RCMSAR’s sole inland-SAR station expanded their fleet this summer, launching their new vessel during Sicamous’ annual Sun and Sand Parade.

RCMSAR Station Shuswap welcomed the Tolonen, 40-foot 2007 Titan rigid inflatable SAR boat, on August 2, after a lengthy ground and water journey from its original base in Victoria. On August 5, the Tolonen joined the station’s boating safety vessel Shuswap Guardian One and other SAR vessel Shuswap Rescue One in the Sicamous parade. The public then toured the vessel during the community barbecue, which included words of congratulations for RCMSAR Station Shuswap from MP Mel Arnold (North Okanagan — Shuswap), MLA Greg Kyllo (Shuswap), Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz and Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper. The official launch of the Tolonen then took place in Old Town Bay, followed by a cruise of the Sicamous Channel for the whole community to see.

“The whole day was exciting,” said Shuswap Station Leader Rob Sutherland. “We have had so much support from the community and our volunteers have put so much effort into training and responding to incidents on the Shuswap.”

The Tolonen en route to the Lower Mainland

Acquiring the New Vessel

The launch of the Tolonen celebrates two years of fundraising, planning and training by the members of Station Shuswap. Since becoming operational in May 2012, the station has been one of the region’s busiest, despite being the only station to be given the responsibility for inland marine-related search and rescue.

The station’s original SAR vessel is a 1989 29-foot Lifetimer converted crew boat, transferred to them from RCMSAR Station North Vancouver. “It has served the Shuswap well, with thousands of hours of training time and hundreds of hours saving lives and minimizing injuries,” said Sutherland. “It has been tasked to over 200 missions alongside BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) attendants under the supervision of the Sicamous BCAS Chief Kathy Crandlemire.”

“We have had so much support from the community and our volunteers have put so much effort into training and responding to incidents on the Shuswap.”

Over the past few years, a groundswell of community support and the increasing number of incidents on the Shuswap justified the addition of a newer, bigger, better boat. Donations from individuals and local businesses such as Waterway Houseboats, Bluewater Houseboats, Twin Anchors, the Shuswap Waterfront Club, the District of Sicamous and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District made the purchase of a new vessel a possibility. Fortunately, around this time RCMSAR Station Victoria deemed their rescue vessel the Tolonen surplus to their needs and agreed to transfer it to Station Shuswap.

On June 30, Station Shuswap took possession of the Tolonen and moved it to its original manufacturer, Titan Boats in Sidney, where it went through an extensive refit expected to extend its lifespan by at least 10 years. During this process, Station Shuswap members Dave Harvey, Allen Langworth and Rob Sutherland undertook jet drive propulsion training at the RCMSAR Training Centre in East Sooke, learning how to maneuver the vessel in all-weather and close-quarter conditions. Harvey and Langforth piloted the vessel from Sidney to RCMSAR Station Crescent Beach; the Tolonen completed its journey to Sicamous via trailer.

The Tolonen en route to Sicamous

The Future

RCMSAR Station Shuswap has always worked very closely with other first responder units, such as BCAS, RCMP, Shuswap Search and Rescue and the Shuswap Fire Department. The addition of the Tolonen to Station Shuswap’s fleet will serve to strengthen the overall SAR response in the region and to enhance the support the station can provide to other first responders. According to Sutherland, “The Tolonen will enhance the SAR capabilities of the Shuswap tenfold for years to come.”

As a ten-year refit and enhancement of the vessel continues over the winter, station members look forward to putting the Tolonen into operation on the Shuswap in the new year.

For more information on RCMSAR Station Shuswap and its activities and ongoing projects, check out their website: www.rcmsar106.ca.