FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash., March 9, 2011 – Due to an ailing transmission, Capt. Deb Fritz once had to drive a boat home ten miles – in reverse. That was long before the appearance of recreational boat towing services. Now, Capt. Fritz is the new owner of Vessel Assist Friday Harbor, Washington, which gives boaters and anglers a reliable way to call for assistance when their boats break down on the water, run out of gas, run aground – or only go in reverse.
Capt. Fritz purchased the port from Owner Capt. Larry Hamilton. Capt. Richard Rodriguez, a hired captain and author of the notable boating blog, the “BitterEnd,” as well as Fritz’s husband, Capt. Andrew DiRienzo, round out the company roster.
In addition to stationing a 23-foot response boat at the Friday Harbor location, Capt. Fritz keeps a 25-foot response vessel berthed on the north end of San Juan Island in Roche Harbor. To see the locations on a map, go to www.BoatUS.com/Fridayharbor.
The vessels at each port are fully rigged for marine towing and salvage work and ready to go at a moment’s notice, including extra fuel, engine fluids, pumps, dive gear and battery "jump packs" to handle dead batteries. It can be identified by its distinctive red hull, white bow stripes and "Vessel Assist" lettering along its sides.
Much like an auto club for boaters, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) offers an “Unlimited” on-the-water towing service plan for salt and freshwaters that costs just $125 a year, plus an additional $24 for BoatUS membership ($149 total annually). Without a towing plan, boaters face costs that nationally average about $600 per incident. Some of the more common reasons boaters, sailors and anglers call for Vessel Assist Friday Harbor for assistance are for dead batteries or accidentally running up on a reef. “It’s easy to get distracted,” said Fritz.
With her father working for Boeing and then later retiring to the Evergreen state, Fritz has boated in the region since 1986. She also formerly raced stock cars in the Midwest and, in 1994, was the first woman to win a NASCAR-sanctioned event. Later, while working in the ski industry, she earned her US Coast Guard Captain’s license in the summer off season and began to moonlight as a captain for Vessel Assist Friday Harbor in 2008 working under the direction of Head Capt. Les Soland.
Recreational boaters, sailors and anglers can call Vessel Assist Friday Harbor 24-hours a day at 360-378-1111, through the BoatUS toll-free Dispatch Service at 800-391-4869, or by hailing on VHF radio channel 16.
The port is part of the country's largest boat towing program, BoatUS Towing Services, with over 600 towboats servicing hundreds of ports and waterways coast to coast. The towing program is just one service offered by BoatUS - Boat Owners Association of The United States - the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its half-million members with government representation, consumer programs and money-saving services. For more information go to www.BoatUS.com/towing
or call 800-888-4869.