*This story first appeared in The Budget’s March 14, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
With an emphasis on strength, durability, and safety, local boat manufacturer Duck Water Boats is drawing upon nearly three decades of experience building high-quality hunting and fishing vessels to create rescue boats designed to meet the unique needs of first responders.
The Midvale-based company currently manufactures several different styles and sizes of all-welded aluminum rescue boats with a line that includes an 18-foot boat with a side gate and a 14-foot version with a retractable front gate, both of which can also be customized based on the needs of rescuers.
The 14-foot version has been purchased and put to use locally by the Leesville and the Warwick Township volunteer fire departments, and the company also built a customized rescue boat for the Dover Fire Department.
“We’re like Burger King – you can have it your way,” said company president and owner Steve Hoover. “Every single boat we do is customized, basically. Fire departments, if they say we need a boat this size, this width, this length, we can do that.”
In addition to selling rescue boats, which are always offered for a fair price, according to Hoover, the company is also willing to provide boats on loan to area fire departments to assist with rescue efforts during extreme flooding events.
“For us, it’s advertising, too, but it’s also a help in the community,” Hoover explained. “If they’re flooding out there, they need boats. They’ve gotta get people out. They’ve gotta get animals out. We’re not opposed to helping anybody when it comes to that.”
One of the company’s 18-foot rescue boats was recently made available to the Mineral City Volunteer Fire Department to assist with water rescues in an area where many properties and roads have been flooded by the rising waters of the Tuscarawas River.
Captain Jason Ely explained that the department already has an inflatable boat that is used for water rescue operations, however, the loaner will come in handy in scenarios where a second rescue boat is needed.
“Just in case we need it, we have an extra one,” he shared. “Steve’s is an all-aluminum boat, so if we were to get into a situation where there’s going to be a bunch of unknowns such as trees that are covered or anything that we can’t really see like what’s under the water, we are going to more than likely utilize Steve’s boat.”
Hoover noted that the boat was actually originally designed as a gator-hunting boat. “In the middle of the boat, there’s a door that flips down into the water. It actually has a crank system and the whole nine yards where you can lower it and crank it back up, and it locks itself back up in place and seals,” he explained. “You can run it through the water with this gate down even and no water comes into the boat.”
So far, the boat has been used mainly for training purposes and has yet to be put in the water for a rescue operation, according to Ely. He noted, however, that the department did bring the boat to the scene of one recent rescue operation.
“We had three boats on scene and never put a single one of them in the water,” Ely said of the joint response by the Bolivar and Mineral City fire departments. “The water was actually only waist-deep so a couple of guys put their water rescue suits on and just walked out to the guy.”
Ely noted that the recent flooding in the area is the worst he has seen since the 2005 flood that closed down state Route 800. “Since then, I could probably count on one hand the times we’ve been backed up, but not pushing the levels that we are right now,” he shared.
In addition to its rescue boats, the company also manufactures a wide variety of high-quality, aluminum hunting and fishing boats, with several different product lines available for different water conditions.
Hoover noted that the company recently launched a new series of boats known as the Bluewater line designed to compete with the fishing boats currently on the market. “It’s going to be more of a dual purpose boat, so if you’re a duck hunter or fisherman, this is going to be an ideal boat for you,” he explained. “It’s built of heavy-gauge aluminum with higher sides, and it has a flat- top deck instead of angled.”
Another new line of boats called the Back Bay, or BB, Series is currently in development. “What it’s going to do is lend itself to be able to even go to Lake Erie. It’s got more of a V-system. It’s going to have higher sides. It’s going to be all-welded,” Hoover explained. “You can get in a river, and you won’t have to worry about the boat rolling or anything like that. What’s nice about it is it still has our unique hull design where it only drafts six inches of water fully loaded.”
The company’s mainstay, however, continues to be its namesake. “We build duck boats of all sizes,” he said. “We can build anywhere from an 8-foot boat to a 32-foot boat.”
Hoover noted that the company’s duck boats come equipped with custom-fitted blinds, interior electrics and decoy curtains and, like all the boats produced by the company, are based on the designs of staff expert Harold M. Whitacre, III, a U.S. naval architect and marine engineer who works for the company remotely from Maryland.
To learn more about the company and its current product offerings, visit duckwaterboats.com. Anyone with specific questions is invited to call 330-602-9008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.