New boathouse and rescue station given the go-ahead by council

Unsafe, cramped boathouse will be replaced

It should be smooth sailing for the Oak Bay Search and Rescue Society now, after they cleared the last hurdle to replace a boathouse.

On Monday (Dec. 16), Oak Bay council approved a variance request to allow the volunteer-based organization to build a slightly taller boathouse, which will also serve as a rescue station and have space for training and secure storage of rescue equipment. The society will be allowed to increase the height by 0.6 metres, or two feet, and increase the width by 0.07 metres, or just under three inches. Coun. Tara Ney was absent from the vote as she’s on medical leave.

OBSR society president Terry Calveley was speechless when the variance request was approved.

“I wanted to stand up and thank the mayor and council last night but I was way too emotional,” Calveley said the next day. “I was so happy and there was this lump in my throat.”

There had been two rejected boathouse proposals in the last seven years and Calveley has worked on this third proposal for almost four years. The society consulted with the Oak Bay Marine Group and nearby condo and apartment residents to ease any concerns that the variance would adversely impact sight views. In the end, no opposition was brought to council’s attention, regarding the new boathouse.

“It was a lot of work,” Calveley said. “Our members have been waiting for so long. Literally, the boathouse is falling apart.”

The current boathouse is very small and the rescue boat it houses, doesn’t properly fit inside. Tours of the facility cannot happen as the boathouse is deemed unsafe, especially when the water is choppy. The boathouse bounces and sways in such conditions, requiring people to hold themselves up or risk falling into the water.

Calveley said the next step is to prepare a request for proposals and she hopes to get bids in by mid-January. She estimates the boathouse will take four to eight weeks to build and ideally, she would like to have everything in place and completed by April, just in time for boating season. However, new pilings need to be installed and depending on the scheduling for that and the successful bidder’s schedule, the project might not be complete until fall.

“My goal might be exuberant,” Calveley said. “We really need to have it built. … We’ve gone way too long.”

A fundraiser will be organized once the final cost is determined.

Details can be found at Donations can be made by calling 250-896-2625.

Did you know?

The OBSR was founded as a non-profit organization in 1977 and a response vessel was supplied by the provincial emergency program (PEP).

In 1984, PEP withdrew funding feeling that marine search and rescue was a federal responsibility. OBSR then became a Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary and was renamed to Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR) in 2012.

OBSR is always seeking volunteers who can commit for 18 months and be available for training.