The Ahousaht First Nation’s new 29-foot dedicated response vessel is capable of cruising at 32 knots and has an estimated range of 400 nautical miles. (Photo courtesy of the Canadian Coast Guard)

The Ahousaht First Nation’s new 29-foot dedicated response vessel is capable of cruising at 32 knots and has an estimated range of 400 nautical miles. (Photo courtesy of the Canadian Coast Guard)

New rescue boat making Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim safer

Ahousaht’s Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary boosts response capacity on west coast

A Vancouver Island First Nation known for its selfless marine rescues has another weapon at its disposal for keeping the West Coast safe.

The Ahousaht First Nation has launched a new search and rescue vessel that’s ready to respond to emergencies in waters off Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim.

“This new dedicated SAR vessel has created a great sense of community pride especially among our dedicated CN-CGA volunteer crew,” said Coastal Nations-Coast Guard Auxiliary member Luke Michael Swan Jr. in a May 19 announcement.

“Having a dedicated vessel ready to respond to a marine emergency has really elevated and strengthened our SAR program here in community and territorial waters and will allow crews to work more effectively alongside the Canadian Coast Guard and SAR partners, ultimately saving lives at sea.”

The new 29-foot dedicated response vessel is capable of cruising at 32 knots and has an estimated range of 400 nautical miles. It was paid for with $214,156 of funding from the Canadian Coast Guard’s Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program.

“I would like to hold up all that had a hand in making our dedicated SAR vessel a reality,” said Coastal Nations-Coast Guard Auxiliary Board Chair Alec Dick. “Let me also celebrate our CN-CGA Crew volunteers, the marine SAR backbone of our community. This vessel will allow our volunteers to deliver top notch SAR services, provide care alongside our mission partners and neighbors in providing effective marine SAR services for people in distress.”

Ahousaht members are well known for their willingness to rapidly respond to marine emergencies and the First Nation received a Medal of Good Citizenship from B.C.’s then-premier Christy Clark for its efforts during the Leviathan II tragedy of 2015. Six people died in the tragedy, but Ahousaht helped rescue 21 of the whale watching vessel’s 27 passengers.

Ahousaht was a founding member of the Coastal Nations-Coast Guard Auxiliary, Canada’s first all-Indigenous Coast Guard Auxiliary, in 2018.

The CN-CGA has over 50 members from the Ahousaht, Heiltsuk, Gitxaala, Nisgaa, Kitasoo and Quatsino First Nations that are equipped and ready to respond to marine emergencies 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year.

“As the Executive Director of CN-CGA, Canada’s first Indigenous led Coast Guard Auxiliary, I’ve seen the organization grow significantly, in just a short time,” said CN-CGA Executive Director Conrad J.S. Cowan.

“I foremost recognize the critical role of this dedicated SAR vessel and its importance to members of the Auxiliary in protecting mariners and coastal communities. Our crews are simply the most experienced stewards of the marine environment and are unquestionably vital to Canada’s marine safety system today.”

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andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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