Choosing a name for a boat is no light matter.
Three weeks ago, when the Prince Rupert Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR 64) christened their second rescue vessel they named it Geoff Gould, who has been a volunteer with the organization for 35 years.
The cool white bearded semi-retiree chuckles at the honour, but he’s glad that the call sign on the boat will be RCM-SAR Bravo so they won’t be using his name every time they call the Coast Guard.
Gould became a mainstay on the search and rescue team in the eighties. In 1979, he moved to Prince Rupert from Vancouver to article for the first year after studying law at university. After a year, he was out enjoying life on the North Coast when an incident led him to his first encounter with search and rescue.
“I had a pleasure boat and I ran out of gas and these volunteers,” he pauses to laugh. “They came out in a little Zodiac and brought me some gas. The outfit then was called Rescue 15 because that’s what the phone number used to be. It was volunteer so I joined up and I haven’t been able to quit. It’s about that simple.”
He practiced law and tried to leave the city 10 years later to practice in Campbell River but another opportunity fell in his lap when a retiring client offered for Gould to take over his boat brokerage. Gould decided to stay and took on the Pacific Boat Brokers and sold commercial fish boats until 2000, when the industry faltered.
In 1992, he thought about leaving Rupert again but he met his future wife, Nancy. She had driven across the country from Ontario when she was 18 in her Datsun B210 and took the ferry to Prince Rupert and never left. They got married, raised her two boys and had Thomas, who is 19, a commercial diver and a member of RCM-SAR 64.
The past 35 years have been rife with adventure. There was an incident in Butze Rapids once where he went out with a crew on the old Rainbow Responder zodiac to investigate a flare sighting.
“We managed to put the Rainbow Responder on its side and eject one crew member, hit a rock and got spat back out with a boat full of water and managed to get the crew member back on board and went home with a black eye,” Gould said, adding that this was when he was young and foolish in the early 90s.
Another memorable moment over the years was when Gould witnessed an elderly man make an error in judgement while under the influence. Gould, former mayor Jack Mussallem, and John Glencross, had tied up the Rainbow Responder after a search and debriefed at the Breakers Pub. While sitting in the pub they were looking down at the marina in Cow Bay and saw the man on the dock with bags of groceries. “He was obviously drunk,” Gould said.
“We were looking, thinking, he’s going to fall in the water. He put his groceries on the boat, untied his boat, let it drift out and then he stepped right into the water. Nobody, but us, saw him go in,” he said.
“Jack, John and I came tearing out of Breakers — this was when we were young enough to sprint — we sprinted down to the dock. John jumped on the boat and fished the guy out and Jack tied the boat up. We got him out. We told him to go to the bottom of the boat to sleep it off.”
When the three men returned to the pub they were given a standing ovation from all the patrons who watched the whole scene unfold.
“In all the years that we’ve been doing that that’s the one time we can honestly say we actually saved a life. We saved a guy — with witnesses.”
After practicing law and selling boats, and in between Gould’s volunteer hours with marine search and rescue, he found another career to explore as the executive director of the Area A Crab Association. He represented the fisherman’s association for crabbers in Hecate Strait at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans meetings. He said it was fun for awhile but the meetings wore him down.
In 2010, he was in Don Silversides office, a lawyer who used to work with his former boss Robert Errico, who told him his old desk was still there. Gould went back to law school for three months, renewed his ticket, and worked with Silversides for four years.
A year and a half ago Gould retired, sort of. He does marine surveying for insurance companies and he is still with the RCM-SAR 64. This year, he decided not to be on the board for the first time since 1988 when the rescue organization was incorporated as a society.
“I decided not to be on the board this year because you have to let someone else come in. You have to have some continuity,” he said throwing in a plug to call on more volunteers to sign up.