS’ partners, that says it best:

If you’d like to know more about ethanol and boats, see the BoatUS Magazine feature, “E15: A Good Law, For Yesterday,” at

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Make a Line Recycling Bin

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, MD – It’s hard thinking about fishing when most of country is still frozen solid. However, anglers anticipating the spring bite can make a difference with improving fish habitat this upcoming season by building a fishing line recycling bin with some help from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. All of the instructions to build a line recycling bin from affordable and easy-to-work-with plastic PVC pipe are explained in a short video at

The line recycling bins are suitable for any location where anglers gather, such as ramps, piers, marinas, docks and popular fishing areas. Bin builders can also get free stickers to affix to the outside that identify and give instructions on how to use the bin, as well as bilingual “no trash” stickers, simply by sending an email to

“Once the weather warms up, you’ll be ready to install the bin and can arrange for clean-outs with help from fishing buddies, clubs, marinas or local agencies,” said BoatUS Foundation Vice President Susan Shingledecker.

As the bin fills up, discarded fishing line can often be dropped off at municipal recycling stations, or it can be mailed to the Berkley Conservation Institute where it will be used to make “Fish Habs” - artificial, underwater habitat structures that attract fish. Discarded line shipping instructions can be found at

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Get 7 Things Done Now for Great Boating Season

Friday, February 21, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Boaters can get frustrated when a repair or upgrade takes a long time, but delays are often a simple result of supply and demand. “Spring and summer can be the most challenging times to get work done on a boat because everyone else wants their work at the same time,” said BoatUS Director of Consumer Affairs Charles Fort. But with a little foresight boaters can get the services they need — sometimes at a better price — now. And some things on a winter “to do” list don’t require outside help. Here are some common projects boaters should be looking at doing now, before the spring rush: 

Engine and Prop: Getting your boat’s motor worked on in June is like waiting to buy Billy Joel tickets at the door. Get your mechanic on it now if you have a project in mind. It’s also the time to have the dings taken out of the prop – your prop shop guy will be glad to see you.

Canvas and Sails: Canvas and sail lofts are notoriously cyclical businesses so don’t feel guilty about asking for a discount on winter work. Now is the time to get the new bimini top made, repair the camper canvas, or get the sail stitched up.

Wiring: Every boater needs an extra 12V outlet at the helm, or knows of a corroded wire or two somewhere on the boat that needs fixing. If you want to take on this project yourself, here are some tips on wiring:

Paint and varnish: Generally you need warm weather for these projects – but consider taking home hatch boards, tiller handles or wood trim projects and working on them now in well ventilated basement or heated garage.

Line splicing: Maybe it’s an extra long spring line you’ve always wanted, or dock lines that will actually fit your boat’s cleats. Curl up by fire, sing a sea chantey, and start splicing because you will never want to do this in the summer. Here’s how to do it:

Chart and Electronics updates: Does your chartplotter use an old chip or are you using the same paper chart you had 10 years ago? Your helm electronics software may also have downloadable updates that make them perform better.

Do a winter tacklebox overhaul: You’re never going to want to do this once the fish start biting. BoatUS Angler pro Steve Chaconas shows how to get your tacklebox into shape at:

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Should You Get Extended Warranty for Boat?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, Va., February 4, 2014 -- It’s acknowledged among boat owners that boat engines have improved in quality and reliability over the years, and backing that up are recent surveys from J.D. Power reporting a steady decrease in the number of reported problems in marine engines. So is buying an extended service contract – also known as “extended warranties” – worth the money today? The Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) Consumer Affairs looked at the issue and has these tips:

An extended “warranty” really isn’t a warranty: An extended warranty (service contract) is not a warranty at all but rather an insurance policy that pays for repairs if the breakdown, failure, or failed component is specified as covered by the policy. On the other hand, a new boat warranty covers much more, is included in the cost of the boat, and offers legal protections to the boat buyer.

Not everything is covered: An engine extended service contract covers specific items only. One BoatUS member found this out the hard way when his third-party extended service contract left him $1300 short after paying out of pocket for an engine control unit (ECU) replacement job on his 30-foot powerboat. The ECU was deemed consequential damage – and not covered – as a result of the original problem, an overcharging alternator.

The real cost of repairs could be higher: Extended service contracts typically come with deductibles, some don’t cover engine removal, and they often limit haul out coverage or, in the case of manufacturer-backed programs, will only pay if you purchased higher levels of coverage. Check the contract’s details on how the company handles deductibles and consequential damage.

Kill the overlap: If you decide to buy an extended service contract, find one that begins after the manufacturer’s warranty expires and never be pressured into buying one the same day you buy the boat. You’ve usually got up to at least nine months to make a decision. It should also be transferable, which adds to the boat’s value.

Manufacturer benefits: Consumers often get a better deal on engine service contracts that bear the name of the manufacturer because the dealer’s markup is limited. And while these service contracts take their name from the engine’s manufacturer, independent companies could underwrite them. However, you still are likely to get a better deal regardless because “manufacturer” programs often have substantially better coverage and more flexibility. Don’t forget prices are negotiable, and some engine manufacturers sell contracts direct, bypassing dealers.

Approval needed: While it is an extra step, extended service contracts require preauthorization before work begins. However, avoid those that will require work to be done only at a network of “approved” shops, or require you to use the selling dealer.

The gamble: Most defects in new boats and engines appear within the standard warranty period, so you may not get a return on the money you paid for an extended service contract.

How many problems will I have?: Some engine models that have higher than average rate of problems may benefit from an extended service contract. BoatUS members can use the BoatUS Consumer Protection Database that contains thousands of first-hand reports on boats and engines at For membership information visit or call 800-395-2628.

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One More Sunny For Boating Means Special Attention to Safety

Friday, October 25, 2013

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What's Will Happen to Boaters Over July 4th? BoatUS Knows...

Monday, July 02, 2012

ALEXANDRIA, VA – For recreational boaters, being on the water for the July 4th holiday is akin to driving to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving. Waterways are jammed, launch ramps are mayhem, and getting home after the fireworks end can feel like a California freeway at rush hour - except there are no breakdown lanes. The folks at Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) have seen it all before, and have these three tips on how to overcome the challenges of boating's busiest day of the year:  Read Full Story

Mark Zona on Launch Ramp Etiquette: ‘Don't Be That Guy’

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The following is an open letter from Mark Zona, host of Zona's Awesome Fishing Show:  Read Full Story

Take Your Camera Fishing to Win Big

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ALEXANDRIA, VA – There's a lot to pack before you head out for the spring fishing season. Just don't forget the camera to take shots of your catch to submit to the BoatUS Angler "Catch of the Month" photo contest at, which kicks off this week and runs monthly through October 31.  Read Full Story

Win Gulf Coast Fishing Trip; Guest Star on TV in BoatUS Contest

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 30, 2012 – A grand prize that includes a two-day guided fishing trip this summer in the famed fishing grounds around Venice, Louisiana, and a spot on the Cabela’s Fisherman’s Handbook TV Show are up for grabs in the BoatUS Angler “Star for a Day” Sweepstakes, which kicks off today and runs through June 24. To have a chance at the prize, anglers may enter by “liking” the BoatUS Angler Facebook page and entering the contest at Read Full Story

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