Auxiliary saves lives
Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary trains boaters to help others
How close are Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers to you, the reader? What qualifications do they have, and do they save lives? Would you like to become one?
Darcy Henn is the Regional Business Training Manager, CGA Maritime located in Burnside Industrial Park, Halifax), while Richard Herring is Zone 8 director of the zone we live in. I contacted them, as well as Brian LeBlanc, executive director of the Canadian Coast Guard College (CCGC) to learn more.
Richard lives in Big Harbour where I went to learn more about this. He recalled three different incidents.
“An elderly man from Newfoundland bounced his way from Newfoundland to St. Peter’s and was rescued at least four times. Finally, the CCGA took him off his boat at St. Peter’s.”
Richard continued telling his stories.
“On the way from St. Peter’s, a fella went aground near Maskell’s Harbour. While the CCGA was taking him to Baddeck (leaving the boat where it was), a call came from Canadian Border Services who had been tracking him all along and wanted to check him out. Turns out he entered Canada illegally and was taken by them for questioning.”
Finally, a diver, a very good friend of all those on search and rescue, took a heart attack while diving; later they found his remains near where he entered the water north east of the Seal Island Bridge.
And talking about the Seal Island Bridge, the CCGA sometimes gets calls about people jumping off the bridge.
There are five regional nonprofit organizations and one national non-profit organization in the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA). There are more than 4,000 volunteers and 1,100 vessels. We belong to the CCGA Maritime.
Our zone, Zone 8, which has 63 members and 41 vessels, covers the region from Cape North to Glace Bay including the Bras d’Or Lake. Ninety-five per cent of the volunteers are fishers while boaters on the Bras d’Or Lake usually own pleasure craft. All their boats are privately owned, and therefore can only be identified by their CCGA flag.
There are eight vessels in North Sydney, two in Sydney (since the Royal Yacht Club was moved), and Sydney Mines is covered by vessels from North Sydney or Sydney. There are six in Glace Bay, two in Georges River, seven in Alder Point, and so forth. The zone goes on to cover Englishtown, Little River, Ingonish, Neil’s Harbour, South Cove/Bay St. Lawrence, Baddeck, Bras d’Or, Big Harbour, Boularderie, Ottawa Brook, Dingwall, and three members at the yacht club in St. Peter’s.
Zone 6 takes care of the west side of the island, while Zone 9 goes from Glace Bay to L’Ardoise, Isle Madame, and Louisbourg to Port Hawkesbury.
When there is trouble, a call is sent to 911, who then contacts the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax; they handle calls on the east coast of Nova Scotia, Labrador, Newfoundland and Magdalen Islands.
When needed, they cooperate with a Coast Guard Search and Rescue helicopter, part of 413 Squadron, in Greenwood.
They also work with ground search and rescue, local fire departments, and sometimes with the RCMP.
Rescue volunteers are highly experienced boaters or navigators who combine their passion for boating with their desire to help others; they are familiar with their vessel, and know navigation and radio.
Because of their voluntary work, more than 200 lives are saved every year in Canada. They respond to 25 per cent of the average 6,000 marine search and rescue accidents per year.
To become a volunteer, you must be a skilled navigator with a pleasure craft operator certificate. Then you must contact the nearest CCGA regional office.
Volunteers are not paid for their services; they are only reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel, meals, fuel, and so on.
Recently, about 12 boaters took a Rescue Boat Masters Course for navigable waters (waters which are buoyed) at the Canadian Coast Guard College. They were introduced to rescue boat training, how the CCGA came into being (it first started in 1978), and how they work with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC). This session lasted one weekend.
Then in October they will take a follow-up training exercise at the CCGC for all 16 zones in the Maritimes and the Magdalen Islands. Sometimes this course is put on elsewhere, depending on where the majority of boaters come from.
Richard worked with Everett Andrews from North Sydney, formerly the Zone 8 director who carried out major rescue exercises. Richard was his alternate. When Everett passed away, Richard took over. He also said that Alex Gilchrist from North Sydney was their training instructor.
So there are many willing boaters who love the waters while saving lives at the same time.
Richard Herring, Zone 8 director, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, is shown in uniform in his living room in Big Harbour.