WEST OCEAN CITY — With boating season arriving, local operators can rest assured help is on the way if they get in distress with a new owner and operator at the helm of TowBoatUS out of West Ocean City.
Captain Rob Copenhaver, a 2004 Stephen Decatur High School graduate, is the new owner of the 24-hour, on-the-water boat assistance service, taking over for the late Captain Greg Hall, who passed away last October after starting the company in 1986 and running it for over three decades. Copenhaver was operations manager for Hall and helped grow the local operation’s footprint last summer with a second home port in Chincoteague.
TowBoatUS is one of the longest running operations in the company’s nationwide fleet of over 600 response vessels at more than 300 locations. Copenhaver’s tenure with the company began shortly after high school graduation when he began doing marine construction work for Hall.
He then spent six years gaining experience as a towing response vessel captain for TowBoatUS in Marco Island, Florida. Copenhaver rejoined Hall and the local operation seven years ago and has since logged hundreds of hours and miles of towing disabled vessels, providing battery jump starts and providing soft-ungrounding services, steadily growing his responsibilities to eventually manage the local branch’s day-to-day operations.
“While most of our calls for assistance from boaters are for routine engine breakdowns, we also do quite a few soft ungroundings, as there a lot of shifting sand bars that can appear at random,” he said. “Having TowBoatUS 24-hour on-water towing and assistance service means you will not have to worry if someone is going to stop to help you with a routine breakdown or for a gentle pull off the bottom.”
The company operates a fleet of six response vessels ranging from 21 feet to 42 feet out of Fisherman’s Marina in West Ocean City and Curtis Merritt Harbor in Chincoteague. All of the company’s rescue vessels are easily recognizable by their red hulls with TowBoatUS logo emblazoned in bright white letters on their hull sides. Each boat is rigged for towing, jump-starts, fuel delivery and soft ungroundings. The company also offers salvage and recovery services.
Much like an auto club for boaters, TowBoatUS offers on-water unlimited towing memberships for saltwater boaters and anglers at $159 per year. Those without a membership face an average of $750 per towing incident with some paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. The company also offers a free TowBoatUS app to summon assistance and often speed up response times.
Boaters can reach TowBoatUS Ocean City and Chincoteague by hailing on VHF channel 16, by calling the company directly at 443-235-3552. Boaters can also reach out to the TowBoatUS toll-free 24/7 dispatch center at 800-391-4869, or via smartphone using the BoatUS app.