Ladysmith marine rescuers have new name and are now raising money for a new boat

Marine search and rescue volunteers in Ladysmith and throughout B.C. have a new name and a new look.

The former Coast Guard Auxiliary has a new name — Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue [RCM-SAR] — as of May 26. Seen here doing demonstrations during the Ladysmith Maritime Festival

The former Coast Guard Auxiliary has a new name — Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue [RCM-SAR] — as of May 26. Seen here doing demonstrations during the Ladysmith Maritime Festival

There’s a new name and a new look for marine search and rescue volunteers in Ladysmith and throughout B.C., but nothing will change when it comes to their dedicated service.

As of noon on May 26, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary — Pacific, an all-volunteer organization with stations in 46 communities throughout B.C., has become Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue [RCM-SAR]

“We work very closely with the Canadian Coast Guard, but we are a totally separate organization,” RCM-SAR president Randy Strandt said in a press release. “Our new name recognizes the distinct identity of our service and helps emphasize the strong links we have to the communities that depend on us and on which we depend for fundraising.”

The name change affects more than a thousand members in British Columbia.

RCM-SAR Unit 29 Ladysmith member Nick Epp-Evans says that when it comes to fundraising, people often confused the Coast Guard Auxiliary with the Coast Guard, and this name change will help clear up that confusion.

The new name reflects the volunteer marine rescue service’s distinct identity. The service is not part of the Canadian Coast Guard or other federal agencies. The change will assist the public in understanding the community-based nature of the service and the importance of local support in maintaining rescue vessels, recruiting and training volunteers, and equipping them with the tools they need to save lives on the water, noted the press release.

“There is a long tradition of marine rescue service here on the West Coast, and our new name reflects a growing sophistication in the training we provide our crews, the professional skills they bring to the public and the amazing capability of the modern rescue vessels that they operate,” said Strandt.

The title “Royal” was granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth this February in recognition of the organization’s long-standing service, broad geographic coverage and philanthropic mandate.

While the name is changing, there is no change to the group’s operations.

RCM-SAR volunteers are on-call around the clock and are often the first to respond to emergencies on the water.

Crews are supported by local societies which raise funds for community-based rescue vessels. Funding comes from private donations, corporate donations, community grants, legacies, local fundraising and gaming grants.

Locally, RCM-SAR will continue to provide 24/7 marine search and rescue service on the Ladysmith waterfront and beyond and will continue to be tasked by the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre and work side-by-side with the Canadian Coast Guard.

The Ladysmith station maintains a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-per-year search and rescue readiness along the Ladysmith waterfront and nearby municipalities and promotes boating safety, including programs designed to increase water safety awareness among children.

RCM-SAR’s typical taskings include vessel fires, sinking or overturned watercraft, weather-related emergencies, lost or disoriented boat operators, searches in the water or along shorelines, medical evacuations, environmental or navigational hazards and many others.

Now that it has a new name and a new logo, RCM-SAR Unit 29 still needs a new boat.

The unit is working hard to raise money for a new rescue vessel to replace its aging boat.

The new boat costs $320,000. Epp-Evans says they have secured grants for the boat, and all they need for their share is to raise another $70,000.

With a territory ranging from Nanaimo all down the coast and including the Gulf Islands, Ladysmith is one of the busiest units in the Pacific fleet and is credited with saving 15 lives and saving more than $1 million in marine property in the last calendar year.

“That boat will greatly enhance our ability on the water, especially as a first responder,” said Epp-Evans. “This will greatly ensure that we continue. Fifteen people would have been dead this year alone if it wasn’t for us Ladysmith volunteers.”

Epp-Evans says the Ladysmith RCM-SAR is looking for cash donations and fundraising ideas.

“It would be great if we had small groups to take it on as a project to fund,” he said. “Any assistance we can get to fund this would be greatly appreciated.”

RCM-SAR Unit 29 is even willing to sell the naming rights to the new boat, so someone could pay to put a loved one’s name on the vessel, or a company could sponsor it.

Anyone wishing to help fund the new rescue boat can make a tax-deductible donation to the Small Vessel Account at Ladysmith and District Credit Union or contact Epp-Evans at 250-668-2993.