On why needing a tow at sea could bankrupt you

I was having a couple of beers with a retired fisherman and his son yesterday in Garrucha, and he was telling me an interesting story about rescue as sea. Old Antonio still has three large fishing boats in Garrucha port, and his son, a hulk of a chap, seems to be doing all right for himself, what with the prawns being back and all.

So Antonio was reminiscing about the Coastguard (salvamiento maritimo) and their rescue boats which tow boats back to port if they run into trouble.

Years ago, Antonio had a breakdown off Macenas beach. He radioed for help, a patrol boat came out, and he got towed back to Garrucha, a distance of about 10 nautical miles. It cost him around 5,000 pesetas.

“Course, in those days, they were military” he said.

About five years ago, his son had a breakdown about 7 nautical miles away from Garrucha, and got a tow from the nice coastguards. It cost him 35€. So inflation hadn’t really eaten away at the prices.

“Course, in those days, it was a private company that was subcontracted by the government, and we just had to pay the fixed fees” he reminisced.

Now, last week, someone called Jorge de las anguilas broke down just 4 nautical miles out to sea. He, too, had a tow back to port, and was asked to pop into the capitania the next day to settle the bill.

“Coffee?” he was asked, as he entered the capitania. “No thanks, just get the paperwork ready”.

The paperwork arrived. The bill?

€985.

“So he had four coffees, just to empty the pot” grinned Antonio.

Seems the tow boats have been contracted directly by the government, rather than being subcontracts, and the fee “adjusted” to reality.

So don’t run out of fuel at sea. Or, at the least, take some oars with you!

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