By Greg Ellison
(June 25, 2020) The Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Departments offshore search and rescue capabilities are taking a major leap forward following the acquisition of a 21-foot vessel set to launch in early July.
Fire Chief Steve Grunewald said the department’s new Carolina Skiff, which is already available for deployment via a boat ramp, is on the verge of being placed dockside.
“We’re waiting for the pilings that need to be driven in for the boat lift that’s going to be down at the Yacht Club,” he said.
Due to infrastructure upgrades, and coronavirus-related work restrictions, the original June 1 target date for the skiff to be activated for use was pushed back to early July.
“The vessel is mainly going to be used for search and rescue not really for fire-fighting purposes,” he said. “With the 12 miles of waterfront we cover, we need something that’s a little bit beefier than the little jon boat we had.”
The new boat stands in stark contrast to the small aluminum one the department previously used to search operations.
“This boat will be equipped with all the navionics, radars and everything we need to do a proper search,” he said. “It’s a ten-fold increase.”
Grunewald said new equipment would enormously augment response abilities.
“You’re going from a boat where all you were really doing was trolling and looking for things, to a boat where we can actually perform adequate rescues,” he said. “We’re going from a rowboat [that] had a small engine on it.”
Grunewald said the skiff would initially be earmarked solely for water missions
“Right now we do not have any fire fighting capabilities, not to say in the future we may put a small pump on that boat,” he said. “We utilize the Ocean City fire boat for fire-fighting purposes.”
Because the smaller boat’s usefulness was also limited by wind and tide conditions, Grunewald said the larger vessel will allow the department to handle rougher waters.
“There’s a lot of bay that’s back there,” he said. “We’re going to be able to assist the Coast Guard, DNR and Ocean City.”