East End Marine Task Force christens high-tech boat

Deputy Sheriff Marco Calise demonstrates a fire monitor Deputy Sheriff Marco Calise demonstrates a fire monitor after a commissioning ceremony for Marine 41 at the Coast Guard station in Hampton Bays. (Aug. 22, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

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A 41-foot aluminum boat commissioned last week has a wide range of rescue, enforcement and firefighting capabilities.

But what makes the craft unique on Long Island is its ability to test for radioactive, chemical, biological and explosive hazards without endangering the crew, officials said.

Marine 41 was christened Thursday at the Shinnecock Coast Guard Station in Hampton Bays by Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco with the traditional bottle of champagne broken over the bow. The craft was purchased by his department with a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While the boat will be maintained by the sheriff's office, it will be shared with the other 17 members of the 6-year-old East End Marine Task Force, which includes the Coast Guard, several state enforcement agencies, and town and village police departments.

"This boat is probably the best-equipped boat in this region," said Sgt. John Andrejack, commanding officer of the Sheriff's Office Marine Unit.

"It's a fine-looking boat," said Capt. Edward J. Cubanski III, the new commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. "It provides response capability for natural and man-made disasters . . . with state-of-the-art technology." He said it would "prevent tragic deaths."

Marine 41 -- the fifth vessel and flagship of the sheriff's fleet -- was delivered in February. After sea trials, it conducted side-scan sonar searches for lost equipment from superstorm Sandy and, during the July Fourth holiday weekend, it was used in a joint homeland security operation organized by the state in which 40 foreign vessels were boarded and their documentation checked.

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The craft's most unusual feature is an airtight cabin with a high-tech filtration system to keep contaminants from seeping in.

The portable hazardous materials detection equipment funded by the grant can pick up traces of deadly gases, including hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, chlorine, ammonia and others often used in ships' systems or carried as cargo, Andrejack said. The detectors can be used outside the cabin or inside, drawing samples from inside through small ports so the crew remains isolated.

Marine 41 boasts many other high-tech features, such as the ability to be controlled by a computer-style mouse shaped like a small boat, as well as a joystick.

"The mouse makes it very easy to operate" and is particularly valuable because personnel from a variety of agencies will be sharing the boat, Andrejack said.

Besides side-scan sonar, Marine 41 is equipped with infrared search cameras. And the cabin is equipped with an oxygen supply, a defibrillator and other EMT equipment.

In addition, the boat has a 2,000-gallon-per-minute firefighting capability with two large monitors, or nozzles, mounted on deck.

Rather than traditional propellers and a rudder, Marine 41 is powered and steered by a jet drive that allows speeds topping 40 mph. The jet drive shoots out a column of water and allows the boat to operate in less than 3 feet of water -- valuable in shallow South Shore and East End bays.

The boat and its equipment was considered so necessary for the East End that FEMA gave the grant application its highest rating, Andrejack said. "The citizens of the East End deserve this kind of equipment for their protection," he said.

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