“We’re going to die.”
The words rang out over the radio, coming from a vessel called the Northern Gypsy on a stormy night in 2008. Paul Nestman, who at the time was a rescue specialist with the Canadian Coast Guard, and his partner Bruce Holland, were sent out to assess the scene.
Those steering the vessel were disoriented during the storm and ended up on a reef about 1,000 feet off the beach and now, Northern Gypsy was starting to break up.
“Long story short, decisions had to be made very quickly,” says Nestman. “We made the decision to go in and get them and to this day I still don’t know how we did it.”
Nestman and his partner pulled the two people off the boat, along with a cat, which garnered the attention of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria. Following the rescue, Nestman was presented with an award to recognize the actions he took to save the lives of those two people.
Stories like this, among many others Nestman has accumulated throughout his 36-year career with the Coast Guard, earned him another award. The Exemplary Service Medal is a national award from the Coast Guard that expresses gratitude for long and commendable service, particularly in fields involving potential risk.
|Paul Nestman’s Exempllary Service Award, which will be presented to him on Oct. 27 by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin during a virtual ceremony. (Provided by Tammy Robinson)|
Nestman, who is currently an enforcement officer for a program called Vessels of Concern, says the biggest arching lesson he’s learned throughout his career is to “trust your team and trust your training.”
“We had a very close-knit group with Search and Rescue. We trained hard, and we trained for events that most mariners would not want to go in. And then at the end of the day, when the pager goes off on those calls, nobody else is going but us,” he says. “You get to a point where you don’t even ask, you don’t talk, we just do and it works.”
Working under the Wreck, Abandoned and Hazardous Vessels Act, Nestman’s current job is to help clean up hazardous, derelict or abandoned vessels.
“I’m honored that I’ve been chosen for the position,” he says. “I take a very high standard when it comes to keeping our environment clean, and our coast clean, and finding new ways to help people deal with vessels up and down the coast, it’s a big draw for me, I like it.”
Nestman says he’s not a “big medals person” but appreciates the acknowledgment.
“I’m a team player so I really find it hard to accept things when I know that I’ve worked with others doing it.”
He and 36 others from the Coast Guard Western Region, were presented their awards by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin on behalf of Governor General Julie Payette during a virtual ceremony earlier this week.