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There was more than an ordinary air of excitement observed as first responders and onlookers gathered at the dock behind the Greater Naples Fire Station 90 on Isles of Capri to welcome the arrival of the new emergency rescue/fire boat 90.

Boat 90, captained by Fire/Rescue Lieutenant John Taylor and driver/engineer Lieutenant Tim Garner were escorted to Capri by marine personnel from Marco Island Fire/Rescue and the City of Naples Fire/Rescue.

As Boat 90 arrived, both escort boats opened their water cannons to provide somewhat of a military gun salute as she passed under their water spouts and headed into her lift. The landing was as smooth as silk.

“It was exciting, thrilling, and handled like a dream in spite of the rough waters out there,” said Lieutenant Garner.

“It was more than I ever dreamed it could be,” said Lieutenant Taylor.

Boat 90 was delivered to Hamilton Harbor late in the afternoon on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Greater Naples Fire administrators and first responders, along with administrators and marine first responders from Marco Island and the City of Naples arrived early on Thursday, Feb. 23 to give it a soft toast send-off, called a wet down among fire service personnel. Lieutenants Taylor and Garner were perhaps the most excited as they were commissioned to be the captains of Boat 90’s voyage to her home base on the Isles of Capri.

An extensive search was made prior to the decision to purchase the custom-built Metal Shark aluminum boat.

“I worked on this project for two and a half years,” said Driver/Engineer Lieutenant Tim Garner.  According to Dean Jones, director of sales for Metal Shark, “these boats are a highly evolved breed of boat engineered and manufactured to be not only the most durable craft on the water, but also the most functional.”

Metal Shark builds custom boats from 16 feet to 250 feet long. “We are the largest marine vessel manufacturer in the United States,” said Jones.  “We build for the US Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and Army,” Jones said.

“Boat 90 is a Metal Shark, custom built, one-of-a-kind, and state of the art emergency rescue/fire boat” said Chief Kingman Schuldt.  “It measures 36½ feet long and is equipped to handle emergencies like an ambulance.
“There is no other vessel that has ever been built in Southwest Florida like it. We designed it to do two things: rescue patients and crew care; and put out fires on water. We had the boat designed for 90 percent rescue and 10 percent fire service,” said Schuldt.

According to Schuldt, the water flow rate for Boat 90’s fire service is 500 gallons per minute.

“In a three year period, there has been less than a two-percent call rate for fires, thus the emphasis on water rescue.”

Boat 90 is powered by two 300 hp Mercury outboard motors.

The new marine vessel was made possible after Isles of Capri Fire District became part of Greater Naples Fire, the largest service provider in the County in 2016. “With our being the largest, it only stands to reason that we ought to be the best,” said Schuldt. “There are 10 miles of coastline that have never had a boat.”  A sum of $398,000 was budgeted for the new vessel, and an additional $75,000 for equipment. “The boat was purchased with impact fees, and did not affect our operating budget,” said Schuldt.

Boat 90 will not be in operation until after a month-long intensive training for first responders. An allotment of $15,000 has been earmarked for training for 15.

“We are giving Marco Island one training slot because of the wonderful support they have provided for us.  We will continue to be working hand-in-hand with them as we are strong in rescue services and they have the fire-fighting capacity needed to make this a great marine service team,” said Schuldt.

“We will hold a formal dedication ceremony in April for the new boat, and provide an opportunity for the community to come, see and maybe even take rides on her.”

Lieutenant Taylor, who oversees driver/engineers and who has been in fire/emergency service for 25 years, along with Lieutenant Garner who has been in fire/emergency services for 16 years will lead the operations of Boat 90.

Contact Ann Hall at ahall7911@coconuttele.net.

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