‘People should wear a life jacket’: POCOMAR urges boaters to act safely while on the water

Port Colborne Marine Auxiliary Rescue (POCOMAR) Commanding Officer Norm Dashwood aboard POCOMAR One, the group’s main ship.

If you’re having a great day on the lake and something is wrong, who are you going to call? POCOMAR!

The Port Colborne Marine Auxiliary Rescue (POCOMAR) is a maritime search and rescue unit operating in eastern Lake Erie. The group is based at Sugarloaf Harbor Marina in Port Colborne.

So far in 2022, they have participated in 10 missions with an average task duration of 3.24 hours.

They saved about $787,000 in property.

Last year, they carried out a total of 39 missions and assisted 98 people. The first call of the season was on April 29 and the last call was on October 16.

The group spent a total of 1,535 hours of training on the water in 2021. They added an additional 416 hours in class.

Norm Dashwood, commanding officer of POCOMAR, said the unit is “100% volunteer. It is a non-profit association. »

POCOMAR has two vessels, a custom built 34ft steel cutter and a 24ft jet boat for shallow water recovery.

Typically, he said, the ship would have a crew of five to seven. They are currently operating with five crew members due to COVID. The group currently has 30 members.

“It’s important for people to realize that we’re here, that we’re not charging for our service,” Dashwood said.

POCOMAR’s season starts as soon as they can get out on the waters. Calls go in October and November.

“While we had a relatively calm summer, we have a relatively low number of search and rescue operations,” he said. “If the weather is very windy and the waves are high, we tend to get more calls.”

“People have to wear a life jacket when they go out,” Dashwood said, adding that “one hundred percent of the times we don’t pick someone up it’s because they weren’t wearing their life jacket. .”

Dashwood noted that they are not funded to operate, but fundraise on their own. He said they get money from the Coast Guard, the city, and a few other sources.

About two years ago, he said, the ship got about $250,000 in upgrades, including an 18-foot inflatable and a crane to launch it.

Inside the cockpit, the ship has electronics, including an infrared-capable and target-locking camera

Dashwood is clearly proud when he says the ship is “probably one of the best equipped ships in the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Fleet.”

Sugarloaf Sailing Club president James Sherk says POCOMAR “absolutely” helps him feel comfortable on the water.

“They do a great service to the community,” Sherk said.

The sailing club has about 25 members. Ninety percent of members have a sailboat, Sherk said.

So far this year, Sherk said, he’s only been out a handful of times. Last year it was almost every day.

Sherk echoed the call for life jackets.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Sherk said. “Use common sense.”

“Don’t come out if it looks harsh,” he advised.

Another tip he had was to stay seated when the ship was in motion.

Sherk and Dashwood warned boaters to be prepared; due to an average depth of only 62 feet or 18.89 meters, Lake Erie can quickly warm up and become choppy.

The group is always looking for new recruits or donations, Dashwood said.

He said there was a selection process. The first step is to reach out and contact the organization.

For aquatic emergencies, contact POCOMAR on VHF channel 16 radio, dial *16 on a cell phone, or call 1-800-267-7270 for the Canadian Coast Guard.

For more information about POCOMAR, visit their website at pocomar.org.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After hearing about a search and rescue effort on Lake Erie, reporter Nick Fearns contacted one of the units involved in the search to find out more about the group and what they were up to. they do.