Snapper season opens on June 1 in the Florida Panhandle region where Captain Sammy Royal owns and operates Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach. His advice to the fishermen who run 30 to 50 miles offshore − typically at night − to go after these good-eating fish is to keep a vigilant watch on the weather.
“In the heat of the summer, the evening showers pop up and it’s really hard to forecast them. One minute they’re not there, and the next minute they are,” said Capt. Sammy, adding that these storm cells can be more dangerous than boaters might expect, as waterspouts can be associated with them. He recommends staying tuned to the NOAA weather channel in addition to keeping an eye on the sky.
Capt. Sammy also recommends that boaters, “Pay real close attention to the tides. People don’t realize that when the tide goes out, it goes out for miles and leaves you high and dry. If you don’t check the tides, you can get caught at low water on the grassy flats for hours.”
The Sea Tow App for smartphones includes tide charts that anglers and other boaters conveniently can consult onscreen before heading out on the water.
Capt. Sammy knows the area he serves intimately, because he spent years as a commercial fisherman and the owner of a wholesale and retail seafood company in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., before starting up his Sea Tow operation. When he was out on the water fishing for fresh seafood to supply that business, he said, “People always called me to come help them. We had the VHF radio on all the time. The fishermen we bought seafood from, when they got into trouble, they always called me.”
In 2001, Capt. Sammy and his wife, Kim, decided to turn his Good Samaritan services into a professional marine assistance operation by opening up the first Sea Tow location to serve the Horseshoe Beach area. “The Sea Tow business model was way more attractive than the BoatU.S. business model,” he said. “I started Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach from scratch. Now we have almost 2,000 members − in a remote part of the Gulf Coast.”
Capt. Sammy gives Kim all the credit for running the Sea Tow operation while he is out in his yellow Sea Tow boat assisting Sea Tow members and other boaters and anglers. When asked if he and his wife are co-owners of Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach, he jokes, “She probably owns more of it than me.”
The Royals are very community-minded, and maintain several Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Loaner Stands in the Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach region, where boaters may borrow a PFD free of charge for a day on the water. “One lady just posted on Facebook that she borrowed an infant-sized life jacket for her baby from one of our Loaner stands,” said Capt. Sammy. “She was so happy that it was available, that now she wants to buy an infant life jacket with the Sea Tow Foundation logo on it.”