As spring continues to roll out its slow arrival and warmer temperatures are on the horizon, the volunteers at Grimsby Ontario Auxiliary Marine Rescue are hard at work preparing for the season ahead of them.

Stationed out of Fifty Point Marina, the not-for-profit organization works throughout the warmer season to respond to rescue calls anywhere in western Lake Ontario. According to deputy unit leader Doug Mepham, the group works independently or in conjunction with the Canadian Coast Guard, police and fire departments when those agencies have boats, the Canadian Armed Forces and more.

“We are dispatched by something called the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, located at Canadian Forces Base Trenton,” explained Mepham. “They control what we are assigned to and where.”

In the 2022 season, GAMRU tied its record for rescue missions with 43 completed. The average response time was 11 minutes and in total, there were 41 people assisted and 10 lives saved.

It’s estimated they recovered $443,000 in property and their average mission time was 1.2 hours.

At the heart of the organization is its volunteers and last season, there were 222 volunteer hours spent on missions.

Marie Green is one of those volunteers and she joined after retiring from auto manufacturing because she said she wanted some kind of adventure in her life.

With GAMRU, she said, she’s found it. Recalling a night rescue, she said air crafts and other search boats participated in a search on Lake Ontario, looking for an 82-year-old man who had disappeared in his brand-new boat.

“I was very upset that our crew didn’t find him. I really felt for his family and friends,” Green said. “But I was glad that I was helping in the efforts to find him.”

Green, 52, didn’t join the organization alone. Her husband, who was also looking for a new experience, became part of the crew.

“We like helping people, and we like learning new skills,” Green said. “And it was just something we decided we wanted to do together.”

Before hitting the water, the couple trained for months in a classroom, from January until mid-April. From making knots out of rope to pulling people out of the water, the lessons still seem “very new” to Green.

Though she has been with GAMRU for three seasons, Green said she always feels an adrenalin rush when they get an emergency call.

On her first time in the water, she felt nervous and didn’t know what to expect.

“You can do all the training you want, but until you’re actually out there on the water,” she said

The organization, which relies entirely on a team of volunteers, is on the water daily for 12-hour shifts, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Mepham said the training is really important because the organization always brings in new volunteers.

This year, three new people signed up, and though professional experience in emergency rescue is not necessary, a couple of skills are required to join, such as performing well in a tough marine environment and enduring cold, wet or hot weather.

“It requires a certain amount of physical ability to function at a high level,” Mepham said. “And then after that, it’s really a willingness to learn.”

Other skills welcomed are good communication skills, mechanical skills and knowledge of physics. Mepham said those are skills GAMRU “draws from the community.”

The “highly trained” crew from previous seasons passes along what they have learned in past experiences. “Some people arrive with one or two of those skills, and some people arrive with a whole resolution of those skills, and it’s just how we get to deploy them,” Mepham said.

A volunteer joined GAMRU almost a year ago with more than one or two of “those skills.”

David Rohr is a boater and fisherman who was looking to meet new people who share similar interests as him. When he saw the organization’s advertisement on social media, he wanted to learn how to help.

During training, Rohr was surprised by the attention to detail and the amount of practice needed. “I would highly recommend it to anybody that’s looking to do something that’s a bit of a challenge.”

He said during rescues, the crew gets to put their training into practice. “It was, you know, a bit of a relief that we were able to help them. And it felt good to help a person.”

According to Mepham, some “pre-season rituals” must happen before the vessel enters the water on April 14.

New features to protect the crew — who are members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary — and other updates should be implemented until its launch. “There’s usually a great deal of work going on in the boat at this time of year.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: As the Grimsby Auxiliary Marine Rescue Unit prepares for another season, Beatriz Baleeiro wanted to connect with the volunteer members to find out what impact the organization has had on the community but also on the members themselves. 

By Beatriz Baleeiro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 04, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Grimsby Lincoln News   Grimsby, Ontario
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated