When Newtown Underwater Search And Rescue (NUSAR) members respond to aquatic emergency calls, they soon will be doing so in a new custom-built dive boat designed to maximize the volunteer organization’s effectiveness on the water.
NUSAR recently acquired the 20-foot-long aluminum dive boat, which replaces its 19-foot fiberglass dive boat, said NUSAR Chief Mike McCarthy.
Viking Welded Boats of New Hampshire fabricated the boat to NUSAR’s specifications, Chief McCarthy said. The flat-hulled vessel is eight feet wide, creating for a more stable platform for diving operations. The boat has a 90-horsepower outboard engine.
A center console holds steering and communications gear. A T-top frame above the console holds a roof, plus navigational and emergency lighting.
The vessel has a frontal flap that drops down away from the boat, similar to the frontal flap found on a landing craft. A section of the boat’s right side also drops down away from the boat, improving water access. The craft has a top speed of about 26 mph.
The new boat would hold up to ten to 12 people, Chief McCarthy said. The fiberglass boat had a capacity of five to six people.
The new vessel will aid NUSAR conduct its aquatic searches for missing people and injured people, as well as gain access to brush fires along the Housatonic River.
Because the front end of the boat has flap that drops down, an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) potentially could be loaded onto and unloaded from the boat, providing simplified ATV access to rugged remote areas along the Housatonic River, such as Paugussett State Forest.
The aluminum boat, its outboard engine, and the boat’s trailer cost more than $60,000 overall, Chief McCarthy said. NUSAR is covering those costs through private fundraising, he said.
Besides the aluminum boat, NUSAR has a 14-foot inflatable boat. The group has a large van and a SUV for towing its vessels.
The aluminum boat is slated to enter NUSAR service during the first week of May.
NUSAR has 18 members, 17 of whom are divers. The unit typically is called to between six and ten aquatic emergencies per year, locally and in nearby towns.
About half of NUSAR’s local calls involve responses to either the Lake Zoar or the Lake Lillinonah sections of the Housatonic River.
NUSAR President Nick Kopcik said a main advantage of the new boat is high stability in the water, which provides for a safer diving platform.
Besides its underwater search and rescue roles, NUSAR divers find lost objects, perform light salvage work, and do evidence recovery for police. NUSAR also promotes water safety.