PHOTOS: Pandemic doubles calls for Crescent Beach marine search-and-rescue team

Duckona 5000 has been a popular fundraiser for the RCM-SAR5 unit. (Contributed photo)Duckona 5000 has been a popular fundraiser for the RCM-SAR5 unit. (Contributed photo)
An RCM-SAR5 team in operation off the shores of White Rock. (Contributed photo)An RCM-SAR5 team in operation off the shores of White Rock. (Contributed photo)
An RCM-SAR5 team in operation off the shores of White Rock. (Contributed photo)An RCM-SAR5 team in operation off the shores of White Rock. (Contributed photo)
Local Sea Scouts on board one of the RCM-SAR5 rescue vessels. (Contributed photo)Local Sea Scouts on board one of the RCM-SAR5 rescue vessels. (Contributed photo)
Unit leader Rona Tepper was recently recognized with a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Administrative Excellence Award. (Contributed photo)Unit leader Rona Tepper was recently recognized with a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Administrative Excellence Award. (Contributed photo)

The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed business for the majority, but for local marine search-and-rescue crews, it’s done the exact opposite.

So far this year, RCMSAR5 Crescent Beach crews have been twice as busy as 2019, responding to nearly two dozen call-outs to date, compared to 10 in all of 2019.

And all while trying to navigate the challenges the pandemic has created around raising much-needed funds for training, equipment and maintenance.

“Because of COVID, so many people have – and rightfully so and good – (been) getting outside and doing a lot of things either on the water or near the water,” crew member Kristen Gribble told Peace Arch News.

“But that has also drastically changed our call level, in the whole Peninsula.”

Former station leader Scott Paulhus said Thursday (Nov. 25) that calls this year – 21 so far – have been for adrift or broken-down vessels (nine), searches (seven) and someone in the water (four).

Fortunately, none have ended in tragedy.

One that stands out, however, occurred in January, when the all-volunteer team was tasked to search for a vessel that was drifting into Semiahmoo Bay as the sun was setting.

Two young adults were found two nautical miles from shore, in an inflatable raft that had been rigged with a tarp for a sail, “lots of duct tape and scrap pieces of wood.” They were unable to steer or control where they were going, Paulhus said.

“They were cold, scared and a little embarrassed when we arrived on scene,” he said.

While COVID-19 didn’t stop the team from responding to calls, it did force them to change how they train; with weekly in-class training moving to a virtual format, and on-water training limited to five people or less at a time.

The number of new recruits that could be added to the fold also had to be limited, due to pandemic protocols.

The need for funds, however, has not changed.

Paulhus said while two organizations have “graciously” stepped up with donations, “we are well short of our annual intake.”

Gribble said every RCMSAR unit – there are around 35 in B.C. – is required to fundraise for their station. That effort usually generates around $50,000 per year for the local unit, which has made a tradition of two major events: a rock-and-roll dance that has been held annually for almost two decades, and Ducktona 5000, a rubber duck race staged near the Crescent Beach pier.

READ MORE: 5,000 ducks race at Surrey beach

Typically, the unit also receives gaming grants.

Gribble said the unit’s finances are in reasonable shape at the moment, but with fundraising opportunities severely limited by the pandemic – all of their community events were cancelled – and word that gaming grants will be “significantly less,” the future is looking less bright.

“We are OK, but next year’s going to be difficult,” she said.

“We rely heavily on fundraising to keep our station up and running.”

Fuel is one of the unit’s biggest regular expenses, she said. This year, funds also went to a refit of their primary rescue vessel, Protector. After being out of commission for more than six months while work was done – during which time the crew used its secondary vessel, Vigilant, for call-outs – it returned to service in early November.

Gribble emphasized that local support for the unit has always been strong, and major campaigns that enabled the acquisition of each rescue vessel are was just two examples of that.

“We are fortunate in the community we live in,” Gribble said. “Most stations don’t have what we have.”

To help keep costs down this year, crew members – there are approximately 30 who have committed to being on-call 24/7 for one week per month – have been sharing equipment where possible, but that’s challenging with things like dry suits, due to the tight fit. One of the suits on its own, with no extras, costs up to $1,500, Gribble said. Fully equipped, that tab is “pushing $2,000.”

The Semiahmoo Peninsula Marine Rescue Society was formed specifically to raise funds for the Crescent Beach unit.

Anyone wishing to help support the team may do so online at www.rcmsar5.ca/donate



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSearch and RescueSurreyWhite Rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – check point at Manning Park

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

South Surrey nurse Brittany Williams has been involved with the Burn Camp since 2013. (Contributed photo)
Burn camp ‘really puts things in perspective,’ says South Surrey nurse

Brittany Williams’ experiences hoped to boost Hometown Heroes Lottery fundraiser

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Serena Deol, Jaspreet Deol, Madison Sweeney and Tanveer Pannu (pictured clockwise from top left) are Surrey United soccer players recruited to the University of Fraser Valley. (submitted photos)
Surrey United soccer quartet sign to play for UFV Cascades

Three of the university’s recruits are Panorama Ridge Secondary students

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.'s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
Province ‘ramping up’ COVID-19 vaccination effort in hard-hit Surrey

‘Door-to-door’ registration program in the works, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read