By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Shrewsbury – During the summer months, hundreds of boating enthusiasts flock to the beautiful Lake Quinsigamond on a regular basis. On occasion, just like motorists, some of those boaters may find themselves running into a little bit of mechanical trouble. It's one thing to be stuck on the side of the road; it's quite another to be stuck in the middle of a 4-mile long lake. But luckily there is help available in the form of the Water Rescue Safety Patrol (WRSP).
This group, led by CEO and founder Bill Latimer, along with assistance from Glenn Wians and Joe Apicella, patrol the water every weekend through Memorial Day through Labor Day. The men are often are out on the lake during other months as well, because as Latimer said, “We love to go boating too.”
The WRSP is part of the non-profit Worcester County Search & Rescue Team, which Latimer founded in March 2004. The all-volunteer group, which is based in Holden, also specializes in logistical support and active safety patrols for water rescue, mountain rescue, and land rescue when disasters such as hurricanes strike an area.
The WRSP unit was formed in 2005 as a way to help alleviate some of the calls that either the Shrewsbury or Worcester Police Departments would get from stranded boaters.
“We went before the Lake Quinsigamond Commission with our proposal,” Latimer recalled. “Former Shrewsbury Police Chief Wayne Sampson was totally supportive of it. We were given the approval by the commission with a one year probation- it was so successful we have been doing this ever since then.”
The group is not officially affiliated with the Coast Guard or other groups, although their members may be part of those organizations as well. It is also not a law enforcement unit, Latimer stressed, but they do advise boaters of applicable laws and regulations concerning boating safety if need be.
On weekends, the patrol is based out of the Donahue Rowing Center (DNC), 237 North Quinsigamond Ave., in Shrewsbury. When boaters leave the main dock at the DNC they are given a business card with a phone number (508-414-7676) they can call in case of an emergency.
Most of the calls the group receives are from boaters who run out of gas or are having engine trouble. The patrol will give them a jump start or tow them back to the dock.
“We probably do about 50- to 60 tows a season,” Latimer said.
“We don's charge anything [for services]. Our only concern is to get people back to safety,” Latimer said.
The unit also regularly patrols the lake to offer assistance to those who may not know about the WRSP or are too embarrassed to ask for help.
“Most people are just so happy to see us – it can be really scary to be on the water and then not be able to get moving. One woman was so happy to see me she called me her “Boat Angel,”” ?Wians noted. “This is fun for us – besides helping out we get to meet a lot of nice people, too.”
Stranded boaters can still call the team even if it is not an official time they are on duty.
“We have some great homeowners who live on the lake who we can call and ask to go out and help,” Latimer said.
The group also offers boating safety classes and free vessel checks on the lake.
Latimer praised the work of his fellow volunteers.
“Glenn is awesome – he has been one of our longest serving volunteers,” he said. “Joe has always been very active in helping to organize our efforts too. They both do a great job.”
“I's be out on the water anyways,” Wians said. “So I am happy to help people who need it so they can enjoy the lake, too.”
For more information go to www.wcsarteam.com where you can also download maps of the lake.