Marine search and rescue volunteers need to raise $50,000 for new boat

The timeline for fundraising for a new boat for Ladysmith Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue has been accelerated.

The Ladysmith and District Marine Rescue Society’s plan to raise money for a new vessel for marine search and rescue volunteers has just gotten accelerated.

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR) Unit 29 in Ladysmith — formerly known as the Coast Guard Auxiliary — is raising money to buy a new rescue vessel, and with a shorter timeline for raising the money, the unit’s volunteers are turning to the community and asking for help.

Nick Epp-Evans, the station leader, says the station had a plan to purchase the new boat in 2014, but the boat now has to be built next month. The new vessel costs $315,000. Ladysmith RCM-SAR has already raised $271,000 but still needs to raise $50,000.

Because the station is short of funding, it has approached the company that is building the boat and asked them to build it in three installments, explained Epp-Evans.

“We have the money to build the cockpit and hull but have to defer the electronics,” he said. “We also want to sign the contract in March so we can take advantage of the HST/PST rebate. We had a nice plan going toward 2014, but it’s now rushed ahead.”

What it all boils down to is that Ladysmith RCM-SAR needs $50,000 by the end of the summer.

“We’ve done really well to get $271,000, and we had been exhaustively fundraising,” said Epp-Evans. “We need help.”

The boat the Ladysmith RCM-SAR is currently using is the second oldest in the Pacific fleet.

“If it dies and we don’t get another boat, Ladysmith Marine Search and Rescue will not be on the water,” said Epp-Evans. “That little rubber boat has been credited with well over 30 to 40 lives saved directly in its lifetime. People go out there knowing there’s someone to save them. If we don’t get a new boat, there will be someone, but it will be a much longer response.”

The new boat is being built on Vancouver Island. Three boats are being built, and Ladysmith is getting the third. Members of Ladysmith RCM-SAR had a chance to see the prototype recently, and the hull of the second boat has already been made, according to Epp-Evans.

“The process has gone a lot faster than expected,” he said. “If we do not buy the boat now, we cannot defer it. If we waited, the cost would jump 50 to 60 per cent. It’s now or never, really.”

The first two boats are going to RCM-SAR units on the Mainland, and Epp-Evans says the prototype is going through sea trials right now and is surpassing all expectations.

The new vessel was designed by coxswains on Vancouver Island — including Ladysmith coxswain Owen Popplestone — and was designed specifically for use in the waters around the Island, said Epp-Evans.

Epp-Evans describes the improvements between the unit’s current boat and this new boat as drastic.

“If we get called to a tasking, and there’s somebody in the water, we automatically suspect spinal injury, and we have to use a spine board. We cannot strap a spine board on the deck of our boat,” he said. “The new boat has room for two stretchers on the deck. It greatly improves our vessel as a medical first responder, greatly.”

The current boat has no seats and does not have heat, so crew fatigue is an issue, explained Epp-Evans. The new boat will have five seats and much improved suspension.

“It will mean we can stay on the water indefinitely,” he said. “It greatly improves our range. With our little boat, we are restricted in heavy weather, but this new boat is all-weather.”

“Our crews are now training to be ambulance first responders, and with this new boat, we will be like an ambulance on water,” added Epp-Evans, noting the new boat will have defibrillators and warm air to treat hypothermia on the water. “It will save lives — that’s a fact.”

Ladysmith RCM-SAR Station 29 is sponsored by the Ladysmith and District Marine Rescue Society and provides marine search and rescue services for the northern section of the Gulf Island region including the islands and waters between Dodds Narrows to the north and Sansom Narrows to the south.

Ladysmith is one of the busiest units in the Pacific region, responding to more than 3,000 calls since its inception. The unit works in conjunction with the Canadian Coast Guard and local fire, Emergency Medical Services and ground search and rescue responders, as well as the RCMP.

To make a donation to the new vessel fund, call Epp-Evans at 250-668-2993 or click here.