COOS BAY, Ore., April 11, 2012 — Captain Thomas Kramer got bit hard by the boating bug when he was still a boy in Colorado. As soon as he was old enough he moved to California and began working in a boatyard – for free. “I wanted the experience. I wanted to know how to fix a boat in case it broke down when I was out there,” he said. That was 50 years ago. Today, Kramer is in the business of helping other boaters, having reopened Vessel Assist Coos Bay, an on-the-water towing service that helps boaters, anglers and sailors get safely home when they have trouble on the water.
Kramer, a familiar waterfront figure known as “Captain Thomas,” had operated the business for seven years until 2010 when he sold it to a captain who’d made him an offer that was too good to refuse. But the new owner discontinued the operation after four months, and Kramer has gone back into the towing business.
Much like an auto club for recreational boaters, Vessel Assist, a program of Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), offers an on-the-water towing service plan for salt waters that cost just $149 a year, which includes BoatUS or BoatUS Angler membership. Without a towing plan, boaters face out-of-pocket costs that nationally average about $600 per incident, or $250 per hour.
Kramer also runs a charter fishing business, Pacific Charter Services, and he and his wife, Stephanie, own a popular bed-and-breakfast inn called the Old Tower House, but the captain is on call 24/7 to help boaters in need. For a man whose career went from repairing boats to captaining luxury yachts and running a fishing charter business, operating Vessel Assist Coos Bay is a way for Kramer to make the most of his vast knowledge and skills.
“I have lots of experience in all kinds of conditions,” he said. “It can get nasty here. It’ll look all nice and smooth from the bay but when you get to the bar, you’ll find 12- to 15-footers rolling in.” When he first started towing, Kramer said he practiced operating in the surf by running alongside the U.S. Coast Guard when the seas were rough. “I needed to see what the boat could handle.”
With his current boat, a 35-foot Grady-White with twin 150 horsepower outboards, that’s just about everything. The boat is fully rigged for towing and salvage, with powerful pumps, battery jump packs and extra fuel. Presently white in color, the boat will soon have a red hull with distinctive “Vessel Assist” lettering once a local paint shop backlog clears up, Kramer explained.
Coos Bay is a major commercial fishing and lumbering port that also attracts recreational boaters, sailors and anglers. Kramer, who can tow boats as large as 50 feet, said he gets the majority of calls to assist boats that break down or get caught in crab traps. Sometimes it is even the crabbers themselves, who get trap lines wrapped around their propellers while they are working.
He keeps his Vessel Assist boat in Coos Bay but can assist boats as far away as Bandon Bay, about 20 miles to the south, and Winchester Bay, about 20 miles to the north. To see the location on a map, go to www.BoatUS.com/coosbayOR. Boaters can contact Vessel Assist Coos Bay 24/7 by hailing on VHF channel 16, calling Kramer at 541-294-2243, or calling the BoatUS toll-free Dispatch Service at 800-888-4869.
Vessel Assist Coos Bay is part of the world’s largest boat towing program with over 600 towboats servicing hundreds of ports and waterways. Towing is just one service offered by BoatUS – Boat Owners Association of The United States – the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its half-million members with government representation, consumer programs and money-saving services. For more information go to www.BoatUS.com/towing or call 800-391-4869.