On Board With: Scott Collins
Sea Tow captain Scott Collins rescues boaters around Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Learn what his day-to-day is like, and what it was like to save a spearfisherman.
Scott Collins has lived a life at sea, from serving for six years in the US Coast Guard to working as a research technician on more than one educational research vessel. Today he’s a Sea Tow captain in Wrightsville, North Carolina, where he was recently recognized for saving the life of a spearfisherman.
For Background info, how long have you been a Sea Tow Captain?
Sea Tow is a huge part of my life. For the last 20 years, I have proudly served as a captain of Sea Tow Wrightsville Beach. It’s a way of life for us. We often say we “bleed” Sea Tow yellow, and we’re proud of it!
What kind of boats do you operate?
The best answer is multiple purpose built boats that are seaworthy with plenty of power to get the job done. The 33-foot World Cat with twin 300 hp Yamahas is one of my favorites. We typically run this boat when a member is further offshore and in need of assistance. That boat will move and handle rough seas like a champ.
We also have four 26-foot Twin Vee center consoles with 150 hp Suzuki engines. These boats are fast and great in skinny water if a boater needs an ungrounding or is back in the marshes.
I personally have a 22-foot Bay Rider with a 175 hp Suzuki engine. Some huge Cape Fear redfish have seen the deck of that boat, but they are always released. My Bay Rider has seen plenty of hours with the family onboard, as well.
How did you happen to come across the spear fisherman that fateful day?
It was around 4:30 p.m. on June 28th (2020). I was returning from a job when I was flagged down by another boater. I remember seeing a lady waving her hands at me. She said, “We just saw someone floating face down in the water. Can you go help? It looks like the person is headed into an area with lots of boat traffic.” I quickly turned my Sea Tow boat to port and headed towards the area where she directed me. A few seconds later, I spotted a person floating face down in the water.
What was your first thought in trying to help him?
Just seeing a lifeless body in a black wet suit face down in the water, I immediately thought the worst. I pulled the diver onto my boat. He was unconscious, not breathing and had no pulse. I will never forget the look on his face. It was instinct. I immediately began CPR. In between compressions, I was able to reach and gently ease the boat in gear and turn the wheel toward the dock. I remember seeing people watching this all unfold and yelled to them to “Call 911!” What felt like minutes in reality was only seconds. Thankfully, this person started spitting up water and I started to feel a faint heartbeat. EMTs arrived at the perfect time and took the diver to the hospital.
People typically think of Sea Tow for help when they break down or run out of gas. How often does your job involve helping people in distress?
It’s not often situations like this occur. I was just in the right place at the right time for this one. In the event of any emergency, you should always hail the US Coast Guard first on channel 16, this typically generates a broadcast to all boaters listening to their VHF radio. Sea Tow is often on scene of an incident because we’re always out on the water and able to respond quickly.
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How many days of the year are you on the water?
Sea Tow is on the water 24/7/365, I personally spend about 75 percent of the year on the water patrolling, assisting boaters, and providing services needed.
When you’re not working for Sea Tow, do you still boat for fun?
Most definitely. My Bay Rider gets a lot of use by the family. We enjoy everything from fishing and crabbing, to tubing and just cruising around and watching the sunset. Being on the water is a lifestyle that we wouldn’t trade for anything.