By Kelly Burke, Vice President, Cypress Landing Marina Association

Chocowinity, NC (November 16, 2017) - “In the water ready to go.” As described by Chocowinity Fire Chief, Tommy Pendley, that is the key distinguishing benefit of a new public/private partnership between Chocowinity Emergency Services and Cypress Landing Marina that places a rescue boat at the marina as a daily launch point for marine emergency response, something sorely needed in Chocowinity Bay and the south side of the Pamlico River.

On Thursday, November 16, 2017, officials from Chocowinity EMS, Cypress Landing Marina and Beaufort County will hold a news conference and their own version of a traditional fire department “Wet Down” at the Marina christening the new rescue craft.

Chocowinity residents, including many from Cypress Landing, are expected to witness the ritual “Wet Down”. A torrent of water, fired from two fire trucks will arch over the boat creating a visual spectacle that will honor EMS responders, firefighters, and the new boat.

The joint water rescue initiative is an outgrowth of a two-part effort to, first, get someone to donate a boat to the EMS and then provide a slip for free at the Cypress Landing Marina from which the boat can operate. Happily, Bob Shultz, a Cypress Landing resident, donated his 2003, twenty-four foot Carolina skiff, the Sea Chaser, to the cause.

Under the leadership of Fire Chief Pendley and EMS Captain Shane Grier, a team of first responders has equipped the boat with rescue ropes, throw rings, life jackets, floating back boards, lights and decals. A 200 gallon a minute fire pump will soon be added. And, EMS officials hope to install a luge gun when resources become available.

While there are rescue boats in five other locations in the general region, a lack of resources keeps them housed on trailers in fire stations which can slow down response times. EMS officials say the new EMS rescue craft at Cypress Landing Marina will be the only County rescue boat moored in the water ready to go at a moment’s notice.

According to Chief Pendley, “Other EMS units do a great job but it does take extra time to take a trailered boat to a ramp and get it in the water. Chocowinity EMS didn’t even have a boat. So, we are grateful to Mr. Shultz and Cypress Landing. With the boat moored at the slip, our personnel can fire it up quickly and save precious minutes. This will clearly save lives which is what we are all about.”

Cypress Landing Marina, a facility with 222 slips, has modern floating docks which offer protection during storms. In the spring, EMS Captain Grier expressed his concern to Marina members about not having a rescue boat to cover the south side of the river. When the Marina Board learned there was very limited rescue capability, they decided to launch a campaign to help. Three confirmed life-threatening incidents in June accelerated the effort to work toward a solution.

Skip Vail, President of the Cypress Landing Marina Board says, “Knowing fire and EMS funding is limited, and following a long tradition of supporting the community and the County, our Board unanimously decided to try and find a sea worthy craft and provide a cost-free home port for a rescue boat. With a convenient location on the south side of the River, an in the water EMS boat can reach County boaters more quickly in an emergency. Safety first is our charter as well as supporting our community and this effort came together beautifully.”

Chocowinity EMS is providing insurance and maintenance for the rescue boat. Only certified EMS responders will operate it. But, it is envisioned that, before long citizens trained by Chocowinity EMS who become members of Beaufort County’s new Community Emergency Response Team at Cypress Landing will assist when necessary.

Carnie Hedgepeth, Director of Beaufort County Emergency Services, will attend the Wet Down. Mr. Hedgepeth praised the collaboration, “Partnerships such as this have tremendous benefit in Beaufort County. They allow for greater communication between responders and citizens and provide financial support which gives local agencies access to equipment they may not be able to acquire under current budget constraints”.

One clear benefit of this initiative is the savings to taxpayers. It is estimated the support of Cypress Landing, including Mr. Shultz’s donation of the boat, saves county taxpayers more than fifty thousand dollars. But, more importantly, Mr. Hedgepeth says, “The addition of this piece of equipment will strengthen the overall water response offered through fire and rescue departments in our county, and will be the first piece of equipment permanently stationed in the water”.

When the ritual “Wet Down” is complete, EMS officials will be doing more checks on the engine and will eventually conduct drills. They hope to have the rescue boat fully operational soon.

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