Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund Grant Improves Comfort, Safety for Marine Patrol
Marine Patrol Specialist Corrie Roberts sports a drysuit courtesy of a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund Grant.
Rockland - With a grant of $11,000 from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and matching funds of $3,352.75 from the Department of Marine Resources, the Maine Marine Patrol has acquired 15 dry suits to be worn in the dangerous on-deck situations that Officers often encounter at work.
The suits, manufactured by paddle sport apparel and gear maker Kokatat, provide Marine Patrol Officers a more comfortable option for protection against the elements and the potential for immersion in icy Atlantic waters.
"While conducting marine resource inspections and other watercraft based law enforcement activities, officers are required to move from patrol vessels to other vessels and docks, in unstable and slippery conditions," said Marine Patrol Officer Matthew Wyman. "It is not uncommon for an Officer to be thrown off balance, to lose safe footing, or even to fall while performing these tasks."
A 2015 incident highlights the exposure to risk Marine Patrol Officers face. Marine Patrol Sergeant Matthew Talbot and Specialist Corrie Roberts received a report of a lobster fishing vessel circling out of control near Owls Head as the operator had become incapacitated. In 3-4 seas and 20 knot winds, Sergeant Talbot brought the Patrol Vessel close enough so Specialist Roberts could jump aboard the fishing vessel and gain control. "This high-risk scenario is one in which both Officers would have benefited from wearing a dry suit," said Wyman.
"The risk of falling into the water and being placed in a cold-water survival situation is constantly present," said Wyman. "Dry suits worn in conjunction with a personal floatation device (PFD) reduce the chance of an MPO becoming seriously injured during a cold-water immersion."
The suits, known as the Boat Crew Dry Suit, replace bulkier survival suits. While Marine Patrol trains to put on the survival suit in difficult situations, it still takes time which is valuable in difficult at-sea scenarios, and they are not comfortable for all-day use.
The dry suits are designed to be worn while working on deck and include pockets, handwarmers and belt loops to accommodate a gun belt. They are made with breathable, waterproof Goretex and can be worn with an insulating layer underneath or over the top.
"You can work all day long in these things" said Specialist Roberts. "These are comfortable to be in, so if you're working in rough conditions, in search and rescue situations, or if you're boarding a boat where there's a chance you could go in the water, you're totally comfortable."
This project was funded in part by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, in which proceeds from the sale of a dedicated instant lottery ticket are used to support outdoor recreation and natural resources conservation. For more information about MOHF, visit https://www.maine.gov/ifw/.