Freezing water rescues may be rare in Kansas, but one type of boat commonly used to assist the law enforcement in frigid waters is common in Gardner.
In a small warehouse space at 809 E. Warren Street, the boats are manufactured, one at a time, by Midwest Rescue Airboats.
Last week, the Gardner company was preparing to ship a completed boat to Boston where it will be used by the Boston Fire Department for patrol and rescue in the harbor near Boston’s Logan Airport.
Matt and Cathy Cain, Eudora, didn’t set out to build commercial boats. Matt’s first boat building efforts were for personal use.
“Everyone saw the concept and said you ought to be doing this for business,” Cathy said.
In 2006, they built their first commercial ice rescue boat. They moved their business, which is the only commercial manufacturer of ice rescue airboats in the U.S., to Gardner in 2012.
“When we first started out, we sunk one of our first versions,” Cathy said. “After that we went to a totally different structure.”
The company’s ice rescue boats are built using proprietary technology that includes heated aluminum cabins for roll-over protection, and completely sealed aluminum hull. Cathy said there are patents pending on the designs.
“The hardest thing we do is keeping our trade secrets,” Cathy explained. “We’re not the type of company that exposes what we do through pictures on the internet.”
Though Cathy declined to say exactly how they construct the boats, their warehouse space includes mechanical lifts and welding equipment. It’s largely a three-person operation.
When the boats are completed, the group conducts testing on local waters like Hillsdale and Clinton Lakes.
Cathy serves as the director of sales. Matt is the director of research and development, and their nephew, Brian Cain, Gardner, serves as the director of manufacturing. Together, they custom design and build between three and a dozen boats each year. The boats are shipped all over the country to a variety of clients including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Kansas City Fire Department. Their most recent build left for Boston on June 21. It arrived June 24.
The custom job includes a two-person cockpit, complete with Garmin global positioning satellite systems, flashing lights, night-vision cameras and a cargo hold that can ferry equipment or injured passengers through the icy waters of the Boston Harbor.
The Cains will provide in-person training for the boat and its systems and mechanics once the craft arrives.
When they return home to Gardner, they’ll begin their first international build – a boat for a Chinese company.
For more information about the company, visit LINK.