After vacationing on Marco Island as a child, Captain John McLaughlin never thought he would one day own a home and a business there that helps boaters who are in need of on-water services. However, that became reality as the owner of Sea Tow Marco Island. He is now celebrating his business 15th anniversary.
“I always wanted it,” Captain McLaughlin said of the Marco Island Sea Tow business. “Especially after starting out owning Sea Tow Atlantic City and loving it. It became my goal to eventually come down and take over the Marco Island operation. I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know how you operate two businesses in different states at the same time. But it came available and I jumped on it.”
Sea Tow, the leading on-water assistance provider, offers tows, jump starts, fuel deliveries and more to boaters nationwide. When McLaughlin took over the Florida franchise, operations were a lot different than they are today. Most notably, the use of technology making it easier to run the business. “Today, technology has become the greatest game–changer for our business and others within Sea Tow,” he said. “We can run our business from just about anywhere and be able to dispatch captains to help our members or others on the water that need help.”
Another thing that changed about McLaughlin’s business is the involvement of his family. Shortly after Captain McLaughlin took over the Marco Island franchise, his wife Sandy decided to leave her job as a schoolteacher and become a full-time office manager. It was a role that she had taken on during the summer while on break from school, but as business picked up it became evident that she needed to be there more. The McLaughlin’s serve as a model of how to successfully operate a business as a husband and wife team.
“A lot of husband and wife teams or owners of Sea Tow have called us and said they want to do it, but they are worried about how to make it happen,” Sandy said. “We like to say that not everything is perfect, but it can still work. You have to remember that you are together 24/7, not only together in the business, but together at home when you’re not technically doing business. It takes work, but it’s also very rewarding.”
The McLaughlin’s son, Eric, is very involved in the day-to-day. Today, Captain Eric is their Senior Captain and runs calls to help boaters in need, handles tows and assists with rescues. Over the last 15 years, he has been an instrumental part of the Sea Tow Marco Island team, and his kids, Captain McLaughlin’s grandkids, seem to be ready to follow in their dad and grandad’s footsteps. “We have four grandkids and the oldest will definitely follow right in our footsteps.” McLaughlin said, “He loves it, just like Eric did when he was young. We can see the passion already. He will make a great captain one day.”
In 2018, Captain McLaughlin was recognized by Sea Tow Services International with the first-ever Captain Joe Frohnhoefer Visionary Award. Owners of the corporate Sea Tow company had seen an incredible drive in Captain McLaughlin and compared his passion to the now late Captain Joe Frohnhoefer. “They always said I’m a lot like Captain Joe and those are big shoes to fill,” McLaughlin remarked. “I just get it done. We just do it and make it happen and that’s the same way Joe senior was. We were a lot alike. He had a vision and it was always straight, just get it done, go forward and that’s just like me.”
Captain McLaughlin said that in this business he meets all kinds of people and families. Being able to help boaters when they are stranded and feel like fish out of water is a rewarding feeling that he would not trade for anything. “We’ve succeeded as a family by working together to make it all happen,” McLaughlin said. “It allows me to bring a perspective to others during a time of stress and help them to understand it will be alright and we will get through this by working together.” That approach to life and business is why Sea Tow Marco Island will have the McLaughlin name attached to it for many years to come.