RACINE — Running out of gas can be a little nerve-racking. It’s worse when it happens on water.

TowBoatUS intends to alleviate those fears. For $72 per year, members can hail TowBoatUS crews 24 hours a day. There are already more than 40 locations on the Great Lakes, and two new ones will be opening soon: one in Racine and the other in Waukegan just across the Illinois border.

“When your boat breaks down on the water and you don’t know what to do, call us,” Captain Gareth Stamm stated in a press release.

Coming to Racine

The opening of the Racine and Waukegan ports spells the closing of a Kenosha location that opened more than 15 years ago. This change was meant to shorten arrival times for crews near the Wisconsin-Illinois border, Stamm told The Journal Times.

There are more than 300 such ports across the U.S., making TowBoatUS the largest towing fleet in the nation, according to the company’s website.

TowBoatUS’s Racine boat came in Thursday and is docked at Pugh Marina.

Memberships are valid nationwide. So, if you’re a member from Racine but get stuck out on Lake Superior, you can still call TowBoatUS for no additional charge.

Exceptions

Among the services offered are towing, fuel delivery, jump starts and soft-bottom ungroundings. Nonmembers can call for help too, but they’ll be charged an hourly rate.

Stamm said that, although rescues for members are technically unlimited, you won’t be allowed to abuse the service with unreasonably frequent breakdowns.

“You really have to press your luck for TowBoatUS not to cover you,” Stamm said. He mentioned someone in Illinois who he had to pick up seven times in one summer.

The service isn’t meant to replace insurance or emergency calls either. If there’s a major emergency, such as a fire or a boat taking on water, Stamm advises sticking with traditional distress calls.

Stamm compares TowBoatUS to roadside motorist clubs such as AAA — but on water instead of the roadways.

On the side, Stamm can recover sunken boats. However, he would suggest calling for help before a watercraft goes under.

“We would handle the vessel and whatever danger the boat is in,” Stamm said.

TowBoatUS Racine and Waukegan can both be reached by hailing on VHF channel 16, or by calling 708-890-9979 or 800-391-4869. There’s also a smartphone app that can be used to signal for help.

More info can be found at BoatUS.com/Membership.

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