Water rescue crews say gas prices are sinking their budgets

March 10, 2011 

  • Beaufort Water Search and Rescue and Fripp Island Sea Rescue are co-hosting their annual golf tournament March 19 at the Ocean Creek Golf Course on Fripp Island.

    The entry fee is $75 per player, which includes cart, range balls, prizes and lunch, according to organizers.

    The entry deadline is Monday.

    Tournament information: Contact Ted Michals at 843-838-5788.

    Beaufort Water Search information: www.bwsar.org.

Motorists aren't the only ones feeling pinched at the pump.

With warm weather on the way, the area's all-volunteer water rescue squadrons could feel the brunt of rising gasoline prices, their officials say.

"We're very concerned," said Doyle Clifton, Beaufort Water Search and Rescue's second mate. "The majority of our missions, fuel is the only cost. (Fuel prices) are a real concern for us, but we're going to pay what we have to pay for fuel."

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue, which receives about $8,000 to $9,000 from Beaufort County each year, responds to maritime emergencies from the entrance of St. Helena Sound to Daufuskie Island and as far inland "as we can get a boat," Clifton said.

Regionally, gasoline prices are up about 75 cents per gallon compared to this time last year, according to AAA Carolinas.

Clifton said spiking fuel prices are an especially pressing concern for their 35-member squadron because of the poor fuel economy the unit's boats typically get on the water. The squadron responds to between 60 and 70 calls for help from boaters each boating season, Clifton said.

"Most boats only get about two miles per gallon," Clifton said. "We'll try to launch from a landing that is as close to the incident as we can and that seems to have helped, but the boats typically get pretty horrible gas mileage."

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue and Fripp Island Sea Rescue hope to offset the rising cost of fuel with money raised from their annual golf tournament next week at Fripp Island's Ocean Creek golf course.

Paul Field, skipper for Fripp Island Sea Rescue, said money from the fundraiser will help pay for fuel, which typically accounts for 10 to 15 percent of his unit's $6,000 to $8,000 annual operating budget.

"It's not a large portion of our budget but it's going to go up this year," Field said. "It's going to cost us more this year for fuel. There's no doubt about that. We don't want to spend a penny more than we have to but we're going to pay whatever we have to pay to keep people safe. It's a matter of safety."

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