If you own a boat, canoe or kayak, or spend any time on the water you will be well aware that if you are in trouble you can use channel 16 on your VHF radio or call *16 on your cell phone for assistance. You will be speaking with the Canadian Coast Guard who will act immediately and dispatch help to you within minutes.
The first responders on the scene are likely to be Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR) volunteer crew members who will have dropped what they are doing and hightailed it to their station, loaded the boat with rescue and medical gear, donned survival suits and headed out to the reported location within 15 minutes of a call.
Volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Until last year RCM-SAR was called the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which many people thought was a branch of the Coast Guard. While RCM-SAR works closely with the Coast Guard, it is in fact an entirely separate organization staffed by volunteers and funded through charitable donations.
The Gibsons unit, continually serving the local community for 35 years, has about 15 active volunteers who are collectively engaged for about 1,000 hours a year on RCM-SAR work, 300 of which are on rescue missions. Training takes place every week, sometimes twice a week.
The unit is well supported by the community, which recognizes the value of its services, and it has received grants from the BC Gaming Commission, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, the Gibsons Landing Harbour Authority and Sunshine Coast Rotary Club.
The Gibsons nine-metre rigid inflatable boat was purchased 10 years ago with significant community financial support, but it is now aging and due for replacement.
A new advanced craft will enable the Gibsons volunteers to maintain their speed of response and quality of service to the community. New developments in boat design will both improve crew safety and increase rescue efficiency.
The unit’s goal is $300,000 and as part of the fundraising effort, they have registered with the Sunshine Coast Credit Union’s ChangeIt program, an innovative and easy way to round up debit card purchases with the few cents of the “rounded up” amount going to RCM-SAR in Gibsons. For more details see: www.sunshineccu.com/Personal/InOurCommunity/CommunitySupport/ChangeIt.