Stepping onto the deck of the Alberni Responder, the Coast Guard Auxiliary unit’s new 36-foot, closed cabin rescue boat, it’s so new you don’t want to move too fast for fear of scratching it. Opening the door to the cabin, the “new boat” smell assaults the nostrils.
And there is no mistaking the excitement in the voices of unit leader Ian Arklie and marine rescue society president Pete Tabler’s voices as they talk about their acquisition.
The men were two of four coxswains from the unit who brought the vessel home from Titan Inflatables in Sidney, a trip that took about six hours.
The vessel is a Falkins class aluminum rigid hull inflatable powered by two 350 hp Yamaha outboard motors, and is the second one built on Vancouver Island.
The Nanaimo auxiliary unit received the first boat, Tabler said. Three more are being built for units in Prince Rupert, Richmond and the North Shore.
The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and Transport Canada decided that any new boats coming into the fleet should be standardized; there are three models, including the closed cabin under 40 feet, like the Alberni Responder.
“This design enhances safety for the crew,” Arklie said. The vessel is heated, seats up to 12 people and can accommodate a standard BC Ambulance stretcher. It is also designed to roll over completely.
The new boat expands the unit’s capability, he added. Members can take it to Bamfield in the open ocean, transport more people to a search area or transport injured people more comfortably.
The auxiliary’s old Zodiac has been sold to another unit in Ginglox, up by the Nass River on B.C.’s north coast.
The Port Alberni unit has been using a loaner boat until their new one arrived. They will have to keep using it until at least May, until all the crew members are trained on the new boat, Arklie said.
The unit hopes to have a vessel dedication ceremony in May so the public can check out the new boat.