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Southern Spars - North Technology

Reliable 24-hour assistance comes to Honokohau Harbor

by D. Scott Croft on 23 Aug 2013
Capt. Robert Hemsher aboard one of his two Vessel Assist response boats. BoatUS Press Room
An on the water towing company for recreational boaters, anglers and charter operators, Vessel Assist Kona Hawaii, has opened on the 'Big Island' of Hawaii in Kailua-Kona's Honokohau Harbor. The new company is owned by Capt. Robert Hemsher, who also owns Ocean Eco Tours, a Kona-based dive tour operator, surfing school and whale watching business.

Much like an auto club for boaters, Hemsher's Vessel Assist Kona offers 24-hour, non-emergency on water assistance service that provides tows back to the harbor, as well as battery jump-starting, fuel drop off and ungrounding services.

Kona is the second Vessel Assist location in Hawaii after Vessel Assist Oahu, which opened in 2009. Both are part of BoatUS Towing Services that has 300 locations on the mainland. Vessel Assist offers 'Unlimited' on the water towing plans for saltwater boaters and anglers for just $149 a year, while six-pack charter fishing and delivery captains have a commercial towing plan available for $281. Each includes 24/7 on water assistance as well as BoatUS or BoatUS Angler membership.

'Most breakdowns are mechanical or fuel related,' said Hemsher, who had just finished towing in a 49-foot sailboat that had lost power on the approach to the idyllic harbor. 'We all have been towed before,' admits Hemsher. 'There's a real need for this kind of service, and I'm ready day or night.' The company offers an extended service area up to 100 miles offshore.

Stationed at Vessel Assist Kona are a 30-foot Allmar and 30-foot Pursuit response boats. Both have Vessel Assist signage and flags identifying them as part of the Vessel Assist fleet and each is fully rigged for towing and salvage, with powerful pumps, battery jump packs, dive gear and extra fuel.

Beyond offering towing plans, the company also offers salvage services, and works with local fire, police, Hawaii DLNR and the US Coast Guard to provide support where it's needed. 'We want to be an asset to our community, which has been so good to us over the years,' added Hemsher, who opened Kona's first surf school in 1996.

Boaters can reach Vessel Assist Kona 24 hours a day at 808-331-2121, through the BoatUS toll-free dispatch service at 800-391-4869, via smartphone with the free BoatUS Towing App, or by hailing Vessel Assist on VHF channel 16. BoatUS is also the only towing service that offers satellite messaging services with the SPOT and inReach satellite communications services to summon a towboat. To see the company's location on a map, go to BoatUS.com/kona.

Kona is a traditional Hawaiian fishing village that also caters to resort visitors. With its pristine eco-systems, this part of Hawaii Island is known for it's superb fishing and a title claimed by some to be 'the Billfish Capital of the World.'

BoatUS Towing Services, which include the TowBoatUS and Vessel Assist boat towing fleets, offer over 300 locations with over 600 towboats - the most in North America. For more information, go to www.BoatUS.com/towing or call 800-888-4869.
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