Coxswain Jason van der Valk is a volunteer with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue based out of Sooke. Volunteer David Steeves is on the left.

Coxswain Jason van der Valk is a volunteer with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue based out of Sooke. Volunteer David Steeves is on the left.

On call along the west coast 24/7

Volunteers with Royal Canadian Search and Rescue save lives

First responders on the water

Daniel Chauvin

Sooke News Mirror

The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, or RCM-SAR 37 Sooke, is a humble yet proud organization that exists for one significant purpose: to deploy in our local waters when the going gets rough to comb the seas for stragglers who are in need of assistance. Many people in Sooke are not even aware of their existence. But this 100 per cent volunteer organization goes out in the worst conditions when most boaters are heading in, 365 days a year, on-call 24-7, to assist people on the water, saving lives when needed.

Jason van der Valk, a local photographer and coxswain for the 36’ “Falkins Class” Type II Diesel  jet boat is the kind of calm and rock steady guy you want to be there for you if you happen to be in deep doo doo on the choppy seas. Powering an 870hp boat with a top speed of 39 knots and cruising speed of 30 takes a steady hand.  Along with RCM-SAR’s other coxswain, Rob Roe, the two take control of this beast of a boat with finesse and confidence. Equipped with radar, GPS plotter, radio direction finder, FLIR, first aid kits, oxygen and defibrillator on board, the boat is prepared for a wide variety of emergencies and tight situations.

Out on the water, on a calm sunny day, it skims along the crests of the waves like a rock being skipped by some god of the sea. Awash in adrenaline, a crew of six dash out from Sooke to Race Rocks at incredible speeds, soaking in the salty air and epic views from the safety of the cabin.  The porpoises are blowing beside us, seemingly thrilling in the race, eagles eyeing us from above with their majestic gaze.

This joy ride serves a purpose however: to practise manoeuvres that will be called upon in extreme situations. At full tilt, the boat can come to a sudden stop with a bracing jolt, or turn on a dime with grace. A man overboard exercise is carried out with amazing speed, raising the confidence bar of this crew several notches. This fully re-rightable boat runs with a maximum crew of six and is also capable of holding up to 12 passengers.

Because they are a volunteer and non-profit organization it is incredibly important to find both competent volunteers and sufficient funding to keep the boat afloat.

“Anyone who wants to volunteer will go through an interview process to ensure they understand the time and effort asked of them to be a search and rescue crewmember. Having some water experience is good but not mantadory. RCM-SAR will offer the proper training needed to be a crewmember. All of our crew are trained up to a Transport Canada level,” van der Valk states.

“RCM-SAR 37 Sooke is a not-for-profit organization backed by the Juan de Fuca Marine Rescue Society. They are the financial arm for our RCM-SAR station and fundraise throughout the year as well as apply for the annual BC Gaming Grant. All the money received goes into the rescue station to ensure all boats are safe and crew are properly trained, to purchase safety gear and to maintain our equipment.”

The organization handles approximately one-third of all marine related incidents across B.C. Last year the organization did just over 800 taskings. The station does, on average, about 40 of those calls a year in local waters.

They work closely with the Canadian Coast Guard, US Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Air Force. They also do taskings with our local RCMP, Sooke Fire Rescue and BC Ambulance as well as the Juan de Fuca Ground SAR.

RCM-SAR are the first responders on the waters around Sooke. They handle all types of calls, from vessels taking on water, locating missing boats in the fog to medical emergencies. They provide shore side searches for missing hikers as well.

If you are interested in volunteering, please visit their website: ccga-pacific.org/

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Harmony Project Sooke students recently performed at the B.C. legislature. Harmony Project Sooke runs a stings program for viola, violin, and cello for students in Grade 2 and up and a drum line program for grades six and up. (Contributed – Harmony Project Sooke)
Gift and program support young Sooke musicians

Harmony Project Sooke students shine

West Shore RCMP is requesting the public’s assistance in locating a missing Langford resident, Nevaeh Hansell. (West Shore RCMP)
MISSING: Police seek 13-year-old Langford girl last seen May 3

Police are asking for help to locate the teen

The Capital Regional District’s Langford-based fire dispatch could be dissolved by the end of the year, replaced by a larger dispatcher in Saanich or Surrey. (Black Press Media file photo)
Langford-based CRD Fire Dispatch could see its last call this year

$1 million in mandatory upgrades too expensive for local municipalities, says Langford mayor

A few of the 10 or so workers from Ocean Concrete on the line Wednesday wave to passing motorists who honked in support of the locked out employees. A lockout by the company began April 30 and affects 23 workers at the company’s Victoria branch. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
No concrete deal in place, Victoria workers locked out

Ocean Concrete locks out 23 workers at Victoria plant as bargaining stalls

A 23-year-old driver won’t be behind the wheel again until next winter after they were caught going 67 kilometers over the speed limit Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
Driver in Oak Bay caught going 67 km/h over speed limit

The driver was clocked going 117km/h in a 50 km/h zone, issued multiple tickets

FILE – Pharmacist Barbara Violo shows off a vile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Friday, March 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Looking for the nearest COVID shot? Tech entrepreneur creates texting software in B.C

Zain Manji says app took just one or two hours to create

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
Two cougars killed following attack in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue members, before descending into a gorge near Nile Creek to rescue an injured woman on Sunday, May 2, 2021. (ASAR Twitter photo)
SAR crews help rescue hiker who plunged 10 metres onto rocks near Qualicum

Helicopter with winch system required for technical operation in remote location

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Meghan Gilley, a 35-year-old emergency room doctor and new mom was vaccinated from COVID-19 in January, while she was pregnant. She’s encouraging others to do the same. (Submitted)
‘The best decision’: B.C. mom encourages other pregnant women to get COVID-19 shot

Meghan Gilley, 35, delivered a healthy baby after being vaccinated against the virus while pregnant

Most Read