Capt. Mike Hutchings of TowBoatUS Key Largo, Florida, was honored with the 2022 Woody Pollak Award during the annual TowBoatUS Conference in New Orleans for life-saving acts. (credit: Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore/BoatUS) Download hi-res photo
SPRINGFIELD, Va., Jan. 20, 2023 – TowBoatUS responds more than 90,000 requests from boaters for routine on-water assistance each year – towing, ungroundings, battery jumps and fuel drop-offs. For the captains at the helm of the 600-plus red TowBoatUS response vessels, that means much of their waking day is spent on the water where there’s always a chance for more grave trouble.
Five TowBoatUS captains who acted as good Samaritans to save lives and help their communities in 2022 were recently honored by their peers at a ceremony held during the annual BoatUS Towing Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The captains serve TowBoatUS locations in Key Largo, Florida; Provincetown, Massachusetts; Cleveland, Ohio; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
The Woody Pollak Lifesaving Award:
The on-water towing service’s highest honor, The Woody Pollak Lifesaving Award, was bestowed to Capt. Mike Hutchings of TowBoatUS Key Largo, Florida. It’s named for the late Capt. Woody Pollak who died on duty and was known for his unselfish acts.
Capt. Mike Hutchings of TowBoatUS Key Largo, Florida
On an August evening in Florida, a BoatUS member reported an unidentifiable, growing smoke condition aboard his 45-foot Hatteras and notified the U.S. Coast Guard watchstanders. His second call was to BoatUS dispatch, who contacted Capt. Mike Hutchings. Upon learning the stricken vessel’s GPS coordinates, Hutchings knew they yielded an inaccurate location. Working quickly with dispatch, he was able have the GPS coordinates converted to the correct format, placing the vessel about 3 miles away at Garden Cove on Key Largo. As he approached the cove, Hutchings smelled burning fiberglass and then he saw the smoke, followed by the waving of a dim light. All nine passengers were huddled on the stricken vessel’s bow with railings too hot to touch. As the smoke became thicker, Hutchins safely retrieved all before the vessel was completely engulfed just minutes later. All were returned to shore uninjured.
Meritorious Service Awards:
The towing fleet’s Meritorious Service Award honors TowBoatUS captains who go above and beyond assisting their boating communities. The four Meritorious Service Awards bestowed for efforts in 2022 include:
Capt. Noah Santos, TowBoatUS Provincetown, Massachusetts
The first day of lobster season could have potentially been the last for a group of four fishermen aboard a 34-foot fishing vessel reported sinking about 2 miles off Race Point on the tip of Cape Cod’s most northern end. As the lobster anglers began to lay out all their gear for the day, they noticed water coming in underneath the deck. However, with the deck full of gear, they couldn’t access the deck hatches fast enough to find the source of the leak. A mayday call went out. The vessel soon capsized, and the crew found themselves clinging to a life raft in the Atlantic’s chilly waters. As Capt. Noah Santos arrived on scene to the now fully submerged vessel, three of the four were in survival suits while the fourth was still attempting to don his suit. Santos swiftly recovered all four men and transported them to shore.
Capt. Rodney Jewett Jr., TowBoatUS Grand Strand, South Carolina
The Worrell 1000 is a race that challenges even the hardiest of sailors. So when two competitors aboard their small open sailing catamaran running from Florida to Virginia broke a rudder in windy conditions off South Carolina ─ overturning the boat and separating the racers from their vessel ─ Capt. Rodney Jewett Jr. was there to help. While local responders centered their recovery efforts around the empty boat, which had washed ashore, Jewett had a hunch, taking into account the conditions and figuring that anyone in the water would likely attempt to head for the beach. Steering northward, Jewett soon located the two racers in the water and safely recovered them. After repairs, the team was able to finish the race.
Capt. Jordan Kit, TowBoatUS Cleveland, Ohio
One summer night around 2 a.m., VHF radios on Lake Erie’s Cleveland waterfront crackled to life with an urgent message: A recreational vessel with six persons aboard had struck the breakwall near the entrance to Edgewater Yacht Club. TowBoatUS Cleveland homeports at the club, and Kit immediately jumped aboard a towboat and was the first to arrive on scene. With high winds coming off the lake, he worked quickly with arriving U.S. Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor responders to safely take three of the stranded boaters aboard, one with a serious arm injury. He then shuttled them to nearby launch ramp to awaiting EMS responders. The Coast Guard safely removed the other three passengers.
Capt. Eric Lundin, TowBoatUS Old Saybrook, Connecticut
Early on a Saturday afternoon in June, Capt. Eric Lundin heard a VHF mayday call about a vessel sinking near a bridge on the Connecticut River. Arriving at the location just 10 minutes later, he found three men in the swift-moving water, none wearing life jackets, clinging to the hull of an overturned vessel still anchored to the bottom. Water temperatures were in the low 60s, a small-craft warning was in effect and there was strong incoming tide, so Lundin got life jackets to each person as a precaution. After getting them safely aboard and sheltered in the towboat’s cabin, Lundin assessed the men, who were showing signs of mild hypothermia, as he swiftly transported them to an awaiting law-enforcement vessel.
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Good Samaritan lifesaving acts by #TowBoatUS captains in Conn., Fla., Ohio, Mass. and S.C. honored at annual gathering of on-water boat towing fleet https://bit.ly/3ki07d1 @BoatUS #redisready #boattow #marinetowing #boattowing
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation's leading advocacy, services and safety group for recreational boaters. We are the Boat Owners Auto Club™ and provide our more than 800,000 members with a wide array of helpful services, including 24-hour on-water towing that gets you safely home when your boat won’t, jump-starts, fuel delivery, and soft ungroundings. The TowBoatUS towing fleet is North America’s largest network of towing ports with more than 300 locations and over 600 red towing assistance vessels, responding to more than 90,000 requests for assistance each year. The BoatUS App makes it easy to summon water and road assistance 24/7 and can speed response times (BoatUS.com/App). For more information go to BoatUS.com/Towing.