(SOUTHOLD, N.Y.) — Sea Tow Services International Inc. is deeply saddened to report that its legendary founder and CEO, Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer Jr., died peacefully at the age of 71 on Tuesday, March 24, at his home in Southold, N.Y., after a brief battle with cancer. His wife of more than 46 years, Georgia, was by his side. Sea Tow’s Capt. Joe remained at the helm of Sea Tow, the international on-water assistance company he founded in 1983, until the end.
A visionary entrepreneur and a lifelong first responder who made saving lives and helping others his priority, Capt. Joe leaves a lasting impact on the marine industry and on the international maritime industry as a whole. In addition to running Sea Tow with the help of his wife, daughter, Kristen Frohnhoefer, and son, Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer III, Capt. Joe was a volunteer EMT in his local community on Long Island’s North Fork. He served two terms on the U.S. Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC), formed to advise U.S. Secretary of Transportation on matters relating to shallow-draft inland and coastal waterway navigation and towing safety. Capt. Joe also co-founded C-PORT (Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing), the national association for the marine assistance industry, in 1986, and served on the C-PORT Board of Directors until his death.
The many awards that Capt. Joe received during the course of his career for his unceasing efforts on behalf of the recreational boater and the boating industry include:
• The 2002 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the service division for the New York metro region.
• In 2004, he was named Supplier of the Year by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA).
• In 2012, Sea Tow won the Optimum Lightpath Innovator of the Year Award for the high-tech communications solutions Capt. Joe and his staff implemented at Sea Tow headquarters in Southold.
• In 2013, C-PORT awarded Capt. Joe the Compass Rose Award in honor of his dedication to making the marine assistance industry better through hard work and a desire to make boating an enjoyable experience for everyone he meets.
• In 2014, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) honored Capt. Joe with the prestigious Charles. F. Chapman Award, recognizing his distinguished career spanning more than 40 years in the boating industry.
In response to the U.S. Coast Guard ceasing to provide non-emergency assistance to boaters on the water, in September 1983, Capt. Joe founded Sea Tow Services International Inc., the nation’s first and foremost on-water marine assistance provider. In the process he established a whole new industry: professional non-emergency marine assistance. It was a move that ultimately has led to the employment of thousands of industry professionals over the years, as well as to major improvements in recreational boating safety.
Throughout his career Capt. Joe strived, both personally and professionally, to make the water a safer and more enjoyable place for boaters. In 2007, Sea Tow founded the nonprofit Sea Tow Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes boating safety and life jacket use. Since its start, the Foundation has distributed more than 29,000 free loaner life jackets to boaters who need them for a day of fun on the water. More recently, he worked with the Sea Tow Foundation to develop the Designated Skipper Campaign, aimed at reducing the incidence of BWI (Boating While Intoxicated) incidents on the water.
Well known for his tireless energy, tenacity, and unshakable positive outlook, Capt. Joe also spent countless hours in Washington, D.C., at industry events and summits, and at boat shows around the U.S., working to advance the U.S. marine industry and to improve the safety and experience of its end users — boaters — as well as helping to preserve the marine environment.
Capt. Joe’s family, friends, Sea Tow franchisees, and the countless boaters he has aided directly and indirectly throughout the years mourn the loss of this irreplaceable industry icon.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the following organizations:
• Southold Fire Department. Checks may be mailed to: Southold FD, PO Box 1469, Southold, NY 11971
• Sea Tow Foundation. Checks may be mailed to: Sea Tow Foundation, PO Box 1325, Southold, NY 11971.