Three recruits will soon qualify as crew members at the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (Sooke Unit 37) stations.
One of them is Adam Dowhy, a new member of the volunteer crew at the Sooke search and rescue station, who has been in training for over a year.
“We’re learning so much, it’s basically like learning how to drive all over again, but way more complex,” he said. “There are so many rules of the ocean. You’ve pretty much got to relearn everything because it’s different completely.”
Dowhy decided to join when he saw a newspaper article saying the Sooke station needed more crew members.
Recruits must take several courses in first aid and marine radio operations as part of their training, as they work towards being regular crew members. From there, they can do more training to become advanced crew members and then become a coxswain – a crew leader.
“You don’t know what to expect when you come into a volunteer organization,” Dowhy said. “However, what I’ve seen is a very structured and professional volunteer organization where we upkeep the standards of our (search and rescue).”
Every time a boat goes out, it needs a coxswain and at least one crew member but ideally more.
Crew members are on call 24/7 but are volunteers, so most work and live locally. That way, if a call comes in, they can drive to the station and respond quickly.
Ceara Mullin, the station leader at Sooke Unit 37, says they are always looking for recruits but are never short of people applying. Six recruits are being taken in for the next round of training after Dowhy’s cohort becomes full crew members, with more people on a waitlist.
“Getting people who are interested is not generally a challenge,” she said. “But making it through that whole that first year (of training) does take a lot of time and effort. That can be a challenge.”
According to Mullin, having volunteers stay long-term is the priority because of how long it takes to train them.
“Our crewing levels are slowly building. We don’t go too fast because it does take a long time to train people,” she said. “So we have to take small groups, and we do have people interested, but it is a bit of a process.”