Ankit Kapur, right, steps aboard Charlottetown's inshore rescue craft in preparation for a demonstration of some of their duties and responsibilities alongside his crewmates Neil Morrison, middle, and Coxswain Brock Thimot.
By Teresa Wright
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
When a North Cape crab boat was sinking in the coastal waters off P.E.I. last weekend, the Coast Guard was called to save the lives of four fishermen aboard.
Tragically, one fisherman was lost — but not before a massive search-and-rescue operation was conducted by the Coast Guard.
These kinds of operations are what the Canadian Coast Guard’s search and rescue program employees are trained for. The national program’s primary goal is to reduce the loss of life and save every life possible at sea.
But Canada’s waters are vast, and anything can go wrong for even a seasoned mariner.
So, for pleasure boaters or inshore fishermen who find themselves in distress in the waters between Point Prim and Victoria Harbour, the young members of the Coast Guard’s Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) program are ready and waiting to rev the engine of their Fast Rescue Craft and race to the rescue.
The Inshore Rescue Boat program is part of the Federal Student Work Experience Program. It provides students with exposure to real-life experiences in various aspects of Coast Guard operations — to see if they might want to turn it into a life-long career.
Twenty-two-year-old Brock Thimot is the supervising Coxswain for the Charlottetown Harbour station. On Monday afternoon, June 9, Thimot took his two-man crew — Neil Morrison, 21, and Ankit Kapur, 24 — out on the water for a demonstration of some rescue operations they could be called on to perform.
The waters were a bit choppy and the winds were high, but it was nothing the young men couldn’t handle. Their bright orange rescue craft cut through the water and wind at speeds in excess of 30 knots. At this speed, it took only minutes to reach the mouth of the harbour that leads into the Northumberland Strait. “Coming down!” Thimot shouted.
Kapur and Morrison repeated the command in response. At that, the vessel jolted to almost a complete stop in the water.
Thimot wanted to show how quickly and easily his rescue craft can manoeuvre through the water. The crew demonstrated how they would rescue someone who’d fallen overboard and how they would strap a person into a stretcher in preparation to take them ashore for medical treatment. They also showed how they would pump water out of a vessel that was taking on water.
With each task, the three men rhymed off their responsibilities and expectations in full detail.
And throughout, they worked closely together as a team.
This is an important part of their work, as it takes teamwork to properly operate the rescue craft and conduct their search and rescue operations. “One person can’t control all systems on the boat,” Kapur said. “All three people are required to do anything safely. That’s the way the boat’s designed.”
The two crew members work side by side and defer to the orders of their Coxswain, Thimot. Two years in and he’s already hooked. “I absolutely love it — it’s an important service to the community and it’s a very respectable job,” Thimot said. “It’s fulfilling to know we’re giving back to Canadians.”
Thimot believes this may be the life for him. “I’m seriously considering it for my career,” he said. “I absolutely love being in the water. I grew up around the water, so this does it for me.”
Kapur is also a two-year veteran of the program.
He enjoys knowing his work could make a big difference in someone’s life. “The nature of our work is much like firefighters or emergency personnel,” he said. “There might be that one call that really makes a difference. That’s very satisfying for me.”
This is Morrison’s first summer in the program. He grew up fishing lobster with his father in Point Prim, so he too is at home on the water.
But being so new, he’s still a bit nervous. “I haven’t answered a call yet, so every time the radio goes off, my heart kind of races. But I know that what we do can be life-determining, so I’m ready for anything.” (Teresa Wright is a journalist with Transcontinental Media’s Guardian, which is a contributor to the Sou’Wester.)