When people are in danger on the waters of Shuswap Lake or at any of the numerous cabins and campsites without road access, the first to respond are often the volunteers of Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 106.
The station is only weeks away from officially putting their new rescue vessel into service and received financial help from the employees of the uptown and downtown Salmon Arm Askew’s locations. The donation of over $6,000 will help cover the costs of operating the new boat when lives are at stake, as well as on training exercises.
As their old boat has helped treat and transport over 225 patients since 2012, the Shuswap Search and Rescue station was a logical choice to receive a 2007 Titan rigid hull inflatable boat which had previously served at the Victoria station. Station leader Rob Sutherland said the boat would have cost $750,000 new so getting it from Victoria and only having to pay for refitting it and making some repairs has been a big help.
Sutherland said when the boat came from Victoria, where it was working in salt water, it had significant corrosion inside the engine bay and electrical issues that had to be fixed.
The 40-foot vessel, equipped with a pair of diesel inline-six engines, is larger and more powerful, but also nimbler and more maneuverable than the older boat. The twin engines produce 880 horsepower and give the boat a cruising speed of around 8o kilometres per hour. The new craft is a jet-boat, making it more maneuverable and easier to operate close to other boats than the old propeller-powered craft.
The older boat will remain in use by Station 106 as a back-up vessel.
Of the approximately 25 station volunteers, seven are currently qualified to pilot the new boat.
The new boat has space for two seriously injured patients in a cabin in the bow and also room for as many as 30 injured people who are still able to walk. Sutherland said the larger boat will allow the station to respond better if a serious mass-casualty situation took place on the lake.
Along with a helm to steer the boat, the cabin sports navigation systems and screens that monitor the boat’s thermal and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera, which can be used to pick up the heat signatures of people or boat engines when visibility is low.
Sutherland said along with the boat, station 106 has also purchased a rescue drone equipped with a FLIR camera and a grapnel which can be used to drop a life jacket to someone in distress.
The donation from Askew’s will fund day-to-day operations for Station 106 and also their education programs which aim to prevent emergencies before a rescue is necessary.