PORT McNEILL—Port McNeill’s Marine Search and Rescue Society is $121,000 richer, courtesy of a provincial gaming grant.
But the society won’t have the money for long.
The fundraising arm of Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Unit 50, the society is putting its funding to use for the purchase of a new fast-response rescue boat.
Next, it will go after its other pressing need — more members.
“We’re hoping for delivery by the end of March (2014),” RCM-SAR 50 skipper Aaron Frost said. “We’re really hoping the new boat will help us with our recruitment effort.”
The nine-metre, rigid-hull inflatable is designed specifically for RCM-SAR use and built by Victoria-based Liquid Metal. The estimated cost is $339,000, but Frost noted that will provide RCM-SAR Unit 50 a fully loaded search and rescue craft, with RADAR, GPS, AIS, double radios, lights and a shock-absorbing cab that seats five members with a pull-down jump seat.
“It runs twin 250 (horsepower engines),” said Frost. “We’ll do 40-plus knots at cruising speed, and it has a range of 250 nautical miles at top speed.”
Best of all, the new boat will be owned outright by the local society. The current rigid-hull inflatable used by the local unit is on loan from RCM-SAR, formerly known as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary before being commissioned as an “unpaid professional” adjunct to coastal search and rescue.
Frost said the hull of Unit 50’s current, open-air boat is structurally sound, but its air tubes need repairs at a cost of up to $22,000.
“We just can’t afford it, and the gaming grant won’t cover it,” he said. “A lot of grants won’t cover that because it’s considered maintenance.”
Since the Marine Search and Rescue Society was formed to support RCM-SAR 50, it has garnered three gaming grants totalling $321,00. The unit, which is called out to aid the Coast Guard in marine search and rescue missions, has had more than 20 responses in the last two years, ranging as far as East Cracroft Island. Its range covers 2,694 square kilometres and encompasses 2,900 kilometres of coastline.
But it operates with a limited membership, and Frost would like to see those numbers boosted.
“Right now we have basically 10 members,” he said. “We’re lean, and you need a minimum of three in the boat to go out on a call.”
Frost said part of the difficulty is that all but one of the current members have regular day jobs, creating potential conflicts when the same members repeatedly ask for time off.
Among the benefits of membership is free training, potentially up to the coxswain level, through RCM-SAR in Victoria.
Those interested in volunteering, either for the RCM-SAR unit or the Search and Rescue Society, may contact Frost at 250-956-2260, ext. 205, or by emailing email@example.com.