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Boat Salvage Operation By Vessel Assist Shelter Island Marks New Chapter as TowBoatUS Shelter Island

Local boaters may recognize this on the water workhorse that is about to get a new name.
Download hi-res photo.

SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 1, 2015 – On November 6, a 22-foot boat capsized near the Coronado Islands in Mexican waters, 24 miles south of San Diego. While there was no loss of life, to get the “turtled” wreck home a sentinel of the sea was dispatched.

In 1995, Vessel Assist Shelter Island, a former 36-foot US Coast Guard and Marine Corps fireboat was added to the local fleet of Vessel Assist San Diego. The stoutly-built vessel with powerful twin diesel engines, complete with fire fighting apparatus, became a game changer for the local on water towing and salvage company, adding power and versatility to the growing fleet of on water recreational boat towing and response boats.

Nine years later Shelter Island was refit with new engines, increasing her speed and bollard pull – or the measure of her towing ability – by over 200%. Now, after more than two decades towing some 12,000 vessels from as far as 430 miles south of San Diego, in all weather conditions and working hundreds of boat salvages, Shelter Island will soon have a new name along the sides of her hull: TowBoatUS Shelter Island. The Coronado Islands salvage job marks her last under the old name, as the workboat is scheduled to go in for a fresh coat of red paint and new lettering this week.

“She’s a working boat that has helped many a boater get home safely, and serves the boating public well. We’re giving her a new name and very proud to be part of the largest on water towing service for recreational boaters,” said Capt. Tony Olson of the newly re-named TowBoatUS San Diego, formerly Vessel Assist San Diego.

The move to rename the red boats of Vessel Assist to TowBoatUS – located in CA, AZ, OR, WA, HI and British Columbia, Canada – recognizes TowBoatUS standing as North America’s largest provider of on water assistance with over 300 locations and 600 towing response vessels. Other than the name change, boaters will still see the same familiar BoatUS buoy logo on the hull and professional captains at the helm.

Shelter Island has been transported overland to work the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Northwest, Delaware River, Long Island Sound and Southern Florida under a contract from the US Coast Guard Rescue 21 Project to test and improve emergency rescue communications. Back at home, the boat has taken thousands of passengers on and off ships while performing launch services, pumped thousands of gallons into the sky celebrating the start and finish of boat races, but her biggest strength is a salvage platform recovering wrecks from the sea.

She is the last towing and response boat in a fleet of six to get the new name. Added Olson, “We’ll be keeping smaller Vessel Assist name on the wheelhouse – just above the new big white TowBoatUS letters – to help everyone with the transition. While our name has changed, we still have the most experienced towing and salvage crews in San Diego.”

To contact TowBoatUS San Diego, call 619-672-5918 or the dial BoatUS 24-hour towing dispatch at 800-391-4869. The company can also be reached on VHF radio channel 16.


About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS):

BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with over a half million members. We are the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill and fight for their rights. We help ensure a roadside breakdown doesn’t end a boating or fishing trip before it begins, and on the water, we bring boaters safely back to the launch ramp or dock when their boat won’t, day or night. The BoatUS Insurance Program gives boat owners the specialized coverage and superior service they need, and we help keep boaters safe and our waters clean with assistance from the non-profit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Visit