Volunteers who keep watch over those who use the waters off White Rock and Crescent beaches are now doing it under a new name – and will soon be doing it in a new vessel.
Sig Kristensen, of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue 5 (formerly Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Crescent Unit 5), confirmed a deal to replace the team’s rescue vessel, Vigilant, was signed May 25.
It’s hoped the new equipment will be in place by the end of the year.
“Construction of the vessel will be started sometime in July,” Kristensen said. “We’re pretty excited about that. We’ll have to kick our fundraiser efforts into high gear.”
Unit members have been eying a new vessel for some time. They’ve used Vigilant – a rigid-hull inflatable – in about 400 taskings over the past 12 years, after raising more than $140,000 to get it in the water. The community was a huge part of that fundraising effort, with various organizations getting onboard to help, including the Peace Arch Rotary Club, which pitched in $50,000.
Kristensen is optimistic fundraising for the new vessel will go as smoothly, and is confident the recent rebranding of the marine rescue team will go a long way in easing the effort.
“Most people think… we’re civil servants. We’re all volunteers,” he said. “We’ve gone to people looking for some donations and they say, ‘why should we donate to you guys? You’re government.’”
The new name of the Pacific-region auxiliary was announced May 26, during a search and rescue exercise in Horseshoe Bay. Five members of the local crew joined the event, participating in navigation, communication, seamanship and first aid exercises.
RCM-SAR president Randy Strandt said in a statement that the new name recognizes the distinct identity of the service.
“We work very closely with the Canadian Coast Guard, but we are a totally separate organization,” Strandt said.
The title “Royal” was granted by Queen Elizabeth in February, a move Kristensen suspects is connected to the fact that the auxiliary was one of 26 charitable organizations named to benefit from a fund set up by Prince William and Kate Middleton last year to accept donations in lieu of wedding gifts.
“Him being a (SAR helicopter) pilot didn’t hurt,” Kristensen added.
Kristensen said another benefit of the auxiliary’s rebranding is standardization of the vessels used. Historically, the various units have sought out and purchased their own boats for their teams. With standardization, three types of boat will be used across the region, meaning replacement parts will be more readily available for any necessary repairs.
It was a benefit the local team didn’t have last year, when the Vigilant broke down.
“We were down for two months,” said Kristensen, who was on the committee that helped design the boat his unit will be receiving.
Like the Vigilant, the new vessel will not be enclosed. Upgrades will include updated technology and shocks, the latter of which will be most noticed when the crew is out on rough water.
“From a fatigue factor… that should take a lot of that pounding out of the equation,” Kristensen said.
He estimated the new vessel will cost between $325,000 and $350,000. About one-quarter of that, $85,000, has been received from gaming funds.
The next fundraiser for the cause, a golf tournament, is coming up June 21. To get involved or to donate, contact Dan Savage at 604-531-8963.