PORT McNEILL—After taking their brand-new rescue boat for its first test drive Saturday, members of the local Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue unit were rendered nearly speechless.
“Wow,” RCM-SAR Unit 50 member Jon Lok provided by way of review. “The North Island just got a lot safer.”
The 29-foot, rigid-hull inflatable craft was funded by the Province of British Columbia through gaming grants accumulated over the course of the last three years, said Aaron Frost, RCM-SAR 50 commander.
The grants were awarded to the Port McNeill Marine Rescue Society, which was formed to provide material and financial support to the SAR unit. Formerly known as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary — though it never had an actual affiliation with the Coast Guard — RCM-SAR provides support during marine and coastal search and rescue missions across a wide swath of the Northern Vancouver Island and Mainland B.C. coasts.
The new craft replaces an outdated rigid-hull inflatable provided on loan to the local unit.
“We estimate the total cost at $350,000,” Frost said of the new boat. “But that’s fully equipped, ready to rock.”
And equipped it is. The vessel fairly bristles with modern electronics, with touch-screens covering propulsion, navigation and communications for its minimum crew of three. It boasts radar, GPS and an AIS system for identifying other registered vessels in its vicinity.
Other features include expanded storage and a full-suspension cab with heat and retractable side walls for protection from the elements.
“We can travel through six-foot seas with little feeling in the cab at all,” said Frost. “The shock system will actually absorb anything.”
Unit members proved it during a series of exercises Sunday in and around Port McNeill Harbour, at one point running at 40 knots across the bow wake of the ferry from Sointula without any noticeable jarring or bouncing.
“It’s more than I expected,” Lok said.
The boat, powered by twin 250-horsepower Yamaha motors, runs at 37 knots an hour on a call, with a top speed of 44 knots. It’s not cheap to operate, however.
“She’s a big boat,” Frost said. “She takes a lot of fuel. It takes 700 litres for a full tank, and we can burn around 100 litres an hour at full speed.”