There was no compelling reason, no intriguing back story that prompted Gerard Ans to accept an invitation to join the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue 64 (RCM-SAR Station 64) two years ago. He is simply a selfless man.
When Ans gets called out, he immediately stops what he is doing, adorns a search and rescue vest and boards the boat that will transport him and a crew into uncertainty. His adrenaline spikes as he hopes for a good outcome, that he can make a positive difference in someone’s life.
“I don’t feel anxiety when there’s a call out. I feel excited because I know I’m going to help someone,” Ans said. “I have always been a giver. Whether it’s buying food for people who have very little, or stopping on the road to help with a flat tire.”
Ans’ fondest memories centre around water and it seemed a logical way to give back to a community that he has called home for three years.
He was born in Orillia, Ontario, one of Canada’s premiere outdoor recreation areas. His father was a military man, so Ans called many provinces home.
“My best memories are in Winnipeg with my father,” Ans said. “We would camp, canoe and portage for weeks on Lake of the Woods. The lake has narrows and tidal flow, so it is very similar to the ocean.”
When Ans lived in Richmond he took coastal navigation. He had a 16-foot runabout and spent five years exploring the islands around Steveston harbour.
Ans moved to Prince Rupert because of a boat. Five years ago, he and his daughter camped at Kinnikinnick Campground near Port Edward. They explored the area and went on a whale watching excursion. His daughters are grown and the experience cemented his dream to buy a boat and live life near the ocean.
It was Ans’ me-time. On a website he found a moss-laden boat that had been neglected for years and the next thing he knew, he was calling the North Coast home.
Ans is a retired aircraft maintenance and structure mechanic. This is the first time Ans has been involved with RCM-SAR but he was involved in rescues before moving to Prince Rupert.
Ans assisted on medivacs and rescues when he was a helicopter mechanic on a Sikorsky S-76 air ambulance.
“I have encountered people with severe injuries, even fatalities, but I still feel great after a rescue. It makes me feel valued and needed and I’m happy I can help,” Ans said.
Three months ago, Ans was called to assist the Coast Guard in the sinking of the Western Commander off Triple Island, in the northern Hecate Strait. “The captain suffered a heart attack onboard and the ship was taking on water,” Ans said.
“I helped remove the captain from the sinking boat and administered CPR for a very long time. You can’t stop until a doctor or paramedic arrives.”
Ans doesn’t feel he has lasting negative affects or thoughts even though the captain passed away, but he does feel that his physical condition is not as good as it could be. “Long-lasting CPR is very hard work, but there was no way I was stopping,” Ans said.
RCM-SAR Station 64 followed up with Ans after the incident.
“They [RCM-SAR] were so supportive. They offered to pay for a counsellor if I felt I needed one and phoned me quite often,” Ans said.
“Working with search and rescue builds such a sense of community.”
Ans believes volunteering is important to society. To give back to your communty. That it would be a sad world if people only thought of themselves.
“The more we are called, the more it boosts my sense of purpose and that feels so good,” he said.
To Ans, the Western Commander experience reaffirmed the need for such an important volunteer organization.