New vessel means 'once-in-a-career opportunity' for captain

·3 min read

SAINT JOHN • The CCGS Shediac Bay is now tasting the Bay of Fundy waters to save lives.

The brand-new search and rescue lifeboat was introduced at Saint John's Canadian Coast Guard Search and Rescue Station on Tuesday afternoon. The boat, which is able to keep a speed of up to 25 knots, will be driven up to 100 nautical miles from shore and can handle emergency alerts, according to a federal government press release.

"Taking a new boat into service is a once-in-a-career opportunity, so that's very special for me and my crew," said Capt. Mike Smith, commanding officer of the CCGS Shediac Bay, at a Tuesday dedication ceremony for the new vessel.

Smith has been with the Canadian Coast Guard for 15 years and has sailed on about a dozen boats. Originally from Halifax, Smith says he's excited to be on the new machine.

"It does have the new boat smell," he said.

"It's a lot of fun," he added. "It's a very nice boat, very capable."

Both he and his crew feel proud to be serving historic Saint John, Smith said, adding that he moved to the city with his family in 2019 and intends "to be here for a while."

The four-member Shediac Bay crew is made up of a captain, an engineer and two deckhands, with one of the two deckhands a trained rescue specialist. They are parked at the Saint John station and respond to distress calls, he said, but also patrol during the "high-risk seasons."

Every year, the Canadian Coast Guard says it responds to more than 6,000 calls for marine assistance, ranging from searches on the water through to answering distress and assistance calls from other vessels, the release states. On a regular day, the Coast Guard can "coordinate the response to 19 search and rescue incidents, assist 68 people and save 18 lives," the release added.

The CCGS Shediac Bay is replacing the CCGS Courtenay Bay, with the latter retiring after providing about 22 years of service.

In May, the Canadian government acquired CCGS Shediac Bay – one of 20 new SAR lifeboats "dedicated into service" and "named after geographical bays across Canada," according to the release.

Several guests and Coast Guard families attended the Tuesday afternoon dedication ceremony for the new vessel. Opening and closing prayers were performed by elder Chris Brooks from Sitansisk Wolastoqiyik (St. Mary's First Nation) and Senator Jim Quinn, who as the vessel sponsor gave a speech and performed the ceremonial ritual of breaking a bottle on the bow of the ship.

Gary Ivany, assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic Region, said that these search and rescue boats are "important tools in the community." Crews "work 24/7," he added, responding to distress calls within 30 minutes and are relieved by another crew after every two weeks.

The CCGS Shediac Bay is expected to have a lifespan of more than 20 years in service, Ivany said.

In the release, Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said the new search and rescue vessels will ensure that "crews have state-of-art equipment to help keep Canadians safe on the water."

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal