Blessing ceremony held for new coast guard station and CCGS Pachena Bay

Kwakiutl First Nation blesses the grand opening of the Canadian Coast Guard’s new Port Hardy base. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)Kwakiutl First Nation blesses the grand opening of the Canadian Coast Guard’s new Port Hardy base. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Vessel sponsor Donna Gault (far left) at the CCGS Pachena Bay christening ceremony. (Canadian Coast Guard Twitter photo)Vessel sponsor Donna Gault (far left) at the CCGS Pachena Bay christening ceremony. (Canadian Coast Guard Twitter photo)

Tuesday (Aug. 30) marked the grand opening celebration for the newly constructed Canadian Coast Guard Hardy Bay Base, as well as the dedication to service ceremony for the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Pachena Bay, which is now stationed at the new base in Port Hardy, British Columbia.

The Canadian Coast Guard worked closely with the Kwakiutl First Nation and the District of Port Hardy throughout the planning and construction of the new base. The Hardy Bay Base is a 16,000 square foot facility funded under the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan. The new building and property consist of office and meeting spaces; storage space for environmental response, vessels, and aids to navigation equipment; as well as a large drive-on floating dock for easy loading of specialized pollution response vessels and other Canadian Coast Guard ships. Included on-site is a mechanics workshop for small boat maintenance.

Two 17 foot ocean-themed totem poles, carved by Kwakiutl Master Carver Stan Hunt, welcome visitors at the front entrance to the facility. A third 32 foot totem pole, carved by Kwakiutl Chief Calvin Hunt, keeps watch on the ocean side of the facility, letting mariners know they are entering Kwakiutl traditional territory. In addition to the totem poles, Stan also carved a wall panel that hangs in the base’s main conference room.

The Canadian Coast Guard also held a dedication into service ceremony for the CCGS Pachena Bay, which included the traditional breaking of a ceremonial bottle on the ship’s bow. The CCGS Pachena Bay is a High Endurance Self-Righting lifeboat that has been operating in B.C. since 2019. The vessel is one of 20 lifeboats that were constructed and delivered under the National Shipbuilding Strategy to provide the Canadian Coast Guard with safe, modern, and Canadian-made equipment needed to deliver all Canadian Coast Guard programs and critical services on behalf of Canadians.

By tradition, a civilian is invited to sponsor a vessel for its well-being and continued service, and to wish the vessel good luck. The Canadian Coast Guard noted it was proud to have Port Hardy local Donna Gault as the sponsor for this vessel. Gault, who is a respected business owner, entrepreneur, and active volunteer in the surrounding communities of Mount Waddington and Port Hardy, said they asked her last April if she would be willing to accept the honour, and after researching the idea she immediately agreed, noting being a vessel sponsor is like being “a Godmother. It’s basically someone in the community where the ship is moored who acts as a conduit between the community and the coast guard, creating a connection.”

She officially christened the CCGS Pachena Bay, noting the only thing that scared her about doing it was she wasn’t sure if she’d have strength to get the bottle to break.

“I was told the worst thing that could happen is it doesn’t break and then the ship has bad luck, so I swung it as hard as I could and no one there had ever seen a bottle break so well,” she laughed.

As for the blessing ceremony of the new base, Gault added it was “most exciting,” and then noted she was thrilled to see that the Kwakiutl First Nation had a say in how the new base was built.

Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said that “The importance of this special new facility in Port Hardy, and the enhanced services the Canadian Coast Guard and CCG ships will help provide, reflect our close collaboration with Kwakiutl First Nation and the local community. The combined effort and partnership with First Nations and coastal communities will serve to keep mariners safer and the marine environment cleaner for years to come.”

Marc Peeler, Kwakiutl First Nation Member and Councillor, noted that “The Kwakiutl Elected Governance is pleased to have the Canadian Coast Guard Base completed and fully operational here in Port Hardy. Our BC Coastline is beautiful and rich in ecosystems that need protection from marine pollution and we look forward to improved emergency incident response. We value our partnership with CCG and look forward to many years of working together.”

“Together with our First Nation partners, the Canadian Coast Guards works to protect the safety of mariners and the environment,” added Mario Pelletier, Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard. “The opening of our new base in Port Hardy, equipped with the CCGS Pachena Bay, will help ensure local communities can safely and sustainability use our oceans and waterways.”


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