For years, the boat Mrs. Linda has been used to respond to hundreds of rescue calls in the upper Chesapeake Bay area. Now, the Bowley's Quarters Marine Emergency Team 21 is asking the community to respond to their call for help.
Mrs. Linda is the most utilized boat in their fleet of three, responding to 90% of the over 100 calls they get per year. It's named after the beloved wife of one of the team's founders, who passes away unexpectedly 2 years ago at the age of 62.
"Because she gave up so much time with her husband in order for him to get this program off the ground in the 1970s and 1980s, it's appropriately named Mrs. Linda," Captain Shannon Stallings said.
An ambulance on the water, the boat has been used to cover 90 sq. miles of the bay for 14 years. From fires to flooding and medical emergencies, now it's having an emergency of its own.
"It's taking on water every time we go," Stallings said.
It was never a true commercial rescue boat, just a converted fishing boat.
"Over the years, it's the best we could produce because of funding reasons," Stallings said.
The years of wear and tear, extra weight and mileage have taken it's toll.
"We're starting to see engine failures and break downs on a regular basis," Stallings said.
Mrs. Linda is ready to retire and the marine team is in the middle of raising enough money to replace it, not with another converted fishing boat, but with a commercially-built fire rescue vessel.
"Which is truly an all hazards vessel ... rain, snow, wind, flood, we're going to ba able to handle it," Stallings said.
The total price tag is $276,000 dollars. They already have $100,000 pledged. A state grant is matching $50,000 that the volunteer company is putting up: $40,000 from their emergency budget and $10,000 they hope to make by selling the old boat.
They qualify for another matching grant from the state totally $50,000 but they are out of money.
"So we are calling on all of our waterfront district businesses, homeowners and anyone who just believes in what we do to help us reach that $50,000 goal," Stallings said.
For the next 50 days, they are collecting donations to meet that goal. They hope the remaining $76,000 can come from the county. Stallings said they tried to ask the county and state for funding, instead of having to reach out to the community, but because of current laws, there isn't any money allocated for this sort of thing and the volunteer organization is a non-profit which relies on donations. Stallings is looking into laws to get this changed so that when the time comes to replace their other boats, (the larger one is also just a converted fishing boat), he doesn't have to do this all over again.
"My days of converting fishing boats into fire boats is over. That presents operational challenges to not only the rescuers but to try and get victims on and off and make them comfortable during an incident," Stallings said. "But in the mean time, we can't wait for that [law change]."
They hope they can raise the money to ensure they can continue to respond across the bay and keep Mrs. Linda's legacy alive on Mrs. Linda II.
"Knowing that we're upgrading to something that's going to better serve out community, I'm not going to miss it one bit," Stallings said.
The matching fundraiser starts Wednesday for 50 days, or until they raise $50,000. In the meantime, they will continue to use their larger and smaller boats to respond to emergencies, but Stallings says their responses may be severely limited without the versatile boat.