The Tolonen, Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Shuswap Station #106’s newest and most advanced vessel. (File photo)

Shuswap marine search and rescue station hopes to become training hub for Interior

Necessary training for commercial boat operators could be done at planned facility in Sicamous

The local marine search and rescue officials hope to turn Sicamous into a hub for training commercial and emergency services boat operators.

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) station #106 personnel plan to construct a boathouse with a training centre for the local RCMSAR members and open training courses to members of other organizations and the public.

“What we’re thinking is trying to centralize all of the interior of B.C., all the training for marine staff, in Sicamous at a training centre set up by the RCMSAR,” said station leader Rob Sutherland.

He said the station is trying to drum up support for a study on the feasibility of a regional training centre in the Interior. Station #106 is soliciting letters of support from marinas, businesses and governments of all levels. The District of Sicamous voted to support the feasibility study at their July 25 meeting.

Related: Marine search and rescue issues safety warnings

“It’s a worthy cause and we’re fortunate to have it,” said Coun. Colleen Anderson at the meeting.

Sutherland said the proposed training centre could provide the courses that are necessary for RCMP and fire department boat operators, milfoil rototiller boat operators and other commercial boat users.

He said everyone who uses a boat commercially needs to complete a small-vessel operator proficiency course and the marine emergency duty course.

According to Sutherland, the course goes in depth on marine navigation, reading the weather and emergencies like on-board fires and situations where abandoning ship or using a life raft are necessary.

Sutherland said pleasure craft licensing courses, radio operator certifications and marine first aid courses could also be offered.

Commercial and emergency services boat operators often have to travel to the coast in order to take the necessary courses because instructors rarely hold courses in the Interior.

A training hub in Sicamous could have significant benefits for the local hospitality industry as the operators’ proficiency course takes four days, making overnight stays likely for course participants from other communities.

Related: Boating injuries, collisions occupy rescue crew

“It’s a long-term future goal,” Sutherland said, speaking of the proposed training centre.

A more immediate goal for the RCMSAR station is the construction of a boathouse. Sutherland said Twin Anchors is currently in the process of drawing up plans for the boathouse, which he estimates will cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to build. He said station #106 is presently looking at options for funding the project.

As they look to expand on land, Station #106’s volunteers have been busy on the water.

Sutherland said the station has responded to 13 marine emergencies this year. He noted this is lower than the average of 2017.

“We’re thinking that some preventive measures that we’ve been doing have been helping out,” he said.

RCMSAR responded to one death on the water, a 62-year-old man, who passed away in his sleep on a houseboat due to what is believed to be a heart attack.

Sutherland said both RCMSAR and BC Ambulance crews tried to revive the man, but to no avail.

Another serious incident the marine search and rescue volunteers responded to was a houseboat that washed onto shore during the serious windstorm on June 25.

Sutherland said both of the RCMSAR’s station’s boats responded to the incident because the four adults and five children on the boat had to abandon ship and try to find shelter from the storm on the shore.

Sutherland said they all made it to shore safely but had to be treated for hypothermia when they were rescued.

Other incidents included two cases of head and neck injuries resulting from diving into shallow water, a three-year-old girl who had to be treated for heat stroke and a man who suffered a dislocated hip while out on his 14-foot aluminum boat on Mara Lake.


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