History of Saving Lives on the Water – Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society (OBSRS) was formed on December 12, 1977, with 12 volunteer boat owners. They soon discovered that their boats were taking a beating due to heavy weather and repeated strain of towing when out on rescues. The Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) recognized the need for a dedicated vessel for rescue and provided a Zodiac inflatable for this purpose. This vessel was found to be inadequate for several reasons, and was replaced with a fiberglass dory.
In 1984, the Provincial Emergency Program decided to discontinue their funding to marine Search and Rescue, feeling that this was a Federal responsibility and that the Province could not afford to continue to support it.
In June of that same year, in order to cover operating costs, OBSR joined the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary (CMRA), more commonly known as the Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA). Oak Bay is Auxiliary Unit 33, (there are 53 Auxiliary Units in British Columbia). What this means today is that Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society is chiefly a fundraising organization supporting Auxiliary Unit 33. While the Society owns the vessel it does not operate the vessel. The Unit operates the vessel, and must do so under the rules and regulations of the Auxiliary.
At the time the Society joined the CMRA, it was decided that the dory needed replacing, and a fund raising drive was initiated with the aid of the Oak Bay Kiwanis, Oak Bay Municipality, and a Lottery Grant. A total of $44,000 was collected and a 26 foot fiberglass Shamrock, high speed vessel equipped with a pilot house was purchased. This vessel was named the “Responder”.
As it turned out, “Responder” was also found to be inadequate, and after an incident where the engine compartment flooded, the motor stalled, and the vessel rolled over, it was decided to get a replacement vessel. Once again a fund raising drive was initiated, this time money was obtained from the Lottery Commission, Oak Bay Kiwanis and from the sale of “Responder”.
Many different vessel designs were studied. Finally, it was decided to purchase a Zodiac Hurricane 733 at a cost of $91,000. The vessel was equipped with twin 150 HP outboard motors, two VHF radios, a CB radio, radar, Loran plotter, and depth sounder. Other on board equipment included proper bow and stern tow posts and reel, fire pump, first aid kit, flares, strobe lights, megaphone, boarding ladder, grappling hook, etc, as well as survival suits for the crew.
The vessel is named the “Jack Groves” in honour of the late Jack Groves because he was instrumental in raising the money that allowed the Society to purchase the “Responder”. Jack Groves was a member of the Oak Bay Kiwanis, who gave a lot of support and assistance in raising the money to buy the “Responder”. He also chaired the fund raising committee and has a park in Oak Bay named after him.
In 1999, it was decided that the “Jack Groves” needed replacing. Fundraising began and a New Boat Selection Committee formed with the mandate to find the best suitable replacement. The committee studied several designs and decided to purchase a Carswell Industries, Titan 249 XL aluminum rigid hull inflatable. Although similar in design to the current Zodiac Hurricane 733, this vessel was superior in many ways. Features included, a much larger platform for rescue crews to work from, including integrated deck lockers, ergonomic delta consoles, twin 200 HP Mercury outboards and the latest technologies in VHF / GPS / Radar and Marine Electronics.
In late 2000, Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society took ownership of her new SAR Fast Response Vessel and commenced sea trials. On December 17, 2000 there was a Launching and Commissioning Ceremony held at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. She was blessed by Father Don Malins, Chaplain RCN Reserve (Ret.) and christened the “Oak Bay Sea Rescue”.
Crews on the “Oak Bay Sea Rescue” consisted of four persons on-board (POB) and one radio operator (RO) in the radio room located in the basement of the original Oak Bay Beach Hotel. We now maintain operational crew readiness with 5 POBs. There are four day crews and four night crews, and a crew is on duty one week in four. Each crew has been given a name from marine place names in the Oak Bay area: Alpha, Baynes, Chatham, Discovery, Enterprise, Finnerty, Gonzales and Heritage. Unit 33 is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by pager. Calls are initiated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), or the Unit can self-task. Response time is no more than 20 minutes from pager call to leaving the dock.
History of Saving Lives on the Water
|1977||OBSR founded as a non-profit organization.
Response vessel supplied by Provincial Emergency Program
(destroyed in a rescue attempt and replaced by PEP).
|1984||PEP changed its mandate and withdrew funding for marine SAR, feeling that this was a Federal responsibility and that the Province could no longer afford to support it.
PEP vessel not adequate for OBSR needs. With help from Oak Bay Council, Oak Bay Kiwanis and Provincial Gaming Branch, the Society acquired an internally powered vessel. “Responder” was put into service.
OBSR joined the CMRA in June of 1984 (a national organization partially funded by Canadian Coast Guard).
|1991||Replaced existing vessel with a 733 Zodiac Hurricane Rigid Hull Inflatable FRV named the “Jack Groves“.|
|1997||CMRA changes its name to Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. OBSR is 20 years old.|
|2000||Replaced existing Zodiac Hurricane 733 “Jack Groves” with new FRV “Oak Bay Sea Rescue (OBSR I)”.|
|2002||Oak Bay Sea Rescue is a quarter century (25 years) old.|
|2008||Replaced existing Titan 249XL “OBSR I” with new FRV “Oak Bay Sea Rescue II (OBSR II)”.|
|2010||Existing Titan 249XL “OBSR I” undergoes mid-life refit and re-purposed as secondary SAR vessel and Junior Auxiliary vessel.|
|2012||Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary – Pacific “CCGA (P)” re-brands itself to Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue “RCM-SAR”. OBSR is 35 years old.|
|2013||New Rescue Station Planning
OBSR consults with community stakeholders and designs a new rescue station that Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 33 Oak Bay “RCM-SAR 33” crews will use as their new base of operations. Fundraising campaign kicks off December 2013 seeking financial support from the community.
|Sept 2014||New Rescue Station Ribbon Cutting
After several years of planning, OBSR realizes its’ new rescue station that Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 33 Oak Bay “RCM-SAR 33” crews will use as their new base of operations. The state of the art facility contains a heated ready room and training classroom, plus launch bay and lift for its’ rescue RIB.
|Existing Titan 249XL “OBSR II” undergoes mid-life refit as RCM-SAR Station 33 Oak Bay’s primary FRC vessel.
Established in 1977, OBSR is 40 years old as of 2017.
After several years of fundraising, construction of our new SAR Type 1 Fast Response Vessel begins, with estimated completion in Jan 2022!