May 9, 2023
Saving lives on the water is the official motto of Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue (RCM-SAR), the not-for-profit volunteer-based organization that operates more than 30 marine rescue stations along the coast of British Columbia.
Sheryl Eaton, the treasurer for one of the stations—Station 59—which operates out of Deep Bay, says being part of RCM-SAR Is a big commitment, but one that is very rewarding.
When a boater in this area gets into trouble and calls the Canada Coast Guard (CCG Victoria), the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria is informed, and a decision is made which RCM-SAR station is best positioned to be of assistance.
Unit 59 currently has nine active members on their crew, three administrative members and five new members, and this station responds to between 15 and 20 missions a year. Their unit is tasked for marine rescue on the waters from Qualicum Beach and Lasqueti Island, then north to the area surrounding Denman and Hornby islands. Their average response time is 20 minutes, from the time they are called to dock departure.
First Credit Union recently donated $3,000 toward the purchase of a set of SALUS SAR 770 Rescue Vests for the volunteers at Unit 59.
“This rescue vest is specifically designed for marine rescue personnel,” explains Dale Skoreyko, Station Leader with RCM-SAR. “It provides excellent buoyancy and several work vest pockets that can handle all the equipment our crew needs to carry out their various duties. It is also equipped with an easy access harness attachment to keep crew safe when working on our outer deck, or on the stricken vessel.”
Without community support like this their organization wouldn’t exist, Sheryl says. “Everything has an age associated with it, whether it's a life jacket, survival suit, or a safety vest.” And in order to be effective when someone is in trouble, the unit needs to have up-to-date equipment and gear.
Education is another important aspect of the services the group provides, Dale adds. “Prior to COVID we would present information called The River Never Sleeps at local fairs. We also conduct Pleasure Craft Safety Checks for recreational boaters. The boat inspection program is meant to assist boaters to ensure their safety gear is generally at a legal acceptable level and condition according to the size of their boat.”
RCM-SAR is always looking for people who are interested in joining the crew, and anyone looking to get involved can find out more at https://www.unit59.ca/service/volunteer/
. It’s an exciting, challenging role with a tight-knit community of members, but their website emphasizes that it’s not for everyone.
“You need to be skilled, brave and tough. But if you have the character and commitment, we will give you all the tools, training and support you need to succeed as a search and rescue crew member.”
Learning what she has as a member of RCM-SAR, Sheryl says, has made her much more confident on the water. “And for boaters, knowing that there is help somewhere if it’s needed, is worth its weight in gold.”
Written by: Emma Levez Larocque