When disaster strikes on the water, we think of the Coast Guard. However, what happens if the Coast Guard isn’t there for you? The village of Ahousaht has come to rely on their own in an emergency. That’s not to say the Coast Guard isn’t involved, but more often than not, they request any available local boats to assist anyways. And that’s how it should be. All vessels in the region need to be notified of a mayday emergency so they can respond if possible.

On Sunday, April 30th, that didn’t fully happen. When a 8.5 meter catamaran fishing vessel, carrying 5 people began taking on water in outer Clayoquot Sound, the Coast Guard put out a call for assistance on Channel 16. Boats that were scanning or monitoring ch. 16 on their VHF heard the call, but many did not. The Coast Guard has the option of, and has many times in the past, put out an all station broadcast, which redirects all radios to Ch. 16 for the emergency broadcast. These all channel broadcasts aren’t particularly uncommon. Not too long ago, one went out for kayakers in the Sooke region, requesting available vessels to search for them. No all channel broadcast was put out for the vessel on April 30th, leaving many boats unaware of the emergency and unable to offer their assistance.

It leaves me wondering if that all channel broadcast could have changed the outcome and whether having more boats respond immediately would have widened the initial search pattern.

What is the Coast Guard’s criteria for all channel mayday broadcasts? Why does one emergency receive one and not another?

Our local rescuers and Coast Guard did an amazing job and assisted in every way possible. But I can’t help but wonder if additional lives could have been saved if more boats had initially responded and the search pattern therefore expanded exponentially.