Saving Lives on the Water: Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue


Photo by © Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue

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When you hear a VHF radio, tuned to marine emergency channel 16, squawk to life, our marine search and rescue volunteers go on high alert. Hearing “Pan-Pan” or “Mayday” means a mariner’s life is in danger and needs assistance urgently.

RCMSAR and its 900+ volunteers...

Persons missing, in medical distress or collisions, onboard fires, mechanical failures, and boats taking on water are many of the missions that the volunteer-based Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) tackles.

A registered charity, RCMSAR saves hundreds of lives on the water each year by responding to marine emergencies supporting the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Province when needed. Over 900 volunteers from more than 30 marine search and rescue (SAR) stations conduct hundreds of missions, training exercises, volunteering thousands of hours to protect the lives of you and your family.

On-call 24 hours a day, we serve communities across Vancouver Island, the north coast and Haida Gwaii, along the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland, and inland waters of the Shuswap.

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© Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue

Notable missions include RCMSAR Station 2 in North Vancouver participating in a dramatic rescue of 17 wayward paddleboarders that were drawn toward the shipping channel beneath the Lions Gate Bridge. Last August, near Nanaimo, RCMSAR Station 27 rescued a family with a two-and-a-half-year-old who became stranded on a small rocky island after their boat was destroyed during high winds and rough seas. During last summer’s wildfires, RCMSAR Station 106 was responsible for keeping boaters at bay in the Shuswap, clearing the BC Wildfire Service’s access to water on the lake.

On the North Coast near Hartley Bay, RCMSAR Station 70 responded to a vessel on fire and persons in the water in the early hours one night last July. Two of our crews arrived on the scene, extinguished the fire before it reached the shore and searched for survivors. Two survivors were transported to shore to attending nurses; the vessel sank, and two lives were unfortunately lost.

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© Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue

Our volunteers have experienced that proud feeling of saving lives on the water but also the immense weight of loss for those who did not make it. While facing the inherent risks that come with saving lives, RCMSAR continues to serve our communities in the face of COVID-19 meeting increased calls for help as more people take to the water. Yet, saving these lives on the water is impossible without the support of community members like you.

RCMSAR receives funding from the federal and provincial governments. However, these amounts do not meet our total financial needs. RCMSAR volunteers must fundraise for their own life-saving equipment, vessels, and other costs to keep local stations open and operational.

Consider a gift in support of RCMSAR volunteers who stand ready to leave their jobs and families at a moment’s notice. Your support will provide critical training and equipment our volunteers need to save lives—and stay safe while doing it!

Visit to learn more and make a charitable donation today.

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Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) is a not-for-profit volunteer-based organization that operates more than 30 marine rescue stations along the coast of British Columbia from Vancouver’s busy harbour to the remote waters of the North Coast.


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