The waters surrounding the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, are some of the trickiest in the Great Lakes – with swift currents, heavy ship traffic and unexpected shallows just outside the channel. Captain Gordon MacMaster, who just opened TowBoatUS Sault Sainte Marie on the St. Marys River, an on water towing service for boaters, knows this from firsthand experience.
The river, 70-miles long but just a half-mile wide at Sault Ste. Marie, runs between the Canadian border and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, connecting Lake Superior with Lake Huron via the Soo Locks. It is both a recreational boating hub, known for some of the best fishing in the region, and a major thoroughfare for 1,000-foot freighters heading to Great Lakes ports.
For the most part, recreational boaters and anglers have learned to co-exist with the shipping traffic. 'But the freighters can be intimidating and sometimes people get nervous and wander out of the channel and find themselves aground,' MacMaster said. When that happens – or if boats breakdown, run out of fuel or need a battery jump – TowBoatUS will be there to help, no matter if they are in U.S. or Canadian waters. 'I’ve seen too many people wasting time waiting for a tow, myself included. Now we’re there to help 24/7.'
Much like an auto club for boaters, TowBoatUS offers on-the-water towing plans for freshwater boaters and anglers for just $67 a year that includes BoatUS or BoatUS Angler membership. Without a towing plan, boaters face costs that average $600 per incident nationally.
MacMaster, who holds a USCG 100-ton Masters license, spent 12 years training boat handlers for the Michigan Army National Guard and another 17 years running a 66-foot supply boat for U.S. Steel on the Great Lakes. For his TowBoatUS service he uses a bright red 22-foot Crestliner with a cuddy cabin powered by a 230-horsepower stern-drive engine. The boat, which is based at the George Kemp Marina on the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is easy to recognize with the words 'TowBoatUS' visible on the topsides. It is rigged for towing with powerful pumps, battery jump packs, dive gear and extra fuel.
Boaters can contact TowBoatUS Sault Ste. Marie by hailing on VHF channel 16, calling the company directly at 906-322-6259 or calling the BoatUS toll-free 24/7 Dispatch Service at 800-391-4869. Assistance can also be summoned via smartphone with the free BoatUS Towing App, and BoatUS is also the only towing service that offers satellite messaging services with the SPOT and inReach satellite communications services. To see the company’s location on a map, click here
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing over half a million members with a wide array of consumer services, including on water towing assistance provided by TowBoatUS and Vessel Assist. Combined, these two towing fleets offer boaters, anglers and sailors the world’s largest network of towing ports with over 300 locations and over 600 towing assistance vessels — three times larger than the closest competitor. For more information go to www.BoatUS.com/towing
or call 800-888-4869.