Search and rescue training in Bamfield. Passing the towline to a disabled vessel.

West Coast’s longest running Inshore Rescue Boat Station opens on Cortes Island

Cortes Inshore Rescue Station crew trains with First Aid and Search and Rescue equipment at Bamfield.

The Cortes Island seasonal Inshore Rescue Boat Station opened for business Wednesday.

This station has been in operation for 44 years, the longest running Inshore Rescue Boat Station in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Western Region. It responds to an average of 55 calls throughout the summer season.

There are two crews of three that rotate throughout the summer, said Coast Guard Canada spokesperson Michelle Imbeau. They work two weeks on-duty followed by two weeks off duty. There is always one crew of three people on-duty at the station from May 17 to Sept. 6.

The Cortes station – Coast Guard 509 Cortes Island – is one of four that opened  for summer durty, the other three are Coast Guard 508 Sointula, Malcolm Island; Coast Guard 501 Victoria; and Coast Guard 507 Nootka.

“These Coast Guard search and rescue stations are strategically located to provide a critical search and rescue service to minimize loss of life, injury and property damage in the maritime environment in areas with elevated seasonal maritime activity,” Imbeau said.

The stations are open annually from May to September and operate rigid-hull inflatable fast rescue craft with three person crews.

The crews have a Coxswain in charge who is a Coast Guard Fleet Rescue Specialist. They usually have five or more years experience working in the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) fleet.

The two crew members are either post-secondary education students or Royal Canadian Reservists. This year, the majority of these people are in their first year of working with the Inshore Rescue Boat Program.

All crews go through 20 straight days of in-depth Search and Rescue training to bring them up to speed to be able to respond to any and all incidents on the water.  During their time at station, they will constantly go through drills and training exercises to improve their skills and competencies.

Emergencies on the water can be reported 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, toll-free (within Canada) at 1-800-567-5111, by dialing #727 or *16 with a mobile phone, or via marine VHF radio – channel 16.