The Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard participated in two days of joint search and rescue exercises this week in the Passamaquoddy Bay area, with simulated rescues of eight missing kayakers and of seven people in a boat that had swamped.
Under the first day's scenario, on September 25, eight kayakers out of St. Andrews got separated near Bean's Island off Deer Island. Although they had their safety equipment, they were not familiar with the area and its currents, and two of the kayaks overturned. The vessels participating in the exercise, along with a Cormorant helicopter, searched the area and recovered the five survivors and three bodies.
On the second day, three flares were sighted from St. Andrews in the area of Deer Island. The rescue vessels found a partly submerged boat, along with two people in a life raft. Two others were found onshore, and three bodies were found of people who had drowned in the water. Along with rescuing the survivors, the teams pumped out the vessel.
John Drake, the search and rescue preparedness officer for the Canadian Coast Guard at Dartmouth, N.S., says the drills went very well. "There was a good mix between the U.S. and Canadian sides. Everybody worked well together." He says that there were no problems with communications and coordination among the different agencies from the U.S. and Canada, with the CCGS Sir William Alexander serving as the on-scene coordinator, directing the vessels where to go. He notes that the Coast Guard crews, during the second incident, did a good job distinguishing that there were three different flares that were sighted coming from the same area.
Chief Austin Olmstead, officer in charge of U.S. Coast Guard Station Eastport, agrees with Drake's assessment, noting, "I think it went well overall. It's good to work with different agencies and with different countries." He says the interagency and cross-border cooperation is strong, adding that exercises such as this one reinforce those connections. He notes that this year communications went more smoothly than during a similar exercise held last year. During that drill there were problems with the communication between the on-scene coordinator and Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels and also the Cormorant helicopter.
Vessels participating in the exercise, along with the 220-foot icebreaker and buoy tender Sir William Alexander, based in Dartmouth, N.S., were the 52-foot Canadian Coast Guard cutter Westport out of Westport, N.S., Station Eastport's 45-foot rescue boat, the RCMP vessel out of St. Stephen, and three Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels, the Island Bound and Shy Lady out of Grand Manan and the Nemo out of St. Andrews. The Cormorant helicopter is from the Canadian Forces Base in Greenwood, N.S.
The two scenarios were developed by the Rescue Training Centre/Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Halifax, and the staging area for the exercises was Coast Guard Station Eastport. The Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard plan to conduct such exercises every year.