Who on earth goes out on the chuck in 8 foot swells, a bitter north wind and sub-zero temperatures?
The all-volunteer Kitimat Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit 63 is who.
And those are just the conditions its crew faced January 11 when they headed out at 6:15 p.m. in response to a man overboard near Kingcome Point on Princess Royal Island.
“We were the first emergency response vessel on scene after our transit for one and a half hours in rough seas,” said unit leader Aron Clement.
Once there, “We set up a search area based on the location of where the man went into the water.”
Clement said that in addition to the vessel from which the man fell, a private vessel was already searching when they got there but it had to pull out due to low fuel. There was also a SAR helicopter on scene.
After the Kitimat auxiliary had been searching for two hours the Coast Guard Ship Point Henry arrived from Prince Rupert and joined in.
The Kitimat unit eventually headed for home at 12:30 a.m. on what was by then January 12, a trip that took four hours. The search was called off later that day.
Clement said sea conditions were variable and rough, anywhere from 3ft. to 8ft. swells, 35 knot north winds and an air temperature of -10 C., adding in a masterful piece of understatement, “All of these elements made the search difficult.”
It was the second time in less than three weeks the unit had been called upon.
And despite the fact the earlier call for assistance came on Christmas Day at 3:30 p.m., the unit responded, underlining why a few years ago it was hailed as the top volunteer unit in BC when it came to 24/7 response capability.
This time the problem was a 28ft. cabin cruiser which had broken down and was adrift in Devastation Channel with two people on board.
Unit 63’s Snowflake Responder located the vessel at the mouth of Loretta Channel at approximately 4:30 p.m.
And after a three hour tow, a pair of relieved boaters stepped on to solid ground at MK Bay Marina.
Clement said the unit is always ready to welcome new members and anyone interested can get more information from himself (250-632-2062) or training officer Duncan Peacock (250-632-4195).