JdF regional Director Mike Hicks

Shovels in the dirt for new training centre

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue centre to be in East Sooke

Daniel Chauvin

Sooke News Mirror

With a fortuitous break in the rainclouds, the sun opened up for the groundbreaking ceremony at the new Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Training Centre.  Located at the property known as “Glenairely”, the stunning 25-acre land was purchased by the the Sisters of St. Ann in 2012.  A former fish camp, the RCM-SAR location will soon include a new building designed by renowned architect Paul Merrick which will house the Fast Rescue Craft Simulator, and other SARNAV training programs.

According to Bill Bullis, community representative, “The new location is the ideal training grounds because of the protected waters. The RCM-SAR is a very professional organization.  When things go bad for the recreational boater, these are the guys that come and save your day.”  He added, “as this place becomes the center of training operations, the state-of-the-art simulator will be a game-changer. In the safety of a classroom setting, the Fast Rescue Craft Simulator will mimic 20 knots in a fog, with the controls being an electronic version of what you would find on the boat. You get the feeling of being out on the boat, and having learned a lot, you then go out on a real boat which reinforces your training.”

The RCM-SAR has the highest training standards for marine rescue volunteers.  The rigorous training is a priority that keeps crews safe and provides an excellent service to the public.

“We go out when everyone else comes in”  says Gordie Robinson, from the Nanaimo RCM-SAR. “It feels good,” he continued, “because we have some of the best training of volunteers available, boat safety and right qualifications.  We ask that our volunteers be at least 19 years old, have their radio operator licence, PCOC (Pleasure Craft Operator Card), and live at least a half hour close by.  We encourage more skills and supply competent training.”

As the ceremony began, President Jim Lee was first to speak.  He believes the new location will be a game changer for RCM-SAR.  He added that a lot of work and time has been donated and the Sisters of St. Ann specifically picked the Search and Rescue charity over other potential buyers of the property.

MLA Ralph Sultan, a boater that has found himself in trouble on the water on more than one occasion, feels indebted to the the RCM-SAR. He spoke about the Job Creation Project which, thanks to the $31,612 funding, has employed four people through Worklink to do construction, landscaping and safety training and provide them with valuable, hands-on work experience.

Mike Hicks, the Regional Director for the Juan de Fuca Electoral area was rescued two to three times by the Search and Rescue.  He gave his undying support for the marine organization.

Executive Officer  of the training facility, Stan Warlow, spoke highly of the organization and the state-of-the-art facility that was nearing its financial goal for finalizing the project.  ]His vision for the project came to fruition through the generosity  of the Sisters of St. Ann, and great member and community support.

“Members can come stay here, grow food in the garden, learn and enjoy the wonderful dream of this property. One of the most efficient organizations I have known… the level of training and expertise has grown” he stated.

As the ceremony came to a close, refreshments and snacks were available in the warm and cozy lodge overlooking the Sooke Basin.  The grounds of Glenairey seem like the ideal and idyllic place for a charity that exists to serve the community and provide a measure of safety, training and competence both to its volunteers and to the boaters at risk on the water.

RCM-SAR respond to over 800 calls a year, or about a third of the marine emergencies on the B.C. coast.

Future plans include a dock for training vessels and accommodations for students.  With over 1,000 active members, 60 vessels and over 40 rescue stations boaters can feel prepared in the knowledge that a highly respected organization has their backs in the surrounding waters should the unexpected happen.

This is not an invitation to recklessness and incompetence on the water, but a nod to the people who are committed to providing safety, education and training to the people marine rich Sooke and the B.C. Coast,  said Bullis.

RCM-SAR is appealing to the public and corporate sponsors to help them complete the improvements. Donations are welcome at www.rcmsar.com or by phoning 778-352-1780.