The province’s branch of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary held its annual general meeting in Marystown Oct. 12-13. Aside from the weekend’s business duties, there was also a chance for some training.
In and around the Coast Guard Station and the Oldest Colony Trust Building, members refreshed their first aid skills, practiced throwing life preservers, properly abandoning a vessel, planning search and rescue missions and splicing rope together.
Winston Pitcher of Burin has been with the province’s Auxiliary for 26 years, 22 of those as president, and noted the organization’s volunteers – mostly owners of commercial fishing vessels with some pleasure craft owners also involved – are divided into 10 districts around the island and in Labrador.
He acknowledged Auxiliary members respond to about 30 per cent of emergencies.
“It’s important to get all the members together from different districts, exchange a bit of ideas and freshen up on their search and rescue patterns.”
With the Canadian Coast Guard’s regional director for Atlantic region programs Mike Voigt looking on, Harvey Vardy – the regional superintendent for the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax – worked with members to simulate a search for an overdue vessel.
“Life and death is minutes, and seconds and times, so the quicker you can get a vessel there to help out, the better chance you have of saving the person.” - – Jim Chidley
Mr. Voigt indicated the Auxiliary members deserve a pat on the back for their time and effort.
“It’s a relationship that ends up saving lives. We work hand in glove in response to search and rescue.”
Jim Chidley, director of District 7, which covers the eastern side of the Avalon Peninsula – from Trepassey to the St. John’s area, estimated he has responded to about 15 calls in his 12 years as an Auxiliary member.
He indicated you have to be ready to respond if weather conditions allow.
“Life and death is minutes, and seconds and times, so the quicker you can get a vessel there to help out, the better chance you have of saving the person.”
Mr. Chidley acknowledged a lot has changed over the years. He noted harvesters these days are well trained and credited the Marine Institute and the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board for training thousands of mariners across the province.
“We’re trained in MED (Marine Emergencies Duties), and in first aid, and all different aspects of safety on board a vessel and our vessels are now more well equipped, too, to handle a situation where there could be an emergency.”