With many thanks to the Prince Rupert Northern View website, I have the following article to reprint for your information. More volunteers helping the Coast Guard. Pretty cool rescue boat too!
The Canadian Coast Guard Auxilliary is a nonprofit organisation and a registered charity made up of volunteer resources throughout Canada. The CCGA has been in existence since 1978 and provides assistance to the Coast Guard and the National Defense with search and rescue and safe boating programs.
Published: January 21, 2012 1:00 PM
Updated: January 22, 2012 11:28 AM
The Coast Guard Auxiliary was showing off it’s new rescue boat that they purchased in-full after an extensive fundraising campaign in Prince Rupert.
The new boat named the Orme G. Stewart is a state-of-the-art rescue vessel that cost over half a million dollars, all of which was fundraised locally including substantial donations from organizations like the Port Authority and Rotary Club.
The new boat is a big improvement in many ways. Besides being bigger, the new boat is designed to be able to roll back over if flipped in rough seas, inside the cabin there are shock-absorbing seats, all the latest navigational equipment a bench-seat that can be converted into a place for a stretcher — complete with a locking mechanism for holding it in place. Inside the bow of the boat is more space for people and equipment.
One of the most important new features of the boat is the $60,000 robotic thermal camera that can pan 360 degrees around the ship looking for survivors in the ocean. It’s the only one of its kind on the North Coast, the closest other boat equipped with one is in Nanimo.
“It can pick up the heat from somebody’s head in the water from six miles away,” boasts the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s unit leader, Marko Kessler.
This will be a big improvement for rescuers when looking for someone in the cold North Coast waters. Before the camera, looking for someone at night meant using searchlights. One member of the unit says that even during training exercises they usually can’t see the target until they’re very close to it, and that’s when its a brightly coloured ball and not a human head.
The consequence is that survivors will often see the rescue boat from almost three miles away but rescuers can’t see them. The thermal camera changes that.
Another big feature of the boat is that it uses water jets instead of propellors. There are a couple of practical upshots to this.
Firstly, it means that the crew doesn’t need to worry as much about things hitting the bottom of the boat. The reinforced keel of the boat will be able to hit a floating log without risking damage to a propellor. It also means that the vessel can be used in only four feet of water and can be safely beached.
The second big advantage of the jets is manuverability. The jets can be directed independently of one another which allows the ship to make very tight turns and even to spin around around in one spot without moving forward. Something that the crew were all too happy to demonstrate for the media.
The Orme G. Stuart won’t be ready for actual duty until around April. All the glitches and bugs need to be worked out of the boats systems, and the crew will need time to get acquainted with all the modern equipment inside. The crew also has to be re-certified by the Coast Guard Auxillery to use the jet-powered boat instead of a propellor-driven vessel.
“There’s more maintenance with this vessel. There’s much more to look at in terms of what can go wrong with the engines and jets. Basically, there’s a different skill for this vessel; it’s a different size being quite a bit larger, when your at the helm there’s more electronics, there’s things like the infrared camera, there’s more options for situations like a man-overboard. How we deal with stretchers and basic transfers because now we have room for stretchers. There’s lots to learn,” says another auxiliary member Shawn Petriw.
While the boat might not be ready for rescue missions, it has already been given an intense test-drive. The boat was bought from Titan Boats in Sydney and had to be sailed up to Prince Rupert from Vancouver Island. On its maiden voyage to its new home, the boat encountered rough seas, a storm, floating logs and even had to land in Hartley Bay while sailing in zero-visibility conditions. And it still made it to Prince Rupert without too much trouble.
Prince Rupert’s Coast Guard Auxiliary is known as Rescue 15. More information can be found on their website. From their site:
Rescue 15 is a non-profit volunteer search & rescue organization, providing coverage to Prince Rupert and the North Coast of BC since 1975.
Rescue 15 is part of the Coast Guard Auxiliary (Unit #64) and the only authorized SAR Group for PEP in Prince Rupert.
While visiting Croatia in Europe last year (2011), which is situated on the Adriatic Sea, a branch of the Mediterranean Sea, I picked up a brochure about Search & Rescue with a different touch. It is called EMERGENSEA and can be found on the Internet under www.emergensea.net. It is a bit like an Automobile Association, except again, they do extras such as delivering packages of parts to vessels, taking passengers to and from vessels, etc. Read all the details on their website. Perhaps some of these extras could be added to our Canadian volunteer network. It might help bring in some extra cash for the branches.