Community Spirit, Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR) Ladysmith’s new fast response rescue vessel, had its first test late last Monday night (Sept. 29) when it took part in the rescue of a family of seven off Valdes Island.
Nick Epp-Evans of RCM-SAR Unit 29 Ladysmith says a page sounded out just past 8 p.m., and as soon as they heard the mayday call that a fishing boat had overturned, they ran to the boat shed at the Ladysmith Marina. The situation became critical when they heard there were seven people in the water.
“Because of the size of the new boat, we decided we’d take our new vessel, the Community Spirit, out,” said Epp-Evans.
Epp-Evans, Coxswain Rob Hoban, Kris Campbell and Patrick Rocque headed out in what Epp-Evans describes as very limited visibility toward Valdes Island, which is across Porlier Pass from Galiano Island.
The Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft arrived at the scene first and picked the two adults and five children out of the water, explained Epp-Evans.
“We stood off when the hovercraft took the people away,” he said. “We were tasked to search for anybody else and any dangers or hazards in the water.”
Working with the Canadian Coast Guard’s Cape Naden lifeboat and its crew, members of RCM-SAR located the fishing boat, which hadn’t quite sunk.
“We decided we’d tow this sinking vessel very slowly to Coon Bay in Porlier Pass,” said Epp-Evans, who had to stand at the back of the RCM-SAR vessel with a knife and be ready to cut the tow line if the other ship started sinking because it would take the rescue boat down with it as well.
Epp-Evans was relieved with the outcome of the effort and pleased with the work of RCM-SAR Unit 29 and its new boat.
“All the training paid off,” said Epp-Evans. “We had to do high-speed maneuvering amongst islands in the dark. Our crew knew exactly what they had to do.”
All seven family members were transported to the Coast Guard’s Sea Island station in Richmond and checked at a local hospital before being released, stated CBC.
Epp-Evans was impressed with the communication and teamwork between RCM-SAR and the Canadian Coast Guard.
“The communication between RCM-SAR and the Coast Guard was absolutely perfect,” he said. “The regular Coast Guard boat was too big, and it wasn’t possible for them to tow the boat, so we towed it, and they assisted by putting lights on it.”
Epp-Evans was happy with their experience on the Community Spirit’s first tasking.
“We were on the water four and a half to five hours at night, and the boat handled perfect,” he said. “Our old boat might not have had enough room, could not have towed the 30-foot boat as easily, and there were no seats on the old boat, so crew fatigue would have been an issue. Also, we have spotlights all around the new boat. It was very impressive.”
The RCM-SAR station and the community have been fundraising for the new rescue vessel for several years, and the boat, which was built on Vancouver Island and was designed by coxswains on the Island, arrived in Ladysmith this spring and was dedicated June 7.