ITS OUR PEOPLE WHO MAKE IT HAPPEN
Physical uniformity is not a prerequisite. Big, small, whiskery, bald, single, married, other, builders, doctors, labourers, pen pushers, unemployed, mechanics, introverts, extroverts, the timid, the boisterous, the communicator, the hermit – we've had and have the lot.
I always say the beauty of Coastguard is that being a volunteer organisation, when it comes to our people we have to play the hand we are dealt – and boy is that a strength.
But to do justice to the numerous characters that have graced our presence over the years is just not feasible in the space available.
Brooke Archbold 2013
At the leading edge are our SAR Crew. That is the term that means active search and rescue volunteers who are qualified to crew and work on Dedicated Rescue Vessels in accordance with Royal New Zealand Coastguard Regulations............ SAR Crews are very dedicated people they might just be back from ten hours on the water. Tired and wet they might be, ready for a hot shower and a meal they most certainly are. But there is no night at the Pub for them. They are duty crew and if the pager goes off they will head out again for as long as it takes.They do not get paid for being part of this.
When you are standing on a heaving deck in the middle of the night in the pouring rain there is something very important..... to know that the person alongside you is trained to be here and cares as much about your life and safety as you do your own.
Our SAR personnel are allocated to a Rescue Vessel (RV). Some crew on more than one.
Rostered duties come around about every five weeks.
Onboard days are weekends and public holidays. Friday evening or the night before a public holiday is included.
Overnight crews pay for their own food. Each member of the crew is allocated a meal during the duty to plan, provide, cook and serve.
Crews are also rostered on a 365/24/7 pager call out system.
A Routine page calls out the duty crew.
An Urgent page (e.g. for a distress) summons all crews and the RV departs as soon as it can be manned. More than one vessel might be required.
Qualifications and Training
Standards established by Maritime New Zealand and Coastguard New Zealand require a high standard of efficiency to be met and maintained. Training never stops from the day they join and for as long as they are an active SAR member of Coastguard. Its part of the ethic of being a Coastguard. Being part of a Search and Rescue crew is a major commitment, which could ultimately include risking your life. Your commitment will be measured in the time spent involved in rescues and also in learning how to use increasingly, new equipment, faster boats and improving your skills.
First the SAR Crew had a series of examinations and a swim test before being accepted for Trainee.
A Trainee is allocated to an RV to start training on the job. As well
Then they complete courses and take written and practical exams for SAR Operational Crew grade. Takes anout 12 months.
Many chose to progress beyond that to become Senior SAR Crew and further to become a Master.
Masters have had to pass more than 68 exams and evaluations to reach the top level. As well the were subject to extensive testing and evaluation by the Unit Examiners and Examiners from outside agencies.
One thing they have which you cannot teach, an Auckland Coastguard Master or Senior has INGREDIENT X.
Our Masters have Maritime NZ Masters and NZ Coastguard Qualifications.
Ongoing training is the name of the game be it in the classroom, the pool, as part of a duty or on organised exercises with RV/Auxiliaries, Police, Westpac etc.
Many of our Masters are tutors with the Coastguard Boating Education Service.
Left: Mike Rownthwaite, Life Member, ACI Distinguished Service Award wrangling a runabout that has just been found way out to sea from the Hen and Chickens. This was a 17 hour search that fortunately came to a successful conclusion. Coastguard Whangarei are getting ready to go alongside the runabout and bring a woman and child to LION Foundation Rescue.