By Merv Unger
April 23, 2018
Summer may be a little slow to arrive for some people, but once the sun makes a regular appearance people head to the water – on it or in it. And that means being ready.
The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station in Nanaimo works year round training, teaching and conducting rescue missions. In 2017, volunteers invested 1,752 hours in all aspects of keeping local residents safe in an on the water.
In 2017, Nanaimo’s Station 27 had 69 “taskings” where crews and rescue boats respond to incidents on the water. Those calls involved 29 motor and 19 sailing vessels at sea. Crews also assisted seven human-powered watercraft and 14 other missions with about 150 on the water. Crew volunteers invested 686 hours over all in training while support volunteers put in more than 900 hours.
A cursory glance over the type of callouts includes things like mechanical breakdowns or boats taking on water and assisting disabled boats, person in the water, and special events like last summer’s Tribal Journey. Some are relatively simple, like clam diggers stranded when the tide comes in, a person missing off a ferry, a lost disoriented senior, swamped canoe, and an overloaded herring boat. Sometimes there are calls from passengers on ferries believing they spotted a body floating on the ocean.
No call is unimportant. It’s better to respond to a false alarm than to miss a life-threatening incident.
Marine rescue doesn’t just respond to emergencies. They work to prevent them to make sure families and children make it home safely after a day on the water. One of the public support services of RCMSAR is boating safety information, pleasure craft safety checks, and a loaner program for kids’ lifejackets at many docks and marinas in the “Kids Don’t Float” program.
Not sure what safety gear you need? Station 27 offers free safety checks for small craft operators. Members visit boats at the dock and conduct courtesy checks. They’ll make sure you have the safety equipment you need to comply with regulations and stay safe in the environment where you’ll be boating. They will give you an inspection sticker, with emergency numbers, to stick on you boat.
It’s free, quick, and confidential. Watch for volunteers and signs at local marinas, or call RCMSAR for more information.
RCMSAR volunteers promote on-water safety by participating in community events, like the recent Nanaimo Boat Show and Stones Shipyard open house. Crews attend with their vessels and equipment and also have land-based mobile displays and volunteers who talk about SAR prevention and safety on the water.
Aside from the Nanaimo station’s activities, RCMSAR serves the entire coast. Over all, they had 711 total taskings involving 78,767 volunteer hours with 538 people assisted during the year by the 1,104 volunteers.