The Shuswap’s on-water search and rescue crew is hoping to build a boathouse for its fleet that could also serve as a classroom for teaching navigation and safety courses.
Shuswap Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) Station #106 leader Fred Banham said design of the boathouse, which will be a floating structure able to shelter both of RCMSAR’s rescue boats, is expected to be complete in the early spring. Design work is being funded by the Shuswap Community Foundation and TA Structures, and naval architects from Vancouver are collaborating on the project.
RCMSAR explored the possibility of getting some of their people certified to teach Transport Canada courses, but a recent feasibility study found there wasn’t sufficient demand for the courses in the Interior to justify the expense. Instead, instructors from outside the organization will be able to use the classroom space on the water to teach marine navigation courses and other learning opportunities valuable to the rescue boat volunteers.
The Shuswap Lifeboat Society, which supports the RCMSAR station, commissioned the feasibility study with grant funding from the rural dividend program and Shuswap Watershed council.
Lifeboat society president Bruce Weicker said the expense required to have a certified trainer for the Transport Canada courses did not make sense financially or in terms of the RCMSAR station’s core mission.
“We’re in the saving the lives business, but we could help the people doing the training,” he said.
Cliff Doherty, a lifeboat society director who worked as project manager for the study said interest in more local training opportunities has been building among the local RCMSAR crew in recent years. Currently, RCMSAR volunteers seeking the various certifications required to pilot and crew the rescue boats have to travel to either Kelowna or the coast to take the courses.
The consultant tasked with the feasibility study mailed out a survey to various organizations and businesses to gauge interest on marine training opportunities being available regularly in Sicamous. It was concluded there was not enough demand for the RCMSAR station to offer training themselves, but a classroom space that could host outside instructors would be valuable.
Some of the courses of interest include marine emergency duties certificate and navigation courses that teach marine chart and radar skills.
Banham said there isn’t usually much interest in navigation courses inland because lakes lack hazards like shoals and islands which are present in the ocean. While this may be true for pleasure boaters out on sunny days, Banham said navigation in reduced visibility is very important for RCMSAR as they have to take calls at night and in high winds and driving rain.
“A couple years ago we were using radar in the smoke,” Banham said.
Doherty said the classroom in the boathouse would be unique as there is not dedicated classroom space with a focus on water safety in the Interior; most instructors who hold courses in the area rent out rooms in schools or other public buildings. Weicker added that instructors they spoke with looked favourably on the prospect of a classroom on the water with easy access to the RCMSAR vessels for demonstrations.