When Capt. Ed and Karen Schrader started their voyage with Sea Tow Hampton Roads just over ten years ago, it was just the two of them. Capt. Ed patrolled the local waters while Karen stayed at home and manned the VHF-radio. They were a small, but effective operation – a true dynamic duo.
Fast-forward a decade and nearly everything has changed – except their commitment to their community and helping others. The Schraders now employ a crew of eight captains and six boats, assisting between 250 and 300 boaters with jumpstarts, tows, fuel drops and other on-water services each year. With new technologies and a growing staff, the business isn’t quite as intimate as it once was, but Capt. Ed and Karen haven’t missed a beat.
“When we first bought the business, you had to stay in the office and man the radio,” Karen said. “I couldn’t leave the house because someone always had to be there in case a call came in. Now, with technology, we can run our business from anywhere. We can even listen in on the VHF radio from our cell phones.”
With boats stationed in Lynnhaven Inlet, Little Creek and Willoughby, Sea Tow Hampton Roads is able to reach a wide-ranging service area both offshore in the Chesapeake Bay and up-stream in the James River. With a fleet of specialized yellow boats, the Hampton Roads crew will go out more than 60 miles offshore to places like Norfolk Canyon or up the James River and down the Elizabeth River.
“The Tidewater area has all sorts of different boaters,” Capt. Ed said. “For that reason, we have both large boats that can go far out into the Atlantic and smaller ones that can handle the shallow areas. We want to make sure we have the ability to help out each and every type of boater we see out here.”
However, for the Schraders, it’s not just about helping people out on the water. Capt. Ed and Karen also hold an annual Sea Tow “Stuff a-Boat Toy Drive” that supports the U.S. Marine Toys-for-Tots Program, help out with local fishing clubs and even take kids out fishing.
“We’re very involved in the local community,” Karen added. “If there’s a group taking kids out fishing, we’ll let them borrow life jackets for the day. We also love to get involved with local fishing clubs, and we even like to provide Sea Tow goodie bags to local dealers in the area for new boat owners.”
In addition, Sea Tow Hampton Roads runs the area’s Automated Radio Check service and hosts 13 Life Jacket Loaner Stations throughout the area, where boaters without a life jacket can borrow one for the day, free of charge.
For the Schraders, it’s all about being there, however they can.
“This community has given us so much over the past decade, so it’s only right we do our part to give back in whatever ways we can,” Capt. Ed said. “I feel very lucky to work with a great team and be involved in such a great community.”