ZAVALLA, Texas, — Boaters on Lake Sam Rayburn, the largest body of water entirely within Texas and one of the state’s most popular fishing venues, can breathe a little easier if they have a breakdown on the water. Help is now just a VHF hail, phone call, or smartphone App click away. TowBoatUS Lake Sam Rayburn, an on water towing and assistance service for recreational boaters, opened this spring with Zavalla resident James Small at the helm.
“Boaters on this lake have never had an easy way to get assistance,” said Small, who enjoys fishing on the lake himself. “Now if anyone runs out of fuel, has a mechanical breakdown, needs a battery jump or runs aground, or other routine breakdown they won’t have to wait around for a friend to come get them. We will be there to assist 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Much like a reliable auto club for boaters, TowBoatUS offers an Unlimited Freshwater towing membership for 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.
Small, who retired after 20 years in the US Air Force where he served as an electronic warfare officer and computer programmer, began working in the boating business when he and a son opened a boat detailing and outboard repair business in Zavalla three years ago. “Sometimes we’d get calls from people out on the lake asking if we knew how they could get help,” Small said, and sometimes the Smalls would go out to assist in their private boat. That’s when it occurred to them that there was a need for a service like TowBoatUS on the lake.
The lake, a manmade 70-mile long reservoir in the Angelina National Forest in East Texas, is maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has restricted dockage to three small marinas, so most boaters trailer their boats and launch at one of 25 boat ramps on the lake. That’s what Small will do as well since that will be the fastest way to get to boaters in need.
TowBoatUS Sam Rayburn currently has two boats, a 22-foot Mako with a 225-horsepower outboard and a 21-foot Shoalwater with a 150-horsepower outboard. Both boats are painted bright red with the TowBoatUS name and logo emblazoned in white letters on the hulls. They are fully rigged for towing and salvage, with powerful pumps, battery jump packs, dive gear and extra fuel. Small and other qualified towboat operators will run the boats which will be kept on trailers at Lakeview RV Park in Zavalla.
TowBoatUS Lake Sam Rayburn can be hailed on VHF channel 16, reached by calling the local office directly at 936-715-8748 or by calling the BoatUS toll-free 24/7 Dispatch Center at 800-391-4869, and via smartphone with the free BoatUS Towing App. To see the location on a map, go to BoatUS.com/lakesamrayburn.
For more, go to BoatUS.com/towing or call 800-888-4869.