The “Big Bend” in Florida’s Panhandle near Panacea is a favorite destination for anglers who trailer their boats to the Gulf of Mexico from all over Georgia and the South. And, when these out-of-town boaters need help with navigation or other on-water, they turn to Capt. Joel Singletary, owner of Sea Tow Big Bend, and his team of Sea Tow Captains.
“It’s all fishing − just about 100 percent − here,” said Capt. Joel. “A lot of folks stop us and ask for our local knowledge and for assistance on how to use their GPS and their VHF, especially beginning boaters.”
Sea Tow Big Bend’s Area of Responsibility covers about 105 miles of Gulf coastline from Panacea to Carrabelle, Fla., which marks the end of the Intracoastal Waterway. Capt. Joel and his team maintain four Automated Radio Check towers across their territory, and he is glad to be able to let fishermen know they can check that their VHF is working free of charge on Channels 26 and 27.
“I’ve been on the water my whole life,” said Capt. Joel. After retiring from serving in the Air Force, he worked as a civilian telecommunications engineer, but ultimately returned to the Gulf Coast, joining the family business, Keaton Beach Marina in Perry, Fla., which his wife, Traci’s parents had owned since 1992. After the marina sold in 2005, Capt. Joel said, “That’s when I knew I wanted to stay on the water.”
He went to work for Capt. Sammy Royal, owner of Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach, the Sea Tow location just to the east of Perry, and learned “the ropes” of being a Sea Tow Captain. “When Sea Tow Big Bend became available, I jumped at the chance to own my own Sea Tow location,” Capt. Joel said. He took over operations at Sea Tow Big Bend in July, 2005.
Then, five years later, in April 2010, devastation came to the Panhandle in the form of the Gulf Oil Spill. “We never had any oil in this area,” Capt. Joel reports, but other nearby regions were not so lucky. “We went to Mobile (Ala.) and worked with the cleanup efforts there,” he said. “Our boats were outfitted as skimmers.” After the spill was contained, Sea Tow Big Bend’s Captains continued to work with the scientific community, taking them out on the water to measure the effects of the oil spill.
If someone needs help on the water in Florida’s Big Bend area, whether it’s a Sea Tow member, an out-of-state angler or a scientist, Capt. Joel and his team are happy to render assistance, 24/7/365.