PORT McNEILL—The local Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary chapter no longer exists.
But the volunteers remain on call, providing the same rescue support and training service under a new name.
“We never were a part of the Canadian Coast Guard, and that’s been the misperception,” said Aaron Frost, station leader for the Port McNeill station of the newly formed Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.
Functionally, the new organization will not differ from the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, which was established in 1997 in a consolidation of various Canadian volunteer marine search and rescue groups.
The local crews will still respond to calls for assistance from the Coast Guard, through the Victoria-based Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, and will still provide boat inspections, share marine and boating information and provide testing for Pleasure Craft Operators’ Certificates.
But RCM-SAR equipment will eventually transition to a new look and a new logo as it is replaced and updated, and the status of the new organization has been changed from volunteer to trained professional, as members receive the same training as Coast Guard personnel.
“I just spent seven days at a training exercise in Banfield,” said Frost. “We had 90 hours of training, right alongside the Coast Guard guys.”
Frost hopes the change will help inform the public and assist RCM-SAR in its fundraising efforts. Even when known as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the group never received money from the military or the government, and has always been reliant on contributions from the public and local business.
Recently, the group received contributions of $2,800 from Coastal Community Credit Union and $1,500 from Orca Sand and Gravel.
“To fully outfit our guys costs about $2,200 in gear,” said Frost, who noted the local station has a separate charitable society — Port McNeill Marine Search and Rescue — devoted specifically to fund-raising.
Those interested in joining the society or volunteering for Port McNeill’s RCM-SAR station may reach Frost at 250-230-0799.