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Oak Bay search and rescue volunteers ready to launch new life-saving vessel

Sidney-built 9-metre rigid hull inflatable nearly ready for sea trials
Volunteers with Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue - Oak Bay are ready to work on a new nine-metre vessel currently being built in Sidney. (Courtesy RCMSAR Oak Bay)

A new life-saving vessel will ply the waters off Oak Bay in 2022.

The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 33 (Oak Bay) team looks forward to a new standardized vessel with designs to meet the requirements of search and rescue on the B.C. coast.

The nine-metre rigid hull inflatable, currently in production in Sidney, is expected to arrive early this year, with hopes of hitting the waves by spring.

Modern vessels provide crews with added safety and the ability to handle longer, more complex missions, said Kim Bentzon, a member of the local vessel acquisition team.

The team formed in September 2014 – shortly after moving into its new station at Oak Bay Marina – to plan for the replacement of the 2001 vessel, as it neared its end of life.

RELATED: Volunteers move into new home on the sea

The acquisition team studied a variety of designs already on the market and narrowed its focus to the Falkins-Class Type 1 – a purpose-designed vessel that best-suited team needs and ensured compatibility with other stations using the Type 1.

The group contacted other south Island stations and arranged sea trials before selecting the Type 1 for their Victoria-Oak Bay-Saanich area of operations.

Falkins-Class Type I from RCMSAR 33 on Vimeo.

Next came the search for a builder.

“Again, we spoke with other stations to hear their build experiences – the good, bad and ugly as we like to say – plus, as we’ve been using various rigid hull inflatables for nearly 30 years, we had our own extensive knowledge and experience to lean on,” Bentzon said.

The team awarded a contract to a Sidney company last spring. While there were supply-chain issues and delays in deliveries, components were ordered well in advance, Bentzon noted.

The majority of the build is complete, with various gear, seats, lights, electronics remaining, then the vessel will go out for sea trials before being delivered to Oak Bay. The special events team hopes to host a launch and dedication ceremony this spring.

This new vessel will be an important tool for volunteers and provide area residents with greater emergency response capabilities than ever, station leader Chris Bailey said.

Over the past three years, 41 volunteers with the local station performed 59 missions, 276 training exercises and 260 classroom sessions, adding up to 1,289 training hours plus 1,308 activity hours.

Overall that represents 10,080 volunteer hours which assisted 41 people in distress and saved five lives.

A new vessel means a new name and they’re open to ideas.

“We have a couple ideas floating around,” Bailey said, adding residents might have a fantastic or historical name they haven’t thought about. “We’d like to see their perspective.”

Name suggestions can be emailed to

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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