The only college maritime rescue team in the country
The Eckerd College Search and Rescue Team (EC-SAR) is a highly trained group of student volunteers who work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, 911 Emergency Medical Response and other state and local agencies to answer more than 500 maritime distress calls per year.
EC-SAR is one of the most unique co-curricular programs available to full-time, degree seeking Eckerd students. It cannot be experienced at any other educational institution in the U.S.!
Team members are trained in:
- technical rescue
- boating safety
- fire fighting
- medical response
- piloting rescue vessels
Under the direction of professionally trained staff members, students coordinate the utilization of four rescue boats and an operations/communications center to save lives and property on a daily basis.
HWH Electronics is a sponsor of EC-SAR and is “committed to providing the most advanced communication, navigation, satellite, safety, and entertainment systems. We pride ourselves in educating customers about boater safety, and making sure you stay up-to-date on innovative marine technology systems.”
Eckerd College Search and Rescue received the Meritorious Public Service award from the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast for 48 years of service. Photo: Hunter Blencowe ’19
The team was founded in 1971 in an effort to provide safety services for the college’s watersports activities. In 1977, EC-SAR extended its rescue services to the Tampa Bay boating community. EC-SAR received its first test of international proportions when the team was one of the first rescue units to respond to the Skyway Bridge disaster in May of 1980. The program has since grown to become one of the most respected search and rescue organizations on the west coast of Florida.
Historical television footage shows how the well-respected EC-SAR program has conducted rescue operations over the decades.
We invite you to contact us and arrange a tour of our facilities and an opportunity to meet some of our students. Group multi-media presentations at your meeting and in-water demonstrations are also available. If you are interested in attending Eckerd College and would like to learn more about becoming a member of EC-SAR, we encourage you to contact us. Please call or write to our address below:
Asst. Director of Waterfront for EC-SAR
Eckerd College Waterfront Program
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
(727) 864-8288 or
EC-SAR is a highly motivated group of volunteer students who are dedicated to serving the community. Although students do not receive pay or academic credit for their participation, intrinsic rewards and the opportunity to learn and practice unique skills are the motivators for membership.
Members volunteer 12-15 hours each week for training, meetings, and equipment repair. In addition, students are on call for one 24-hour period every three days. They patrol the waters of Tampa Bay on weekends, and they monitor radio calls during the evenings.
Team Staff monitor every student’s academic performance, as this is each student’s first priority. The program’s staff helps students learn to manage their time so that EC-SAR does not cause a conflict with their academic life and students are able to fulfill their commitment to the team.
The high expectations placed upon members elevates the commitment level among students, and introduces a level of camaraderie, pride, and performance that has allowed the program to earn its reputation as being of the highest quality. Participation as a student member of EC-SAR develops maturity and discipline, and instills a commitment to volunteerism that will benefit their community after graduation.
EC-SAR students train rigorously in a program designed to build both skill and conceptual understanding of the procedures used in maritime search and rescue.
Each member participates in an intensive, nine-month training program designed to develop a standard proficiency level in the basic skills:
- Phase I, II, and III: Required progression for all first year team members covering basic seamanship, marlinespike, and rescue techniques.
- Second Mate: Further development into advanced rescue techniques.
After completing these sequences of training, interested members may then pursue specialized training in:
- First Mate: Go aboard vessels we assist, lead crew and run deck aboard SRU.
- First Responder: Provide first aid to stabilize and transport injured persons to paramedics.
- Coxswain: Pilot single outboards on cases of lower complexity.
- Boat Captain: Pilot larger rescue vessels on more complex cases.
Students also learn how to function in our Operations/Communication center:
- Radio Operator: Monitors VHF, 800mHz, and phone communications. Assists in the completion of computerized case records.
- Operations Coordinator: Supervise the Operations/Communications center and assist the SAR Coordinator in decision-making and case progression.
The first Phase of training is complete as a trial to full team membership. Upon successful completion of Phase I, trainees are invited to sign a one-year service contract to continue their participation.
- Tampa and Boca Ciega Bay (Surrounding waters of Southern Pinellas County)
- Northern Boundary – John’s Pass: 27º48.50 N
- Southern Boundary – Longboat Pass: 27º26.00 N
- Approximately 10 miles offshore into the Gulf of Mexico: 082º55.70
All Services are Free of Charge, Offered 24 Hours/Day, 7 Days/Week
- Towing to Nearest Safe Mooring
- Search and Rescue Services
- Coordinating Searches for missing persons or overdue vessels
- Dewatering sinking vessels
- Pulling vessels from aground
- Responding to Pinellas County 9-1-1, Maritime Rescue Calls as a Basic Life Support Provider (BLS) in EC-SAR’s service area.
How to Contact EC-SAR
- (727) 864-8256 – Press 3 when prompted after hours.
- VHF 16/68
- Through Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg
- Specify “Eckerd College Search and Rescue”
Information to Give EC-SAR
- Nature of Distress
- Number of Persons on Board
- Description of Vessel
- VHF Channel or Phone number for Recontact