Salish Rescue is a volunteer search and rescue non-profit organization dedicated to helping improve on-the-water safety in the Puget Sound region. Since 2004, Salish Rescue has offered hands-on, on-the-water search and rescue skills training for both youth and adults. Salish Rescue frequently provides safety cover for community events and supports near-shore search and rescue operations. Salish students and instructors have rescued dozens of kayakers, provided emergency towing, assisted with salvage operations, supported Marine Biology research, and served as a safety resource for a wide variety of on-the-water events.
Recent Salish Rescue taskings include winching a grounded 63-ton schooner off the Fort Worden State Park beach, offering live “victim” crew overboard training for Schooner Adventuress crew, towing a whale carcass after necropsy for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, rescuing a lost dinghy, and race safety cover for Race To Alaska.
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The program is supported entirely by donations; marine safety gear such as tow lines, lifeguard-grade PFDs, and anchor gear are always welcome, as are outboard engines in good working order.
Salish trains year round, with schedule adjustments to suit current participants. Youth training programs are run as an Explorer Post through Chief Seattle Boy Scout Council. Students from Jefferson Community School have a weekly class on Wednesday afternoons during the school year; other instruction is by arrangement.
Salish trainees – both youth and adults – work towards completing “task books” covering different aspects of boat handling, seamanship and navigation. Qualified students can “check out” Salish Vessels for additional practice time. Salish crews practice in all weather conditions – emergencies tend to happen in strong wind and wave conditions, so that’s how we train.
Salish usually has two inflatables in the water in Point Hudson, with an additional boat available at Cape George. The goal is to have a boat on the way within 10 minutes of getting a call – sooner if possible, in cold water where minutes can count.
Several past Salish students have continued their marine work after completing the program, with careers in the merchant marine, doing lifeboat rescue for refugees arriving in Greece, or serving with the Royal Naval Lifeboat Institute in the UK. An 18 year old Salish student designed and built a boat as his senior project, then raced it to Alaska in the 2017 R2AK. Other Salish students have won teen leadership awards recognizing their work with Salish, and been commended by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office for their rescue efforts. For many Salish Rescue students, the program has been life-changing, offering an opportunity for “hands-on” learners, who often face challenges in school, to succeed and gain confidence, responsibility, and marketable job skills.