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Keyport-based sheriff's boat cuts down water response time

The 33-foot SAFE boat cost about $400,000 and is the newest of three boats that the Kitsap County Sheriff
The 33-foot SAFE boat cost about $400,000 and is the newest of three boats that the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office uses for water rescue and patrols.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

When a kayak tips over in Kingston, help can get there quicker.

Monday marked the beginning of an agreement between the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Navy, allowing deputies to moor a boat Naval Base Kitsap — Keyport to help cut response time on the water to Central and North Kitsap. It may be the first such agreement in Kitsap, and elsewhere, but it might not be the last.

The Sheriff's office will keep one of its three boats in Keyport — about 12 miles north from its former housing at the Port Orchard Marina.

It's the first agreement between military and civilian authorities of its kind, officials said, and will reduce the time and energy spent when deputies are called for a water rescue or boating accident.

For a county with more than 200 miles of shoreline, response time can vary depending on where in the county responders come from and the new location will cut response times up to 60 percent, said Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office.

Wilson said sheriff's deputies are frequently called to the Hood Canal, a trip that took a lot longer from South Kitsap.

In those cases, deputies would have to drive to the Port Orchard Marina — where the other two boats are still housed — resulting in long travel times and fuel being wasted by driving at full power.

The military is not charging the sheriff's office for the space, Wilson said.

Kitsap County Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville brought up the idea of keeping the boat on the military base. Now the agreement is being hailed as the first of its kind.

Captain Mark Olson, the commanding officer for Naval Base Kitsap, said that once Bonneville brought up the idea, he and his staff tried to find an example of a similar partnership elsewhere, but there was none.

"It just made sense," he said, adding that he wants to see similar efforts in the future.

Future cooperative agreements are already in the works, said Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer.

He said his office and the U.S. Navy have been working on an agreement to allow the moorage of another boat at the submarine base at Bangor.

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