Water search and rescue heroes David Payne, left, and Brian Congdon are all smiles standing next to the Jack Simpson vessel on a warm December day. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Water search and rescue heroes David Payne, left, and Brian Congdon are all smiles standing next to the Jack Simpson vessel on a warm December day. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Ucluelet mariners David Payne and Brian Congdon receive Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Long Service Medals

“It is a symbol of their countless volunteer hours they have devoted, the lives they have saved.”

From aboard the Jack Simpson rescue vessel, Brian Congdon and David Payne regale stories of their time as volunteers within the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM SAR) Unit 38.

The coxswains have about 70 years of combined marine rescue experience. Congdon started back in 1980 and Payne in 1991. When a radio distress call echoes through Channel 16 VHF, the watermen power up the Simpson and head out to assist with the rescue. They are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“Most of it is pretty ho hum…A boat broken down in the harbour or somebody ran out of gas or somebody is missing so we go look for them and then we find them or we tow them in if they broke down,” says Congdon.

“But, there certainly have been a few incidents where it’s a real rescue where you actually save some lives,” he continued.

“We’ve also dug some bodies out of the water as well,” Payne quietly reveals. “Off the top, I can think of three [distress calls] that I was involved with and one that both you and I were involved with. The most recent one was last year.”

The tragedy involved a woman drowning near Ucluelet’s Whiskey Dock, remembers Payne. According to an Oct. 26, 2018, Westerly News report, the 50-year-old woman was believed to be visiting family in the area. Her body was retrieved from the harbour around 5 p.m. on Oct. 19 and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

“And, the one that you and I were involved in, there was a guy hiking and fell off by the lighthouse,” adds Congdon then a voice from a working Coast Guard pipes up on the radio, interrupting his thoughts.

Most recently, Congdon and Payne received a Long Service Medal for their 25 years of dedication to water rescues. Paul Cumberland, the director of administration for RCM SAR, made the trip from Victoria to present the honour at the start of the Nov. 26 Ucluelet council meeting.

“[Congdon] started with a hand-me-down boat from the Coast Guard that came via Parks Canada. He’s had a career that is longer than our record keeping. So we know that he’s been involved in at least 55 search and rescue missions that have untold saved lives and property that has been kept out of going to the bottom of the ocean,” said Cumberland.

“[Payne] again, untold hours working on the boat and out on the waters and he is also a Canadian Ranger which is a partner with RCM SAR. We are very proud to present him a Long Service Medal,” Cumberland went on to say.

Jeff Swann, RCMP Staff Sergeant with the Member Workplace Services, did many training exercises and marine rescues with Payne and Congdon over the seven and a half years he was stationed in Ucluelet.

“Both of these men are incredibly knowledgeable and are an incredible resource to draw upon for all mariners,” wrote Sgt. Swann in an email. “A Long Service medal is an extremely honourable award. It is a symbol of their countless volunteer hours they have devoted, the lives they have saved, and the up and coming RCM SAR folks who have been taught and guided by these two men. My heartfelt congratulations to both of you, very well deserved,” he wrote.

As a commercial mariner, Payne said he joined the RCM SAR because he wanted to “give it forward” in some ways.

“I feel fortunate to be able to get out on the water and take part in what’s going on on the ocean in a meaningful way. It gives a little more purpose,” Payne notes.

Congdon, not one to make a big deal out of the award, said it’s nice that the recognition will shed light on what RCM SAR volunteers do. He offered these words of wisdom to novice sea dogs:

“Be careful. Look at the chart. Look at the weather. Tell somebody where you are going and what time you are gonna be back,” Congdon advises.

RCM SAR members take direction from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria. Pacific Rim Unit 38 out of Ucluelet is currently seeking new recruits. Anyone interested in learning more is encouraged to visit: ccga-pacific.org.

Congdon and Payne navigate the Jack Simpson rescue vessel on a glassy day in the Ucluelet.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Japanese Canadian Mary Kimoto receives Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers

READ: Veteran Tofino firefighter honoured for service

MarinersSearch and Rescueucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ucluelet locals Rachael, Caroline and Tom enjoy refreshments on a sunny Monday afternoon at a picnic table dining area set up by the District of Ucluelet to help residents and visitors support local businesses while staying outside. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Ucluelet chamber launches bingo contest to support local restaurants

Four Ucluelet Co-op shopping sprees are up for grabs in #Ukee2go competition.

The entrance to the Lodge Property on Reef Point Road. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Virtual public hearing held for the Lodge Property in Ucluelet

Mayor and council to make a final decision during the April 14 regular council meeting

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Green Point Campground saw an unprecedented flurry of reservations last week. (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s campground sees ‘unprecedented’ interest as reservations open

Green Point Campground is scheduled to open from May 1 – Oct. 12 this year.

Kale is a classic in West Coast gardens.
COLUMN: Kale reigns supreme in West Coast gardens

In Tofino and Ucluelet, kale is a classic.

(B.C. Government photo)
POLL QUESTION: Are you in favour of B.C.’s three-week ban on in-restaurant dining?

Dr. Bonnie Henry called the three week stoppage a “circuit breaker”

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

Most Read