Canada has a huge sea and lake coastline. The mandate for emergency response along those coastlines rests with the Canadian Coast Guard.
The years following the Second World War, especially the 60’s and 70’s, witnessed a boom in small vessel ownership Along with this came the expectation that there would be emergency help available in time of trouble. The Coast Guard found itself increasingly in demand, but often without the resources to meet those demands, especially offshore.
Against the background of mounting needs for a faster response to local emergencies arose the idea that individuals or groups could supplement and augment the resources of Coast Guard. These local volunteers would be ‘auxiliary’ to the Coast Guard. Such individuals or groups could be called upon, as Coast Guard is called upon, to respond to local emergencies. This is the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
In order to organize, train and support the auxiliary individuals or units, an organization called the Canadian Marine Rescue Association (CMRA) was formed in 1978. This organization was renamed the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) in 1996.
Prior to 1988, around Port Colborne, marine rescue was in the hands of several different agencies. Usually these were fire and police departments whose equipment and training did not normally support offshore marine emergencies. A number of local boaters got together and decided to from a Coast Guard Auxiliary unit and become a community unit of the CMRA (now CCGA). They did so in 1988 under the name Port Colborne Marine Auxiliary Rescue, or POCOMAR.
There are many more individual boat owners than groups in the CCGA. An individual (or private) Coast Guard Auxiliary unit would be an approved vessel, its skipper and his/her usual crew. POCOMAR is a community, or dedicated Coast Guard Auxiliary unit. The members do not own the boat, but rather operate the unit’s vessel as a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel for the good of the boating public and as a service to the community.
The first vessel, Blue Knight, was a surplus 21 foot police boat renamed POCOMAR. It was purchased through donations by individuals, businesses and groups in the area. Although the boat was rather small for a rescue vessel, it did great service and started the proud tradition of POCOMAR’s service on Lake Erie