The 50-foot catamaran “Liston ‘Huntie’ Sprauve” ambulance boat shines in the sun at the Cruz Bay Creek on Saturday morning, April 9, as officials gathered to officially commission the new vessel, which was designed and constructed on St. Croix by Gold Coast Yachts.
Steel pan music rang in the air as the territory’s top brass and about 100 residents gathered at the Cruz Bay Creek to commission the brand new St. John ambulance boat on Saturday morning, April 9.
Designed and built on St. Croix by Gold Coast Yachts, the Liston ‘Huntie’ Sprauve ambulance boat was officially commissioned — replete with a champagne bottle smashing — by the boat captain after whom the vessel’s name was taken.
The St. John community was responsible for naming the vessel. Department of Health officials hosted a “name the ambulance boat” initiative in March and Sprauve’s name was the overwhelming choice, according to officials.
The 50-foot catamaran is powered by twin 425-hp QSB motors capable of propelling the vessel to a top speed of 29.5 knots, literally leaving the bulking old Star of Life in its shiny wake.
While it took years for the island of St. John to welcome a new ambulance boat, it took Gold Coast Yachts only 10 months to produce the state-of-the-art vessel once it won the government contract.
Truly an emergency room afloat, the vessel was hailed as a key step to providing St. John with reliable access to emergency medical services.
“The St. John community has waited a long time for this day,” said Department of Health Acting Commissioner Fern Clarke. “And they let us know it. Some of the names suggested for the vessel were ‘A Long Time Coming,’ ‘At Last’ and ‘Patience.’”
Governor John deJongh congratulates Captain Liston Sprauve and officially commissions the new St. John Ambulance boat the “Liston ‘Huntie’ Sprauve.”
“To the St. John community — we heard your pleas,” said Clarke.
Sponsor of the bill which financed the new ambulance boat, Senator Alvin Williams said he couldn’t have realized the new vessel by himself.
“You can’t get anything done alone,” said the senator. “We heard the cry of the people and moved aggressively with my colleagues to get the $800,000 in the budget for this boat. And the governor moved post haste to ensure this became a reality.”
While the new vessel will be able to safely and comfortably transport patients to needed medical care on St. Thomas, there remain serious gaps in emergency services on St. John, Williams added.
“We need an ambulance in Coral Bay,” he said. “When there is an emergency on that side of the island, patients are forced to wait up to an hour for an ambulance to arrive. We know that and we continue to work aggressively to meet the needs of the island of St. John.”
Being able to celebrate the new vessel the day “glorious,” according to DOH Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Selwyn Mahon.
“Normally when EMS are around, it is a stressful time,” said Mahon. “It’s nice to be here to celebrate with you. It is our mission to provide optimum emergency care for the people of the Virgin Islands and having a reliable ambulance boat is essential for the island of St. John.”
The vessel is a more than just a newly built boat, explained Lieutenant Governor Greg Francis.
“This represents a sparkling gem in the crown of the improving healthcare system in the Virgin Islands,” said Francis.
Lt. Gov. Francis also urged residents to make sure the vessel stays in its current pristine condition.
“People will be curious, but you must be the eyes and ears,” said Francis. “If you see something suspicious, don’t wait for someone else, just call 911.”
The huge crowd attending the vessel commissioning ceremony was testament to the importance of having reliable emergency transportation, explained Governor John deJongh.
“It’s tremendous to see the entire St. John community come out this morning,” said deJongh. “This vessel represents our commitment to the people who said ‘It took too long.’ This represents our commitment to ensuring quality services on St. John.”
“We also acknowledge a son of St. John who has been part of public health and serving the community for decades,” said the governor. “We went to the public to ask what we should name the vessel. We got many responses, but one stood out who represented service and represented medical service whom we should overwhelmingly name the boat after.”
Captain Liston “Huntie” Sprauve has worked on St. John ambulance vessels since 1971, when he started out as coxswain under his aunt Elaine Sprauve, assistant to St. John Administrator, when the service was under that jurisdiction. The ambulance boat was eventually placed under the jurisdiction of DOH, which named Sprauve Ambulance Boat Supervisor in 1991.
Looking forward to retirement in June, Sprauve was thrilled to see a new ambulance boat finally at dock on St. John waiting to transport patients in safety and comfort.
“I am very humbled by this,” said Sprauve. “I thought this day would never get here. I am very proud and very happy for the community to have a vessel that can safely and comfortably transport patients.”
“I will do my best to keep the vessel in the shape it is today,” said Sprauve.
And with that, Captain Sprauve joined Governor deJongh and broke a bottle of Andre Brut — giving himself a small cut on his hand; aptly the first patient aboard the vessel — over the bow of the brand new “Liston ‘Huntie’ Sprauve” ambulance boat.