The commissioning of the MV Island Responder at the Chemainus wharf on Thursday afternoon is considered a milestone for emergency services in British Columbia

It is the first purpose-built water ambulance in the province, operated under a long-term contract with Chemainus Water Taxi Ltd. by BC Emergency Health Services, and considered an important lifeline for the proper administration of medical treatment for residents of nearby Chemainus Islands. It comes with all the amenities – a stretcher and wheelchair access ramp and 100 square feet of interior space to make transporting and treating patients easier and more efficient.

It was a cause for celebration and many members of the BCEHS, BC paramedics, members of the Chemainus ambulance crew, Penelakut elder August Sylvester and the men who operate the ship We were on hand for the special ceremony which finally took place after being postponed from last November. when an atmospheric deluge hit the area. Piper Mike Wright and honor guard members Glenn Hovgaard and Wray Watson led the assembled guests along the wharf to the boat’s berth.

“This place is a highly respected area,” Sylvester said as he welcomed everyone to Penelakut territory.

“What we’re going to do is bless this boat so it doesn’t tip over. We want them to travel safely – safety first.

The boat has already been put into service more than 85 times for emergency interventions since November 2021.

“It appears dozens of our patients have been able to get medical attention,” said Heather Edward, BCEHS director for southern Vancouver Island. “This has ensured the safety of our patients and medical responders.”

Making service a reality did not come without a lot of effort.

“A lot of people were involved in the process,” said Bob Mollet, one of the ship’s captains and chief operating officer of Chemainus Water Taxi, who acknowledged those contributions.

Edward agreed about the effort that went into it “and it shows in this amazing ship that’s there”.

“I think it’s high time to have this ship,” added Stuart Myers, BC Ambulance Service worker and regional vice-president of CUPE 873.

Chris Mullin and Harmen Bootsma are the two main captains, with Brian Francoeur, owner of Chemainus Water Taxi, and Mollet as backup. They are ready to answer calls 24/7 with minimal response time as they all live minutes from the dock to launch the boat.

Doug Spraggett and the construction team at Northwest Aluminum Craft were instrumental in the design.

“Doug worked closely with us on the details we needed and often offered innovative solutions and suggestions,” explained Mollet. “Northwest Aluminum Craft delivered this very unique, fast and capable vessel on time and on budget.”

The vessel is an S32 catamaran with a custom cabin design. It measures 35’6″ long and 11’6″ wide and is powered by two 300 horsepower Mercury outboard motors.

Mollet said the decision to go with a catamaran was based on several factors, including: the vessel’s width allowed for more cabin space without increasing length; wide platform provides excellent dockside stability when transferring the weight of a loaded Stryker bed and personnel on or off; and the shallow draft is important for some of the smaller islands where berthing depends on the tide.

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Piper Mike Wright with honor guard members Glenn Hovgaard, left, and Wray Watson aboard the MV Island Responder.  (Photo by Don Bodger)

Piper Mike Wright with honor guard members Glenn Hovgaard, left, and Wray Watson aboard the MV Island Responder. (Photo by Don Bodger)