Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Society Station 36 (Sidney) crew chief Bill Chapeskie looks at the information on a GPS and radar display console. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Search and rescue open house Saturday in Sidney

New vessel on display; demos planned to raise public awareness of search and rescue volunteers

Local search and rescue crews and volunteers will officially welcome their new replacement vessel in Sidney on Saturday.

Station 36 of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Society hosts an open house May 20 from 10 a.m.m to 3 p.m. and while the focal point will be on their new rigid-hull boat, the John Simpson II, Brad McBride says they will be introducing people to local marine search and rescue services — some for the first time.

McBride is a volunteer at Station 36 and organizer of the open house this weekend. For years, he and his family simply boated along the coast of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Then he says he began to notice the boats of local marine search and rescue crews and one day in 2010, decided to contribute in some way. Today, he volunteers as a search and rescue operator on the John Simpson II — and its predecessor. The new vessel, McBride added, was built in Sidney by Titan Boats.

On Saturday, the mayors of Sidney and North Saanich will be at the Port Sidney Marina to officially launch the John Simpson II. No champagne will be involved, McBride joked. The vessel has actually been in service since December, 2016.

Following that ceremony at 10 a.m. search and rescue volunteers will offer tours of the vessel, answer people’s questions, serve cake and refreshments and possible conduct a water rescue demonstration. The SAR mascot – Rescue Bear – will be roaming the downtown area, letting people know about the open house.

McBride said one of the goals of the event is to raise the profile of local marine search and rescue. Station 36 currently has around 22 volunteers – from boat crew to the people who work with the society to raise money. McBride said the marine search and rescue on B.C.’s coast is not funded by the government and is not run by the Canadian Coast Guard, as it once was. Today, the service requires people’s donations to stay afloat.

“We tend to be one of the most closely-guarded secrets on the coast,” McBride said. “We thought it was time to reach out … and raise our profile in the community.”

As part of a large network of marine search and rescue volunteers in B.C. the local group responds to a variety of emergency calls on the water. McBride said they receive around four calls a month – which increase during the summer months when there are more people on the water. Those calls can range anywhere from vessel breakdowns to medical emergencies. They cover the waters around North Saanich and Sidney, essentially from Swartz Bay and Satellite Channel of the tip of Salt Spring Island, to Portland Island and down to James Island. McBride added they have responded to calls even further afield, as requested by the coast’s emergency response system.

Saturday’s open house takes place at the Port Sidney Marina, at the east end of Beacon Avenue (Sidney’s waterfront).

 

Crew members aboard Station 36’s rigid hull inflatible boat. The organization, which has a boathouse at the Canoe Cove Marina, rebranded from the Canadian Coast Guard Auxilary to the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Society years ago. (Submitted)