Prince Rupert’s Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit 64 has raised a little over half the funds needed for a new rescue boat and is hoping some corporate sponsors well help out with the rest.
This week members of the auxiliary, also known as Prince Rupert Marine Rescue Society, asked City Council for a letter of support to aid with fundraising efforts.
“We’ve raised $262,200 as of today with generous support from local businesses and gaming. We need another $240,000 for the vessel and we’re hoping for a big corporate sponsor to step forward,” said Deputy Unit Leader Mike Graham, explaining a letter from council will be used to leverage funds.
Currently the auxiliary uses the Rainbow Responder, but the 21-year- old vessel no longer meets Canadian rescue standards.
Unit Leader Marko Kessler described the boat as obsolete. It has a very small cabin, standing room only and no heat.
“At this point we have no capability of carrying a stretcher. Half of it has to be outside the cabin,” he said.
The new vessel – which has already had its hull and superstructure completed – will not only meet standards, but will have room for passengers and stretchers. A sister vessel launched in Nanaimo last week has capacity for 12 people and three stretchers on aboard.
And, said Kessler, the boat can also right itself.
“If it ever happens that the vessel flips over, it will flip back up without any assistance of airbags or anything like that, but by its own buoyancy. It has been specifically designed for the north coast.”
A marine engineer, hired by the auxiliary, looked at Coast Guard boats in service with the US, England and Australia to determine what would be the best design to tackle 10 metre seas and hurricane force winds.
“After much negotiation we decided to go with jets instead of propellers and the hull has been reinforced so debris such as logs is no longer an issue. The life expectancy is 30 to 40 years, but with minimum refit it can go for at least fifty years,” Kessler said.
In 2010, the group spent over 1100 hours at sea plus various hours in simulator training and Coast Guard Auxiliary training missions.
The rescue and recovery hours expended by the group in 2010 alone were valued at approximately $1.3 million.
“We also have quite significant community involvement. If you ever take a look at any activities on the water like Winterfest and Seafest, the Polar Bear Swim or Dragon Boat Races, you’ll always see our little boat puttering around,” Kessler said.
Councillor Nelson Kinney asked how the auxiliary will fund the maintenance of the new vessel once it’s built and was told through Direct Access to Gaming Grants and money the auxiliary receives from the Coast Guard Auxiliary office in Victoria when it goes out.
“Our vision is to respond to Prince Rupert’s growing demand for marine emergency resources and as you can imagine there are a lot of incidents around here, especially in the summer time with tourists and visiting guests,” Kessler told council.