DOLTON, Ill., June 2, 2016 — Capt. Richard Lenardson has been providing prompt assistance to Lake Michigan boaters for more than a decade as the owner of TowBoatUS Chicago and six additional towing ports dotting the shores of Lake Michigan. This spring, he expanded his 24-hour on–water towing and assistance service to the Illinois River System with the opening of TowBoatUS Dolton.
Recreational boaters from Dolton and points south and west of Chicago travel the Calumet River to reach Lake Michigan, and TowBoatUS Chicago has been assisting them for years – but it can be slow going. The river has a seven-mile no-wake zone and a major lock that gives priority to tugs and barges and other large commercial vessels.
“By stationing a boat on the Calumet River, we can provide better and more efficient service,” Lenardson said.
Now, when a Calumet River-bound boat breaks down on Lake Michigan, TowBoatUS Chicago can tow it to the river and then hand it off to the TowBoatUS Dolton boat. Conversely if someone on the river runs out of fuel or needs a battery jumpstart, they won’t have to wait for an assist boat to come from Chicago. “We’ll be right there 24/7,” Lenardson said. “Our goal is to help our customers in the best and fastest way possible.”
Much like a reliable auto club for boaters, BoatUS offers and an on-water Unlimited Towing Membership Plan for freshwater boaters and anglers for just $72 a year that includes BoatUS membership. Without a towing plan, boaters face costs that average over $700 per incident nationally, and all plans are good for any boat owned, rented or borrowed. Lenardson’s eight ports are part of the largest on water towing fleet in the nation, with over 300 response vessels at 600+ locations, responding to over 70,000 requests for on water assistance just last year.
Lenardson, whose family has owned and operated an on–the–road towing business for many years, got into the marine business in an unusual way. Several years ago one of the cars he towed belonged to a man who was second in command at a U.S. Coast Guard station. Instead of being angry when he came to claim his car, he had a question for Lenardson: “Why don’t you do this on the water?”
Lenardson was intrigued. He went to captain’s school, got a U.S. Coast Guard license and started an on–water towing business in St. Joe, Mich. Before long, he connected with TowBoatUS. “I love being on the water and running the boats,” he said. He and 16 highly trained and Coast Guard-licensed captains operate the boats in all his locations.
The company’s Dolton response boat, a 26-foot bright red Shamrock with a 300-horsepower inboard engine, is based at Marine Services Corp., the largest marina between the Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. “TowBoatUS” is emblazoned in big white letters on the hull, and the boat is fully rigged for towing and salvage, with powerful pumps, battery jump packs, dive gear and extra fuel.
TowBoatUS Dolton can be hailed on VHF channel 16, reached by calling the local office directly at 269-605-9036, by calling the BoatUS toll-free 24/7 Dispatch Center at 800-391-4869, and via smartphone with the free BoatUS Towing App. Lenardson is big fan of the smartphone app since it gives his dispatchers the exact location of the boat that needs help. “We can get there much faster when we have that information,” he said.
For more, go to BoatUS.com/towing or call 800-888-4869.