Please select your home edition
Vaikobi 2023 Gloves - LEADERBOARD

A new era for TowBoatUS Beaufort and Swansboro, N.C.: Capt. Stephen Lilly takes the helm

by BoatUS 15 Jun 11:36 PDT
(L to R) Capt. Stephen and Mariangel Lilly of TowBoatUS Beaufort and Swansboro, North Carolina © Scott Croft

His great grandfather was a Cape Lookout Lighthouse keeper in the 1930s, so it's perhaps befitting that Capt. Stephen Lilly is the new owner of TowBoatUS Beaufort and TowBoatUS Swansboro, two local towing ports that help boaters in the Inner and Outer Banks region with routine on-water troubles.

Much like an auto club for recreational boaters, the locations provide professional, 24/7 on-water towing, ungrounding, battery jump and fuel drop off services.

The business is a first for Lilly, who purchased it from his former boss and longtime owner Capt. Lee Sykes, who is retiring. It's been a long road for Lilly, who said, "I towed my first boat when I was 8 years old. I was in a marina on my little dinghy and 2-hp motor, and a big cruiser was having trouble getting into the slip, so the captain leaned over the rail and asked me for a little push," he said. "Definitely not something I would recommend today," he adds with a chuckle.

Joining him in the business is his wife, Mariangel Lilly, who is overseeing marketing and public reach out efforts as well as business operations. "She's my right hand in life," said Lilly.

Lilly says he's always known that he wanted his future to be on the water. Since graduating college in 2012, he has renovated a marina, been a dockmaster and boatyard forklift driver, worked as oil spill crew rescuing sea birds, and helmed long tows for TowBoatUS Beaufort. He understands the company's long-term commitment to the community. "We take a lot of pride in serving boaters in our area," said Lilly. "We have a duty. You're not just a number with us."

Lilly keeps the company's six red TowBoatUS response vessels at Sea Water Marina across from Chasing Tails in Atlantic Beach. All are part of a nationwide network of more than 600 TowBoatUS response vessels at 300-plus locations that responded to more than 90,000 requests for assistance last year.

Lilly's region sees a variety of on-water activity including snowbirds cruising the Intracoastal Waterway, a strong local boating community and charter fishermen with a busy schedule of local tournaments. Lilly says the tremendous amount of tide, wind and current in the area require his captains to be highly skilled in towboat operations. "Working here is special because you work together," said Lilly.

All of the company's captains are U.S. Coast Guard-licensed. Separate from BoatUS on-water towing, the company offers boat salvage and spill remediation services.

Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) offers Unlimited Towing Memberships for saltwater boaters and anglers for just $165 per year. Included are more than 25 Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) benefits and discounts, a subscription to BoatUS Magazine, free DSC-VHF radio registration, and more.

The fastest way to request assistance is to download the free BoatUS App, which connects boaters to the closest local towing captain. Additionally, both TowBoatUS locations can be reached at 252-728-5088, or by phoning the BoatUS toll-free 24/7 Dispatch Center at 800-391-4869.

For more go to or call 800-888-4869.

Related Articles

Heather Lougheed takes the helm
As President of BoatUS Foundation for boating safety and clean water Heather Lougheed, vice president of the nearly 800,000-member boating advocacy, services and safety group, BoatUS, is taking on a second organizational role with the appointment to president of the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Posted on 24 Nov
BoatUS/NWSA leadership in Women's Sailing Award
Nominations are being sought The National Women's Sailing Association (NWSA) and Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) are seeking nominations for the 2024 BoatUS/NWSA Leadership in Women's Sailing Award. Posted on 17 Nov
Funding for docks and visiting boater amenities
Boating Infrastructure Grants can make it easy to attract visiting boaters Does your town or region make it easy for boaters to visit and spend locally? Having safe, protected dockage and offering amenities to these tourists by water can bring boaters in, but how do you pay for it? Posted on 26 Oct
Alan Dennison elected Chairman of NSBC
BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water program supervisor BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water program supervisor Alan Dennison has been elected chairman of the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC). Posted on 19 Oct
BoatUS Foundation receives $10 million NOAA grant
To fund removal of abandoned and derelict vessels Boats end up abandoned or derelict on our nation's coasts for several reasons. Irresponsible owners abandon vessels when they can no longer afford to care for them or pay for their disposal. Posted on 6 Sep
It's homecoming for Capt. Shaun Curtis
New owner of TowBoatUS Fort Loudon/Tellico Lake, Tenn For five years, Knoxville native Capt. Shaun Curtis successfully managed and captained the on-water towing and assistance port for recreational boaters, TowBoatUS Fort Loudon/Tellico Lake Posted on 8 Aug
TowBoatUS Oyster Bay has new owner after 30 years
Former owner Capt. Mitch Kramer has stepped aside with Tom Vetere taking the helm TowBoatUS Oyster Bay, a 24/7 provider of on-water towing and assistance for recreational boaters with additional locations in Huntington, New York, and Norwalk, Connecticut, recently celebrated three decades in business. Posted on 27 Jul
TowBoatUS 24/7 comes to Lake Granbury, Texas
Tiki hut dinner cruise captain and former bull rider opens new business helping boaters Capt. Tray Hudgens rode bulls in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association for 3 years and spent 32 years commuting three hours a day to a corporate job. Posted on 20 Jul
Capt. Daimin Barth strikes out on his own
As New Owner of TowBoatUS Carrabelle/St. Marks Five years ago, when Capt. Daimin Barth began as a part-time captain for a TowBoatUS company on Florida's Gulf Coast, “I always knew that I wanted to do my own thing,” says the 36-year-old and former auto mechanic. Posted on 17 Jul
TowBoatUS Walter F. George opens on Alabama's Lake
They've salvaged thousands of hurricane-damaged boats; now they help Lake Eufaula boaters get home Brett Taporowski and Ben Morgan, who have a combined 50 years experience salvaging boats damaged or destroyed by storms, have an impressive record. Posted on 30 Jun
Marine Resources 2022 - FOOTERMaritimo 2023 S600 FOOTERRS Sailing 2021 - FOOTER