Toronto Search and Rescue prepares for spring

Toronto’s only volunteer marine rescue unit is calling for more hands on deck.

Thanks to a three-year effort led by Beach residents, Toronto Search and Rescue (T-SAR) recently bought its first patrol boat and officially joined the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Now, as T-SAR gets set for its first spring on the water, organizers are recruiting new volunteers.

Everyone from captains to deck hands will be needed on the patrol boat, says Derek Cartier, T-SAR’s commanding officer. The twin-engine, 30-foot Pursuit boat has enough horsepower to travel at up to 40 knots.

“We’ll mainly be patrolling the east end,” said Cartier. The area includes the Leslie Spit, Scarborough Bluffs, and Rouge River areas, though Cartier noted that T-SAR’s area of responsibility extends west to the mouth of Etobicoke Creek.

“But if we get called on a search and rescue, we’ll go anywhere we can on Lake Ontario,” he added.

Besides experience, Cartier said T-SAR crew will ideally live about 20 minutes from Ashbridges Bay so they can quickly respond to search-and-rescue calls.

T-SAR also needs help on the ground, from marine mechanics to administrative helpers and outreach workers.

Besides patrols and rescues, the group puts on water-safety presentations for local schools and community groups.

Andrew Cooper, principal at Blantyre Public School, said he was glad to have T-SAR present at the school last year.

“Pushing water safety is crucial,” Cooper said. “We live by a big lake, and it’s so much cleaner now that more people are swimming in it, which is great.”

For many Blantyre students, Cooper said the basic, three-day Swim to Survive summer course run by the Toronto District School Board is their first formal swimming lesson.

“It’s needed, even if you don’t think your kid is going to get into swimming,” said Cooper.

“At least have them comfortable in the water so if they do fall in, they can get themselves out.”

Before the boating season begins, the next step for T-SAR is to partner with the city’s parks department and secure a berth for its patrol boat at Ashbridges Bay.

Cartier said the non-profit group has already had help from local officials in their bid to join to the Coast Guard Auxiliary, with letters of support from city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, MPP Arthur Potts, and MP Matthew Kellway. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority also did extra dredging in Ashbridges Bay last year to make sure the T-SAR patrol boat could easily access the area.

To find out more about T-SAR or to apply for a volunteer position, visit

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