A Wallaceburg man looks back fondly on his 30 plus years of volunteering with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
“My wife (Anne) and I both joined at the same time actually,” said Richard “Butch” Dompierre.
“We used my boat and I’ve had a really good crew.”
Butch retired his boat – “The Fancy Canoe” – back in September last year.
The Auxiliary is a national volunteer maritime rescue and safety organization that conducts search and rescue exercises and assists the Canadian Coast Guard in search and rescue response and prevention activities in communities across Canada.
Close to 5,000 volunteers are dedicated to search and rescue and safe boating activities as well as saving and protecting lives in the marine environment.
Butch said there is a about 800 or 900 volunteers in the Central Atlantic Region, which comprises all of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, North West Territories and Nunavit.
Butch’s focus was Lake St. Clair.
“We would go on a trailer and go up to as far as Lake Huron, which we have been called up to and as far down as Lake Erie. In the last few years we have had our boat at Mitchell’s Bay, we had a trailer down there so we had our boat right in the water there so we were able to respond somewhat quicker.”
“We would be called at anytime of the day or night when they needed us, out we go,” he added.
Butch said there are many calls over the years that stand out in his mind.
“The ones that remind you the most of course is when there are little kids,” he said. “They are the ones that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. When people would go out during the day and it was nice and warm and than in the evening it got cold and the families are all in bathing suits and they got in trouble. They were cold and fortunately we had blankets so we were able to help them warm up.”
Butch said he recalls come instances where there were six foot high waves.
“We’ve had three boats since we started and at that time the first one was only 17-foot and it was the smallest boat in the whole auxiliary. Going into 6 foot waves we soon found out the boat could take more than we could. We have never had any serious issues ourselves.”
Butch said he has experienced times where people have died and they have had to retrieve bodies.
On average, Butch said they would do 12-20 cases total a year.
Heading into retirement, Butch said he is going to miss it.
“My days of going out and doing this is in the past unfortunately. I can’t guarantee my health on any given day, so I can’t do it anymore.”
Butch said he wanted to recognize his crew from over the years.
“We were nothing without them,” he said.
The crew members included:
– Anne Dompierre – 30 years
– Mike Croxford – 26 years
– Joanne Munroe – 10 years
– Jason Doran – 9 years
– Todd Trahan – 9 years
– Mike Brown – 6 years
– Tom Park – 5 years
– Bob Doran (deceased) – 22 years
– Larry Mapletoft – 8 years
– Anthony Dompierre – 5 years
– David Bridge – 5 years
– Submitted photo courtesy of Richard Dompierre: The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary often participates in search and rescue exercises on Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.