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This is Your Captain Speaking: Nathan Fabbricatore with Sea Tow Lake Norman

Learn about the man and the mission

Sea Tow operators delivering a battery to a boater in need offshore
Sea Tow memberships start at just $169 per year and gives you peace of mind in all your on-water boating needs (Courtesy of Sea Tow)

Sea Tow Lake Norman serves Lake Norman, Ramsey Creek, Stumpy Creek, Little creek and more with priority service for members and unlimited towing with no distance or dollar limit in your home area.

Nathan Fabbricatore grew up around boats; throughout his childhood, his family was on them all the time. However, seeing as how they lived in New Hampshire, it was always freshwater boats, and hurricanes were never any concern.

Fast forward to September 2020, with Hurricane Sally bearing down on Destin, Florida, where Fabbricatore was stationed as a relatively new employee of the marine assistance and salvage company Sea Tow. It was clear then that he had come a long way from his carefree boating days in New Hampshire.

Nathan Fabbricatore with Sea Tow Lake Norman
Capt. Nathan Fabbricatore with Sea Tow Lake Norman (Courtesy of Sea Tow)

“That was a crazy experience, actually staying in a house down there, where that hurricane is passing right over top of you,” he recalled to Piedmont Lakes Pilot during a recent interview. “I mean, it was a little frightening, but a really incredible experience.”

It was Nathan’s first time tying a boat down to ride out a hurricane, and he was successful in that mission, but the real work didn’t start until the storm had passed.

“The aftermath of storms is just insane; you see boats upside down in backyards and swimming pools, up underneath back porches, out on the main road of a highway. You see it all and it’s really an eye opener,” he said.

“One nice thing is, obviously we’re just recovering property, but it’s amazing to get to be a part of helping out people in tough times. No one wants to go through a hurricane and lose their house, but it’s nice to be able to help out and do some kind of relief.”

Hired on with Sea Tow Lake Norman locally in 2019, Nathan spent his first three years with the company splitting his time between the Lake Norman offices in spring and summer and the Destin/Pensacola offices in Florida during the colder months.

For the last two years, he’s been working on Lake Norman and Lake Wylie year-round, where he patrols the popular spots and keeps his team on call to assist Sea Tow members with any trouble they may be having on the water, from running out of gas to dead batteries to unexplained breakdowns.

a group of operators with Sea tow Lake Norman raising a submerged aircraft from the lake
Sea Tow operates raising a submerged aircraft from the lake (Courtesy of Sea Tow)

While the local calls don’t necessarily get as intense as the hurricane salvage work does, one thing stays constant for Nate: his passion for helping people.

“I’ve actually found out that what fulfills me the most in this job is that it can be the worst day of someone’s boating experience, but I seem to always make that customer smile,” he said. “Even though they’re just having a bad day, they’re on the water. Getting to spread that joy of just loving to be out on the water is a big thing for me.”

Having gotten his first North Carolina Boater Education Card, aka boater’s license, at age 11, Nathan was already well familiar with Lake Norman when he got his first job at the Safe Harbor Westport marina at 16 years old. He worked there for five years, beginning on the docks, then with the service department, then towing boats.

Having acquired his captain’s license through the US Coast Guard during that time, he decided it was time to put it to use. He worked one summer on Lake Norman as captain of the Charlotte Cycleboat, which he called “a blast of a job,” before joining on with Sea Tow in 2019.

These days, as assistant manager and captain with Sea Tow Lake Norman, Fabbricatore is part of a team of five staff members who rotate on-call shifts while he keeps himself available 24/7, 365.

He and his team members regularly patrol the hotspots around Lake Norman and Lake Wylie (they also keep a boat ready to go for calls on Mountain Island Lake), spending much of their downtime during the week doing boat maintenance, organizing their gear and training for whatever call might come in.

Sea Tow operators delivering a battery to a boater in need offshore
Sea Tow operators are always available to assist boaters in need (Courtesy of Sea Tow)

“There’s always something to do and we try to stay busy, but more than anything it’s about being close by the boat at all times, ready to go for when a call comes in, because one thing we’ve worked really hard at is having the best response times on the lake,” he said.

The company keeps boats strategically located at Peninsula Yacht Club in Cornelius, Safe Harbor Westport in Denver, The Boat Rack in Catawba, and at Sherrills Ford to optimize response times.

Over the last five years, Sea Tow Lake Norman/Lake Wylie’s average response time has remained at around 30 minutes, exemplary for a coverage area their size.

“We’re not a pizza delivery service, but we get to our customers pretty fast,” he said, laughing.

So what are the calls the Sea Tow Lake Norman team spends the most time responding to?

“During the spring, usually they’re using their boats for the first time this year, and they’ll need a tow because the water pump will fail and they’ll overheat, so we’ll tow them to their repair facility or back to the trailer,” he explained. “Or even just something as simple as a dead battery or they run out of fuel — they didn’t fill it up before they went out or their fuel gauge stopped working from the year before — and we’ll have to bring them out some fuel.”

At $169 per year for a membership with unlimited access to service and no hidden fees, it provides critical security for boaters of any skill level. >> SeaTow.com/Memberships

“You can’t prepare for anything or everything,” Nathan said. “So that’s why I tell people, get a Sea Tow membership and it’s just a good peace of mind on the water, because if something does happen on the boat, you can always call us and we’ll be there to respond.”

From the family-friendly lakes of New Hampshire to the hurricane-ravaged shores of the Florida Gulf and back up to North Carolina, the goal for Nate has always been to help people have fun and feel secure on the water.

“We are a business, but I don’t look at people as a paycheck,” he explained. “We look at them as fellow boaters in this nice, niche community on Lake Norman and Lake Wylie. We’d like to just be a part of it in any way we can by just being a friendly face on the water.”

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