MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
WE INVITE YOU TO AIR YOUR VIEWS, STATE YOUR CONCERNS OR SHARE YOUR COMMENTS WITH FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE SEA RESCUE FAMILY
WINNING LETTER Congratulations to Anthony Rezek and Sandy Post for writing the winning letter. Your case of Slaley wines is on its way to you.
A REMINDER OF WHO’S THE BOSS
close intervals but past the crisis. My fellow skipper took the helm and I crawled through the water to open the hatches to allow the water to drain from the boat. A few tense minutes later, the water had drained and we quickly made a U-turn and headed back into the mouth to safety. A river boater waved us down and very excitedly started to explain what they had seen from the safety of the inside of the mouth. Basically, they thought we were gone. We flew through the wave at an angle, nose in the air, and disappeared behind the crashing monster wave only to again crest the next wave almost vertically. They were shaking with excitement, and then joked, ‘We’ll get a camera, you guys go do it again.’ Only later did the gravity of the situation hit us. Battered, bruised and drenched, we made our way home feeling very shaky once the adrenalin stopped pumping. Our good fortune was partly due to stability of the 5.2m craft. A lesser boat would have resulted in a less favourable outcome. In fact, a few days later a rubber duck capsized in the mouth and Port Alfred NSRI effected the rescue. After hundreds of exits from the Kowie River mouth and decades of boating experience, one is reminded of the unpredictability of the sea. As my co-skipper’s son said, ‘These incidents serve to remind us who’s the boss.’ I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all NSRI crew who risk so much for people like me. Hopefully I will never need you guys but knowing you are there makes all the difference. Keep up the good work, and to all you fellow boaters, keep sending your financial support – without it, nothing is possible. Anthony Rezek and Sandy Post
ILLUSTRATION: DARRYL EDWARDES
Just a reminder to fellow boaters: On 1 January 2010, a fellow skipper and I decided to check out the Kowie River mouth in Port Alfred. Leaving from the marina, we turned the corner and saw a reasonably calm sea with a slightly bumpy exit. As always, we approached the exit slowly and, thinking all was okay, put on our life jackets. We observed the exit for at least 10 minutes and, on noticing a particularly calm period, decided to make our move. During this time, no waves had broken in front of us. The swells in the mouth were about half a metre but close together, so we proceeded slowly. Before exiting the mouth, we were suddenly confronted with a huge wave, which was too far away to get over before breaking. Looking left for an escape, I saw that we had only just passed the left pier, and we would not have the speed to run away to the left. In an instant, I realised we were in trouble. My years of boating and instinct took over. The wave was at an angle to the exit, so I tried to turn the boat to face the wave but we were already on our way up the crest. The boat seemed to be almost vertical, and I looked up to see the breaking wave starting to curl almost a metre over the nose of the upstanding boat. I kept my hands steadily on the throttles and gripped the wheel as tight as I could to keep the boat as close to head-on as possible. In a flash we were knocked down and completely drenched. The boat came crashing down, thankfully right side up. Then, to our horror, we saw a second wave starting to stand up on us, again at an angle. I turned the wheel and jerked the throttle to maximum. The boat, full of water, hardly responded but did enough to send us crashing over the wave. Fortunately, we were now in big swells at
SEA RESCUE > AUTUMN 2010
NERVES OF STEEL
MOSSEL BAY SEA RESCUE VOLUNTEERS AND THE BORDER UNIT POLICE LAUNCHED THEIR VESSELS IN APPALLING CONDITIONS TO ASSIST THE CREW OF THE CAPSIZED TRAWLER MANDI. WITH EVERYTHING AGAINST THEM, THE RESCUERS MADE REPEATED ATTEMPTS TO REACH THE STRICKEN VESSEL, PERSEVERING UNTIL THEY COULD NO LONGER. BY ANDREW INGRAM
n Wednesday, 21 October 2009, the Mandi, a 12m coastal fishing trawler sailed from Mossel Bay to trawl for sole at fishing grounds off Stilbaai. It was a good trip; the team worked well together and enjoyed being at sea. They had about three tons of fish on board before the weather started to deteriorate on Sunday, and when the skipper, Christopher Diedrichts, announced he was running for home, the crew was in high spirits. Soon they would be back with their families. As people started making their way to work on Monday morning, the weather was steadily deteriorating. The usually calm waters of Mossel Bay had turned gun-metal grey and within a few hours became a foaming mass of huge waves, whipped into a frenzy by the onshore wind. Gusting at more than 100km/h, the wind made it hard to stand upright outdoors. One of the worst storms in living memory was building. Sea Rescue volunteer Quintus Deacon, 25, visited his station commander, Dawie Zwiegelaar, around mid-morning, and while they were chatting asked, ‘If there is a call-out, would we go out in a sea like this?’ Dawie explains, ‘I said to him, “Ja, you know, if you take it head-on,
you can go out in almost any sea.” But I never thought that there was going to be a call-out.’ The first alert to the rescuers came from the supply tug Seacor Achiever, which called Mossel Bay Port Control on VHF channel 12. It was 12h09. ‘When the call came,’ Dawie continues, ‘I was close to where it was happening, so I knew that there was big trouble. So I put out the call [to the station’s crew] and went to the boathouse. One of the other coxswains said to me, “You can’t go out in a sea like this.” So I said to him that we couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. I asked for volunteers and, of course, there were quite a lot of them. So I picked the three youngest and fittest guys.’ Mechanic Danie Pretorius was one of the locals watching the fury of the sea down at The Point. He was also the last person to photograph the trawler before she capsized, flinging the six crew into the maelstrom – and into a desperate fight for survival. At the same moment, Border Unit police inspector Arno Cloete was
00SEA 12 SEARESCUE RESCUE>>AUTUMN AUTUMN2010 2010
PHOTOGRAPH: ANDREW INGRAM
standing on the balcony at his office watching the little trawler battling the seas. He glanced down at his cellphone and when he looked up again, Mandi had capsized. ‘I ran for the VHF and called the Port Office,’ he says. Things became a blur as the experienced young policeman shouted for his colleagues, inspectors Francois Joubert and Hugo Jordaan. They hooked up their new 6m RIB and, with lights and sirens on, raced for the slip. In the bouncing boat, they struggled to get their uniforms off, wetsuits and life jackets on and secure any loose gear on the deck. Huge waves breaking onto the yacht club slip made it impossible to launch from there, but Arno thought there was a chance that he could get in at the municipal slip 150m away. He had seen the crew in the water and knew that every minute was an eternity in those conditions. With 2m waves smashing onto the ramp, the men managed to get the boat into the water and, gunning the powerful engines, headed towards the open water. ‘A trip that normally takes two minutes took us 17 minutes. It was so bad that our engines were sometimes totally under water,’ says Arno. ‘At the harbour mouth, the first really big wave hit us. A gas cylinder came flying past my head and there was a lot of rope in the water. We went up and then it felt like we were falling into eternity. The wind was so strong that I was scared we would flip, so Francois and Hugo went to the bow,’ Arno explains. Eventually the police boat arrived at the upturned hull, and Arno manoeuvred up to the life raft tethered to it. ‘There was nobody inside,’ Arno says. They spotted two bodies close by, and while trying to recover one, a huge breaking wave slammed into them. The boat was thrown up and pushed over to the port side, and for long seconds, it seemed like they would go over. ‘By the grace of God we didn’t, but the starboard engine cut out,’ Arno continues. After this huge fright, they ran back for the harbour to reassess their options, and in the safety of the harbour, pulled alongside Sea Rescue’s 9m Vodacom Rescuer 1. Dawie takes up the story: ‘The tug Arctic Tern left the harbour to try and help. She took a huge breaker on her starboard side; it was so big that the boat rolled over. Then they turned around and nearly capsized.
I almost saw the keel of that boat … It was so close. So they came back into the harbour, and we did a few runs there. The next moment, we saw this guy on a jet-ski. I couldn’t believe my eyes.’ It was Robert Pace, a man who is extremely experienced on his craft. The police, Sea Rescue and the jet-ski all left the protection of the harbour and headed back to Mandi.
HE LOOKED UP AT ME AND SAID, ‘PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE’ Robert explains, ‘I did a crisscross over the swells, didn’t find anyone, and came back. It was on the second run that I found the oke floating in the water.’ Robert had found the only survivor, 30-year-old Wilhelm Isaacs. ‘I went closer and asked him to grab the back of the jet-ski, but he was too weak. He looked up at me and said, “Meneer, moet my asseblief nie hier los nie [Please don’t leave me here].”’ Robert waved frantically at the police, who raced over. ‘It was just the greatest feeling,’ says Arno. ‘We jumped three or four huge waves and then landed right next to him; Francois and Hugo leaned over and pulled him in. Completely exhausted, Wilhelm was unable to help them. Looking Francois in the eye, he said, “Die Here het julle gestuur [God sent you].”’ The conditions were, almost unbelievably, still deteriorating. The only way that the police crew could keep Wilhelm in the boat was to quite literally stand on him. ‘The sea spray was sandblasting our faces; it was like being in the dark,’ Dawie explains. Despite this, after handing the survivor over to an ambulance crew, the men took their boats back, hoping against hope to find more survivors. It was 13h20, and the sound of the wind and waves was soon joined by the ‘whup-whup-whup’ of a helicopter. Kobus Crous, legendary Mossel Bay pilot, had arrived in his little Robinson 44 to help. When most
1 The spot where Mandi capsized. 2 Survivor Wilhelm Isaacs was found by Robert Pace and pulled into the police rescue craft. 3 Where Mandi washed up and the remaining crew members were recovered. (The Mandi crew were Christopher Diedrichts, Christopher Gurner, Edward Hunter, Edward Stoltz, Winston Michaels and Wilhelm Isaacs.)
PHOTOGRAPH: MELISSA HILLS
Bo: Die onstuimige see het die reddingspogings onmoontlik gemaak. Vrywilligers moes toe strand af hardloop om oorlewendes te probeer vind
26 OKTOBER 2009: ’N DAG WAT ONS NOOIT SAL VERGEET NIE Deur Corné Wessels Dit was ’n regte blou Maandag. Die weer was onrustig en die see ontstuimig. Deur die loop van die oggend het die wind vreeslik sterk begin woed en baie van ons het bekommerd teruggedink aan kere wat wind groot skade in Mosselbaai berokken het. Maar teen 12h10 het ’n selfs groter tragedie ons kusdorp begin tref toe Dawie Zwiegelaar ’n SMS gestuur het wat sê, ‘Code red, please report to the boathouse.’ Wanneer ons as see-reddings vrywilligers hierdie noodboodskap ontvang, weet ons daar’s groot moeilikheid – ek het dadelik na ons boothuis gejaag. Daar gekom het ek aangetrek, en saam met mede-vrywilligers die Vodacom Rescuer 1 lanseer – dit alles het binne drie minute geskied. En toe’s ons die wilde see in… Toe die eerste golf ons tref, net buite die hawe, het ons besef ernorme branders is ons voorland. Ons het voortbeweeg in die rigting van die omgeslane boot, maar nadat die vierde golf ons getref het, het ons besef ons boot se motore kon nie behoorlik werk nie. Met branders van hoër as 9m sou dit ’n onbegonne taak vir enige boot wees om die rowwe water te patrolleer. Elke brander wat ons van voor af geslaan het, het dit laat voel asof die boot ontplof en daar moes vir lewe en dood vasgehou word. Met ons veiligheid in gedagte het ons teruggedraai hawe toe. Daar het die polisie se watervleuel by ons aangesluit en ons is weer die branders in. Stormwinde het ons taak bemoeilik, maar na vele probeerslae kon ons tot by die boot kom. Daar was geen bemanning oor nie, en ons is weer terug hawe toe. Toe kom Robert Pace se manhaftige reddingspoging, wat die enigste oorlewende van die tragedie uit die see getrek het. Nadat ek gehelp het om die oorlewende aan wal neer te lê waar die paramedici dit verder gevat het, is ek weer terug op die NSRI boot die see in. Dis tóé dat ons via radio verbinding verneem het dat Kobus Crous met sy helikopter winde van meer as 110km/h aangedurf het om te help met die soektog. Hy het ’n liggaam bespied wat naby De Bakke swemstrand gedryf het. Ons kon nie met ons boot soontoe beweeg nie weens rotse en reuse branders, en moes dus eers terug boothuis toe, vanwaar ons sou aansluit
by ander vrywilligers wat vanaf die strand liggame uit die see probeer help het. Ons was egter vasgekeer in ’n reuse verkeersknoop, en moes spook om by ons bestemming uit te kom. Teen die tyd dat ons by De Bakke aangekom het ’n vrywillger reeds een liggaam uit die water gehaal. Ons is toe verder die rotse af in die rigting van Diaz Strand, waar Kobus nog ’n liggaam in die see opgemerk het. Dit was chaos net waar jy kyk – die pad en omgewing was toe onder die motors en nuuskieriges, maar ons het darem by ons reddingsvoertuig gekom en met loeiende sirenes en ligte na Diaz gejaag. Omdat die bemanning van die Mandi almal in groen olie-pakke geklee was, was dit moeilik om die liggame te onderskei tussen al die drywende groen visbakke wat ook die hele baai volgedryf het. Ons het die liggaam sien dryf, maar weens die onmoontlike groot branders kon niemand die water binnegaan nie. Ons moes wag todat die liggaam uitgespoel het. Heelwat verder teen die strand af het vrywilligers nog ’n liggaam uitgetrek, maar dit was ook vir dié persoon te laat.
ONS KON NIE MET ONS BOTE SOONTOE BEWEEG NIE WEENS ROTSE EN REUSE BRANDERS Waar die Mandi moontlik sou uitspoel het Kobus nog ’n liggaam uitgewys, maar as gevolg van malende strome was dit moeilik om daar te kom. Uiteindelik het ons daarin geslaag. Dit was ook die laaste lyk wat ek daardie vreesaanjaende dag uitgetrek het. Laat daardie middag, terug by die boothuis, was daar ’n atmosfeer van uitputting, hartseer, skok en verligting. So ’n tragiese dag sal vir jare by ons almal bly wat daarby betrokke was. Maar ons is trots op die onbaatsugtige diens wat almal gelewer het. Van die bemanning van die polisieboot tot Kobus Crous – wat sy eie lewe gewaag het om in sy helikopter stormsterk winde aan te durf. En aan my mede NSRI vrywilligers: Ek salueer julle.
SEA RESCUE > AUTUMN 2010
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER This letter was sent to Marcus Oshry, the WaterWise educator in the Eastern Cape, by a teacher at a school where he ran a workshop. ‘I want to tell you the most touching story. One of our present Grade 4 pupils, who is a very weak swimmer, told me she was in knee-deep water when she stepped into a deep hole. She was knocked off her feet and got swept away. One after another, five cousins went in to try help and they all got into trouble. Eventually they were saved by some adults. I asked her how she handled the situation. She said she remembered what you told them in the hall about floating on their backs and letting the current take them. She also said she tried to keep calm! Marcus, I can’t tell you what this does to me every time I think of it. She can’t even swim in the ‘deep’ end of our pool – it isn’t very deep at all! I just wanted to tell you that you saved another precious life and you didn’t even know it. Thank you. Keep up the good work. God is good!’
Madeline Perzinthal received the Safmarine Making a Difference Trophy in December last year. Madeline is a volunteer at Station 7 (East London) and runs its WaterWise programme, in addition to her day job as a school teacher. In 2009, she did an amazing job teaching more than 2 000 school children about water safety.
To learn more about WaterWise, visit www.waterwise.org.za or call us on (021) 434-4011.
thank you sanlam In 1991 Captains WR Dernier and NA van Niekerk drafted the First edition of The Skippers Guide for Small Vessel Seamanship. This came about when a number of West Coast fishermen approached Piet van Zyl, the Sanlam representative in Saldanha, to have a guide printed. Piet contacted Willie van der Walt, then Head of Sanlam’s CSI department to provide the necessary funding. Willie showed interest in the project for two reasons. He could see the value of the product, and was at the time also considering ways of supporting the National Sea Rescue Institute. Commodore André Rudman, the CEO of the NSRI at the time, was in agreement, and the printing of the first edition was then authorised
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by Sanlam’s managing director, Pierre Steyn. Thereafter, 1 500 copies were produced in English and 1 500 in Afrikaans. The idea was that the proceeds from the sale of the guide would go to the NSRI. Since that first edition, a further 17 editions (53 560 copies) have been printed, resulting in approximately R2 087 220 raised for Sea Rescue. Initially the guide was sold at R30. The current retail price is R70. Sanlam and its present managing director, Dr Johan van Zyl, continue their support of The Sanlam Skippers’ Guide for Small Vessel Seamanship, and will sponsor 5 000 copies of edition 19 for 2010. It is believed that each copy will probably be used by more than one person, making the readership three to four times the number of copies sold. Sadly, we are aware that some less-than-honest people have photocopied the guide, therefore depriving our charity of precious funds. Over the years, there have been a number of changes in the Maritime Safety Regulations, which have resulted in the expansion of the original 41-page publication to its present 83 pages. While the first issue was also printed in Afrikaans, the Afrikaans version was never reproduced, because of the cost. The original 1 500 Afrikaans copies also took four years to sell out. Sea Rescue thanks Sanlam for this valuable publication and their ongoing support.
life boat circle
We spent a delightful, informal coffee morning with our supporters from the Pinelands area. members of the Life Boat Circle were invited to bring a friend to Goody’s coffee shop 1 Supporter Arthur Rogers 2 Leslie Glenday, Jean Holland, Edwina Alborough, Lorna Weisbecker, Captain Jack Clarke 3 Margaret McCulloch explains the Life boat Circle concept 4 Early crewman John Coetzee, Rose Craddock and Theresa Medicine, who has been at head office for 28 years 5 Cathy Ellis and Phyl Hewitt
4 Thank you for the following donations received: SPECIAL OCCASIONS • Mary Braithwaite (80th Birthday) • Hugh Amoore • Mr and Mrs Caleevie (40th Wedding Anniversary • Cecily Kaplan (Birthday) • Ada Scher (80th Birthday) DONATIONS IN MEMORY OF LOVED ONES • Sheila Coltham • Reg Hopkins • Duncan MacWilliam • JD Moser • DG Ramsay • Alan Sharwood • Mr and Mrs C van der Vliet • Mrs Parzydlo
5 Life boat Circle is a society for retired persons. For more information, contact Margaret McCulloch on 082 990 5976, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
and joy The NSRI was recently involved in the unsuccessful search for Duncan MacWilliam, who almost certainly drowned while crossing the Umfolozi River mouth near St Lucia on 13 December 2009. We found the words that the family shared at the memorial service for Duncan resonated with all of us who have sons and brothers and, sad as they were, they were also somehow uplifting. The family has agreed to us publishing extracts from their tributes. Duncan MacWilliam was my son. I loved him like only a father can, and needless to say, was very proud to be his father. He was born in the happiest of circumstances into a family he loved and who loved him. He loved his mother, Beverley, with a passion; he supported me whenever I needed it; he hero-worshipped Ryan, and for entertainment, he fought with Stuart. Duncan saw himself every bit as their equals. They were his world, their friends were his friends and he had all he needed. Duncan’s cheerful nature was never daunted by Perthes disease. He simply got on with his life, although ultimately it meant a painful hip and a permanent limp. No matter the illogicality of it, Duncan’s limp worried me much more than it worried him. His smile never waned, he was as active as ever and undertook some epic hikes – the Mulanges in Malawi when he was small, and in the Cedarberg later with his peers. Duncan loved sport. At the start of his rugby career, he was short and stocky. His key strength was his determination. But, in no time at all, he grew taller and scrawny, and his limitations as a rugby player were exposed. But that did not put him off. I still remember the day his team beat Paul Roos by a single point. Duncan played his heart out that day. From rugby and then water polo, he followed his brothers into canoeing. He was often my companion, but he did not particularly appreciate my canoeing style – we did a lot of swimming. I took the worst of my canoeing out on him, but he never complained. In no time he became a much better canoeist and surfskier than I can ever hope to be. He was also my coach. Inevitably, most of his criticisms were valid. Duncan, I promise that every time I err, I will try to remember your advice. As bright as he was, being the third son did not make life easy for Duncan. He was an attention deficit disorder (ADD) child. But, no hurdle was too high for Duncan, and by the time he finished school, ADD was a thing of the past. I used to tell him his victory over ADD was one of the most impressive things I had ever seen, and that he should never underestimate its magnitude. In the end, he got six distinctions in matric.
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Duncan put this, his last holiday, together himself. He and a group of his university friends arrived at Mapelane on Saturday, 12 December, and they had a really good time. On Monday morning, I received a call at work. Duncan was missing. I dropped everything and raced to the airport, where my son, Stuart, met me. We boarded the very first aeroplane to Durban. But by the time we got to St Lucia, it was already dark. I had already phoned the police and all the hospitals, but to no avail. Thank God one of the very first calls I made was to the NSRI. Mark Hughes of Richards Bay NSRI fielded the call. I have still not met him. But from that moment, things changed. By that night the NSRI had already searched the banks of the Umfolozi River. A fixed-wing aircraft flew out of Richards Bay at 06h30 on Tuesday morning. Stuart and I went out in a Bell helicopter at 8h00 to join the search. We flew over the river mouth that Duncan had set out to cross.
On Monday morning, I received a call at work. Duncan was missing That morning was beautiful. The sun shone, the sea glistened, the surf rolled in. But there was no sign of any driftwood or other possible flotation. There was no sign of Duncan. In truth, it was 48 hours too late. We also flew a search pattern over the forest and mangrove swamps, we criss-crossed over the St Lucia estuary, we saw the crocodiles and hippos that the press wrote about. But we never saw Duncan. When the fuel was up, we returned to Richard’s Bay. In the meanwhile, Ryan, our eldest son, had been flying from Alaska for some 40 hours. We met him at Durban airport late on Wednesday evening. We combed the beach again on the Thursday. The wind died down on Friday, and Ryan and I accompanied a police handler and sniffer dog for hours on a fruitless search of the coastal dunes. Duncan would have loved that dog. That night, we came home to Cape Town empty-handed. You learn from an ordeal such as this. The depth of compassion, the degree of caring, the urge to help us in this, the bleakest moment of our lives, is truly astounding. We have been inundated with messages of support, and we have appreciated that each and every one of you has
communicated with us from the very depth of your hearts. The problem we all face is that words cannot convey the magnitude of the disaster that has struck us. There are a host of thank yous that I need to voice. I have no doubt that I cannot begin to thank everyone. Indeed, many who have done their best for us I will never know or meet. But I do need to say the following: When you are in need, you appreciate the value of competence and the frustration of incompetence. I cannot think of an organisation that could have done more than the NSRI. Their services are voluntary. Nothing was too much trouble. They were distraught that they could not find Duncan for us. There are also policemen out there who put their lives on the line and go beyond the call of duty. For them we all need to be thankful. We need to thank the Natal Parks Board. They have been unstinting in their support and in their searches.
My colleagues at work made sure that there was nothing that I needed to worry about when I dropped everything and raced to KwaZulu Natal. Ryan, Stuart and Duncan’s friends have been a pillar of support. Over and above all of them, there are a host of strangers who could not have been kinder. Accommodation was laid on, transport was laid on, meals were provided, searches were conducted. We do not even know all the people who did things to try to find our son and to console us. We are truly humble, but as South Africans, we are proud to be one of you. We are grateful for what each and every South African did for us in our hour of need. For ourselves and even in death, we regard Duncan as one of the best things that ever happened to us. We have been truly blessed by him. Duncan, you have been and will remain in my heart as my youngest son. We are so proud of you. Russell MacWilliam
Ryan MacWilliam …I know that Duncan MacWilliam didn’t always get things easy and often achieved through sheer determination – reading Die Burger every morning to improve his Afrikaans, doing algebra on his Grade 3 holidays to improve his maths – it was no surprise he had the academic achievements my dad has already mentioned. I know that Duncan MacWilliam had a strength of character that was boundless. It was not loud or obnoxious, but rather a quiet, internal resilience. It was evident on the rugby field, in the water-polo pool and while paddling through raging rapids. And it was evident in his determination to keep up with Stuart and I, whether cycling up the passes of the Alps or hiking through the Western Cape mountains. It also led him to share his exceptional public speaking abilities in the townships, week after week. I know that when something caught Duncan’s interest, he embraced it with an enchanting zeal. Whether it was calling me to excitedly explain how he had improved his skiing technique during the last holiday, or repeatedly rehearsing his question that was beamed up to the first African in space, or whether it was stubbornly arguing a point, no matter how wrong he was. Duncan was one heck of a travel partner. From the coral reefs of Indonesia, to the bush of Africa, to the snowy peaks of the Andes, I will always look back on the hours us boys would spend playing, arguing, inventing our own games and chatting while we waited for our parents to plot the next holiday move. The hardest part of all of this has been watching my parents go through something so horrific. But, Mom and Dad, know this: You had a son who had grown into a man. You had a son who loved you with all his heart. And if it is to be that someone is taken from us so young, I will be forever thankful that he had two parents who gave him more love, showed him more of the world’s wonder, and taught him more about a life worth living than most people experience in far, far longer lifetimes. In closing, a friend commented that with Duncan dying on my birthday, that this day would no longer be one of celebration. I have
come to realise that the opposite is true. What better way to spend my birthday, and every other day, celebrating the fact that I had 20 years with the best man I ever knew. Stuart MacWilliam While we three brothers were definitely very similar, two things set Duncan apart from Ryan and I. Firstly, it was his extreme compassion and caring nature. Secondly, it was his contentment with life. Duncan was always happy with just who Duncan was. He didn’t need to be the best, or come first, he was just happy being himself. In this aspect, Duncan is a real example to us all. Right from when he was little, Duncan was always a cheerful guy. It didn’t really matter what the circumstances were, you could bank on the fact that Duncan would be smiling. I still remember him at age 10 happily cycling around France with a smile on his face, not worried about the fact that his brakes hardly worked! Duncan and I were a constant source of amusement to each other. If either of us ever got bored, we would proceed to irritate each other until a fight ensued. I can clearly remember making Duncan so angry that he proceeded to chase me around the house wielding a cricket bat, which, considering that he was only about five at the time, was about the same size as him. Thankfully our relationship had developed beyond being mere combatants into one of friendship and companionship. I am very fortunate in that my last two memories of Duncan are about as happy as they can be. About six weeks ago I came down to Cape Town for a weekend and we did a fantastic downwind surfski, in huge waves and high winds. Then only two and a half weeks ago, I flew down to Durban to do a two-day canoe race with him. While we managed to destroy our boat in the process, we were an outstanding combination, and both of us thoroughly enjoyed just floating down the river together. Mom and Dad, if I look at the son that Duncan was, and that you raised, I realise what an exceptional job you both did. Duncan might only have had 20 years, but you made completely sure that they were the best 20 years possible.
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
wendy maritz finds out what made riaan manser give up the life he knew in exchange for solo adventures into unknown territory, first ON a bike and then a kayak
n 8 July 2009, Riaan Manser paddled into Tamatave harbour, 11 months after setting out from the same spot on an epic journey to circumnavigate Madasgascar alone and unaided on his kayak. Riaan made history that day, achieving the second of two world firsts, and completing another major personal challenge. (The first was cycling around Africa.) It takes a great deal of tenacity to give up the life you know and embark on an expedition that will take you into a completely unfamiliar world. But, as Riaan will readily admit, it was a life he wasn’t particularly satisfied with – long-time girlfriend Vasti and beloved pets aside, of course. ‘It was a bad case of the “Sunday blues” that did it,’ Riaan laughs. ‘Vasti and I were walking the dogs one Sunday afternoon, and I was suddenly overcome with nausea. I realised that I couldn’t continue dreading Mondays. I promised myself then that I would either do something about it or never again allow myself to complain about work.’ A few days later, this 20-second epiphany found Riaan pouring over a map of the world as he asked himself, ‘Well, what am I going to do?’ The answer came to him as his focus landed on the centre of the map: cycle around the perimeter of Africa. Riaan soon learned the pros and cons of preparing for such a trip. He estimated his savings would last him for about half the journey, which he planned to complete in 365 days. He began creating publicity, exploring the possibility of sponsorships, and doing extensive research on the countries and visa requirements. ‘Sometimes it’s better to not know too much about where you’re going,’ he says, ‘because what I read about African countries was giving me all the reasons why I shouldn’t go.’
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Many of the embassies where he applied for visas regarded him with suspicion, and sponsorship requests were turned down or ignored. Riaan had more reasons to give up than continue, but it was a mixture of naivety and a dogged belief in himself and his mission that led him to eventually cycle out of the V&A Waterfront on 9 September 2003 to fulfil the promise he made to himself nearly a year earlier that his life needed to change drastically. Riaan accomplished what he set out to do, but it took more than double the time – 37 000km, 808 days and 34 countries later, he cycled back into the V&A Waterfront. Riaan’s African odyssey produced a multitude of adventures that included being held captive by Liberian child soldiers high on drugs. ‘I was convinced I was going to die that day,’ he explains. His journey also saw him humbled by the atrocities of poverty and the legacy of landmines that has crippled Angola both figuratively and literally. ‘I realised I had so much to be grateful for, and nothing to complain about,’ he smiles. There were highs and lows, aptly symbolised by Riaan’s visit to Eritrea, Africa’s lowest point at 153m below sea level, and then a couple of months later by his summiting Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru peak. There were lonely times, joyful times spent with kind strangers, times of immense frustration and loss of faith in people, and there was also danger. But there was never a time when Riaan thought of giving up. ‘I told myself every day to just get on with it. I wasn’t going to give up; the only way I was going home was on my bicycle!’ As Riaan puts it, this was not a whim or a fanciful wish; it was now his career: ‘I am a solo adventurer. It’s my job!’
Riaan enjoyed a much-needed – and deserved – break and wrote a book covering his African adventures. Shortly afterwards the wanderlust bug bit again, and he pondered on his next move. The world map proved inspiring once more and, as he saw the large island of Madagascar, it dawned on him. ‘This island is part of Africa. So, no African trip is complete without including Madagascar as well,’ he laughs.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Courtesy of Round the Outside Media
I TOLD MYSELF THE ONLY WAY I WAS GOING HOME WAS ON MY BICYCLE Riaan grew up in Richards Bay, joined the Lifesaving Nippers and then became a lifeguard, so he’s no stranger to the ocean. But, unlike South Africa that has a well-run, coordinated rescue service that includes the NSRI, Madagascar has no sea-rescue service to speak of. The fourth largest island in the world houses one of its poorest nations. ‘I had to prepare for every eventuality. I had to go out and paddle in all kinds of conditions. I also spent a lot of time purposefully falling out of my kayak and getting back in, falling out and getting back in,’ he says. He knew he’d have to rely on himself, his wits and his GPRS, because there’d be no help if he ran into trouble. In mid-July 2008, Riaan paddled out of Tamatave Harbour heading north in an anti-clockwise direction on a custom-made Paddleyak he called the ‘Green Banana’. This time, the craft had been sponsored by Paddleyak, his clothing by First Ascent, his GPRS by Garmin, and his camera, video gear and their waterproof housings by Sony. Windhoek Lager once again lent full support as his major sponsor. He also carried with him a cellphone, a satellite phone, a fishing rod and around 8l of water. Riaan soon discovered that Madagascar was no less perilous than the rest of Africa. Cyclone season came early, and while he’d hoped to round the northernmost tip of the island in time to enjoy the relative safety of the western coast, he found himself battling 4-8-foot swells and sheets of rain. ‘It was like Armageddon,’ he says. Coming ashore each day to set up camp sometimes proved quite dangerous, as he found he had to negotiate coral reefs, and the huge waves crashing down on them. Blisters, sunburn and a painful ischium were further challenges. ‘When I was cycling, I had a chance to think about things, my life and my childhood,’ Riaan explains. ‘While I was on my kayak, all I could think about was how much pain I was in.’ He was also robbed several times during his journey. Riaan remembers how he’d befriended a local in Mahajanga, who later made off with his video camera. For Riaan this was incomprehensible. ‘I think people assumed I had money. While I was kayaking, I was approached by a World Wildlife Fund boat with pirates on board. They wanted to know what I was up to and started demanding that I hand over my things. I ended up hitting the pirates with my paddle, then I got away as
Main photograph: Riaan paddles out towards Sugar Loaf Above: Riaan reaches Tamatave, triumphant after his epic journey Right: With camera equipment on board, Riaan was able to capture some special moments, like catching this 25kg kingfish after a two-and-a-half hour battle fast as possible. I beached, dragged my canoe and all my things, and hid behind the large shoreline rocks,’ he recalls. ‘It was in a remote part of the northwestern tip of the island. In desperation, I called my agent and friend, Seamus, on the satellite phone while I was hiding. I knew he couldn’t do anything, but I just needed to hear a familiar voice.’ Add to this being rammed by a 250kg bull shark, and it’s clear Riaan had his fair share of trials during his journey – but he also experienced what few others do: seeing 40-ton whales breaching a few feet away, being out on the open water with a school of dolphins, the taste of a fish it took two-and-half hours to catch, and coming face to face with the richest collection of endemic fauna and flora in the world. Riaan set out on what many people would have regarded as an impossible – maybe even dangerous and foolhardy – enterprise. But he returned triumphant, and with a pocketful of stories to one day tell his children and grandchildren. In doing so, he joined a handful of people who have heeded the words of the American poet Theodore Roethke, who once said, ‘What we need is more people who specialise in the impossible.’
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME
NSRI gets numerous calls from adventure seekers hoping to live out their personal dreams and attempt extreme adventures. The reality is that raising sponsorship is not as easy as people may think, and the cost of equipment for such trips also normally swallows up the proceeds of the sponsorships, leaving little or nothing for the charity involved. Jono Hamilton-Browne and Marc Bosch (pictured left) of St Francis got the formula right. They took leave from their jobs and rode 12 000km to Kilimanjaro and back. Not content with that, they also summitted the mountain while they were there. They raised R100 000 for their local rescue base, Station 21 (St Francis Bay). They funded all their own expenses and did not attempt to dig into the proceeds. All funding was paid directly to the NSRI and audited by professionals.
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
aLL IN A DAY’S WORK
WHEN THE CREW OF THE ACECHADOR WERE FORCED TO ABANDON SHIP, RESCUE CREW KNEW THEY HAD TO WORK FAST TO GET TO THE STRICKEN VESSEL. TEAMWORK AND GOOD CONDITIONS ENSURED the SUCCESSFUL RESCUE OF THE 17 CREW MEMBERS It had been a long Monday at work for 35-year-old IT specialist Sean Serfontein. His wife, Karen, was asleep and he was relaxing in front of the TV when the SMS snapped him back to reality. ‘Code red: all crew report to the base.’ The adrenaline started pumping instantly. He glanced at his watch. It was 22h30. Sean rushed to the bedroom and, while pulling on shorts and a T-shirt, told Karen, ‘I’ve gotta go, I’ve got a call...’ ‘Normally on the way to the base, I’d see others responding; this time there was nobody, so I called the duty controller. He told me that a ship was sinking 78km offshore,’ explains Sean, ‘and that a helicopter would pick me up.’ Durban’s Portnet pilot helicopter, contracted by Acher Aviation, had been preparing to take a pilot out to a ship when the Mayday call was intercepted. It was from the Acechador, a Spanish-registered 37m trawler, with 17 crew on board. Her engine room had flooded, she was in grave danger of sinking, and the crew was abandoning ship. The rescue coordinators worked fast. The ships Grand Orion, Pacific Scorpion and SAS Protea were close to the trawler and were asked to make haste to the scene. In the meantime, the port helicopter was asked to pick Sean up at the Sea Rescue base.
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‘I was still struggling into my wetsuit when I heard the helicopter. It was about three minutes after I got to the station that I ran out and saw the hook being lowered for me,’ says Sean. As he was pulled into the hovering Agusta 109, Sean recognised engineer Andrew Cockrane and, pulling on his headset, found that the commander was old school friend Rob van Wyk, and the co-pilot, Marinus ‘Dup’ du Preez. With the doors shut, the nose of the aircraft dropped, and Rob turned out to sea. The wind was from the southeast at about 20 knots and the swell 2-3m, well within the operating range of the powerful twin-engine helicopter. Perhaps best of all, though, there was enough moonlight to give the pilots a clear horizon. Beads of sweat ran down Sean’s back as he spent the 25-minute flight doing final checks on his gear, and ensuring the small portable radio was securely strapped to his chest. It was a relief when the helicopter’s searchlights snapped on, illuminating the trawler, as the helicopter crew tried to get their first view of what was in store for them. Rob takes up the story: ‘Our biggest problem was that all the sailors had climbed off onto life rafts on the starboard side of the vessel, and they had tied themselves up together, but the wind and swell were
Main photograph: Acechador on a call to Durban Right: Sean and Karen enjoy a morning out with their children, and Amy gets a little ‘hoist’ of her own pushing them into the vessel. So, we didn’t have a visible reference, and you need that when you’re trying to do a rescue. [For a helicopter pilot to lose spatial orientation due to loss of visible reference is a huge danger. To keep the machine flying safely, he needs to be able to look at something close by to judge distance, height and orientation.] ‘I needed to get Sean into the water, upwind of the vessel. So, we lowered him in, and he swam over to them and commandeered one of their rubber ducks. Then he took three guys at a time and brought them to the opposite side where I could actually look at the ship. Then Andrew, our hoist operator, picked them up from about 50m. ‘It wasn’t really that difficult. It was cloudy and we had a little bit of drizzle towards the end of the rescue, but the moon provided us with a horizon, which gave me the reference I needed. The positioning of two other vessels – the car carrier Grand Orion on our left, and the Pacific Scorpion on our right-hand side – also helped. ‘The Acechador had no lights but the searchlights on the helicopter lit up the area so, generally, we had good visibility. Our biggest problem was the 20-knot wind and the fact that the vessel was lying across the swell – and there was a 2.5-3m swell running at the time. ‘I think Sean had the most difficult job. In the aircraft, it was a controlled, very sterile environment, if I can put it that way. Everybody worked well together; everybody knew what they were supposed to do.’ An incredible 54 hoists were performed that night. ‘There was some seriously good flying from Rob and Dup,’ smiles Sean. Sean got home at around 04h30 in the morning, waking Karen as he opened the door and turned off his alarm. ‘It was almost light, so it wasn’t worth putting my head down.’ A couple of hours later, he was sitting at the breakfast table with Karen and their two children, Mitchell, 5, and Amy, 2. They stared ‘fascinated and intrigued’ as their dad told them how he had flown far
WORDS: ANDREW INGRAM; PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF PORTS & SHIPS (www.ports.co.za), ROGAN WARD
If you are wondering why it took 54 winches to rescue the 17 crewmen, here is the answer: Sean was winched up from the rescue base (1), and winched down at the Acechador (1). Then eleven of the fishermen were winched into the helicopter and onto the Grand Orion (22). The SAS Protea then arrived and three fishermen were winched into the Sean Serfontein being lowered helicopter and onto the Protea (6). during exercises Five fishermen were then winched from the Grand Orion to the Protea (10 winches up and down). The helicopter then returned to Durban to refuel (Sean then motored to the SAS Protea and the last three fishermen and himself climbed on board), and then winched the last six fishermen from the Grand Orion to the SAS Protea (12). The final two winches were for Sean – up from the SAS Protea and down at the rescue base (2). Total 54.
IT WAS AN EPIC RESCUE, INVOLVING ONE OF THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF HOISTS DONE AT NIGHT out to sea in a helicopter to rescue 17 men whose ship was sinking. Listening to Sean tell the story, both children must have known with complete certainty that their dad is a hero. And what a story Mitchell had for ‘Show and tell’ at school! As their dad was driving them to school, the SAS Protea was sailing into Durban harbour with the 17 shaken sailors, and salvage specialist Subtech was preparing to try to save the Acechador. Paul Bevis, a former station commander at Station 5 (Durban), and now Subtech spokesman, explains, ‘A full dive team consisting of six members (dive supervisor, two divers, two men to tender the divers and a medic) sailed on our tug, the Reier, at 11h30. We arrived on scene at 15h00 and put two divers into the trawler and started pumping.’ Realising that the three pumps were holding their own, the Reier took up a towline and started the slow pull back to Durban. And then the long process of trying to save the equipment that had spent so much time in sea water began. Paul continues, ‘You can’t just pump the engine room dry – the machinery will be destroyed. So, we pump down to machinery level, then pump fresh water in, repeating this until only fresh water is left. Special chemicals are added and then the engine room is pumped dry.’ It was an epic rescue, involving one of the highest number of helicopter hoists performed by our rescue teams at night. Saving the Acechador crew depended on well-trained, dedicated specialists going well beyond the call of duty, something that all of them see as completely normal.
BACK IN HISTORY This incident is reminiscent of the event in 1966 when 17 fishermen drowned after their trawler sank off Stilbaai due to the lack of a rescue service in South Africa. Although it represented a huge tragedy, it was the beginning of a dedicated letter-writing campaign by Miss Patti Price whose own life had been saved by the life boat rescue service in the British Channel. As a result, the NSRI was born a year later.
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
gentle Giants SLOW-MOVING AND BEAUTIFUL, THE WHALE SHARK REMAINS AN ENIGMA TO SCIENTISTS. NATURALIST GEORGINA JONES REVEALS WHAT THEY KNOW AND HOW THESE MYSTERIOUS CREATURES ARE ENCHANTING THE WORLD. PHOTOGRAPHS BY GEOFF SPIBY
hale sharks are the largest fish living in the oceans today. They are filter feeders, a characteristic they have in common with the blue whale, the largest animal ever to live on earth. There are unconfirmed reports of whale sharks of more than 20m in length, but the largest confirmed whale shark was around 14m and weighed 36 tons. This is dwarfed by the blue whale: the longest ever measured was over 33m in length and weighed 172 tons. However, an animal longer than a four-storey building is high, and as heavy as four elephants is not inconsiderable when compared with humans. Despite their size, whale sharks are not dangerous to humans, although those who get too close risk accidental injury. Whale sharks have streamlined bodies. Their broad, flattened heads have small black eyes and a very large mouth almost at the tip of the snout. They have three longitudinal ridges running down each side of their backs and five gill slits. Their first dorsal fin is larger than the second and is set towards the rear of their bodies. The upper lobe of their curved tails is longer than the lower, particularly in juveniles. They have white bellies, and are grey to blue or brown on top, with a checkerboard pattern of creamy white spots and criss-cross stripes. The function of the dorsal patterning is unknown, but it may be a result of whale sharks’ evolutionary relationship with bottom-dwelling sharks such as nurse sharks and carpet
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sharks. These benthic sharks, part of the order Orectolobiformes, often display disruptive coloration for camouflage. Whale sharks are one of few species in this group to live in the open ocean. Whale sharks have lived in the world’s oceans for 60 million years. They tend to favour surface waters between 21°C and 30°C, but they have been recorded as deep as 700m below the ocean surface. They are found throughout the world in latitudes of less than 30°, but they have occasionally been found in water as cold as 8°C, and as far into the temperate latitudes as 41°N and 36.5°S. They are usually sighted along the South African coast in summer as they follow plankton blooms down the east coast. Strangely, the first whale shark known to Western science was harpooned in Table Bay. Maybe the water was unusually warm, or perhaps the animal in question was ailing. This was in 1828, and the shark was described by a military surgeon, Andrew Smith. Scientifically, the whale shark goes under the name Rhincodon typus, which comes from the Greek ‘rhyngchos’, which means rasp, and ‘odous’, which means tooth. Whale sharks have many tiny teeth arranged in rows of 300 to 350. The teeth, however, seem not to be used for feeding and may be, like their coloration, vestigial evolutionary remnants. There are only three known species of filter-feeding sharks: whale sharks, basking sharks
and megamouths. The two latter species are passive filter feeders, opening their mouths as they swim and so straining water through their gills. Unlike these sharks, whale sharks are active filter feeders. When they feed, they tend to hang vertically in the water, creating a suction by closing their gill slits and opening their mouths to suck in a mouthful of water. During the slight delay between closing their mouths and opening their gill slits once again, plankton is trapped against modified scales known as dermal denticles, which line the gill plates. This sieve-like structure prevents the passage of any particle greater than 2-3mm in size out of the gills.
one tagged whale shark travelled 13 000km halfway across the pacific in 37 months Besides tiny planktonic animals and plants, whale sharks are also known to feed on small fish and squid. Whale sharks have been observed ‘coughing’, presumably to rid their gill plates of unwanted trapped organic matter. They are usually solitary animals, though they can be found in aggregations of around 100 individuals. Since these aggregations tend to coincide with seasonal plankton blooms, these groupings probably occur for feeding purposes. Not very much else is known about whale sharks. These enormous animals swim slowly, at about 5km/h, by moving the rear two-thirds of their bodies. Despite the relative ease of observing them, it has only recently been discovered that whale sharks are capable of extreme distance migrations. It is thought that it is the males that undertake the really long migrations, while females only travel relatively short distances before returning to the same sites annually. One tagged whale shark travelled 13 000km halfway across the Pacific in 37 months, while another travelled 5 000km from where it was tagged in the Seychelles to the coast of Thailand. The reasons for these migrations are unknown. Reproductively, whale sharks also remain mysterious. For a long time they were thought to lay eggs but then, in 1996, a pregnant female was harpooned and was found to contain 300 embryos. The embryos were between 48cm and 58cm in length. One juvenile of this litter was born at 58cm and grew to nearly 1.5m in captivity. It is thought that whale sharks are born at around 60cm in length, and that they reach sexual maturity at around 10m. How long it takes them to grow to this size is unknown. Whether they have specific mating places, how long it takes for the embryos to develop and be born, and how frequently females reproduce is all also unknown.
Main photograph and top: Probably due to their relative size, whale sharks are generally undisturbed by observers Above: The dorsal patterning may reflect the whale shark’s evolutionary history They are thought to live between 60 to 100 years, and because of their large size, they’re probably not hunted by any ocean predators once they reach maturity. Juveniles have been seen being hunted by blue marlin and blue sharks, while killer whales have been observed attacking and eating an 8m specimen. The species is classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, primarily because of human activities. It is harpooned for its flesh off the Asian coast and its oil is used for tanning boats. Its enormous fins, while not in demand for shark-fin soup, are apparently regarded as useful for restaurant notice boards. In recent years, whale sharks have become more valuable alive than dead. Increasingly, tourists travel great distances to snorkel and scuba dive with these beautiful animals. Whale sharks have been protected with varying degrees of efficiency in several Pacific-rim countries and protection is being considered in South Africa. Hopefully they will be able to pursue their slow pelagic lifestyles for many millons of years to come. To see more photos by Geoff Spiby, go to www.geoffspiby.co.za. For any marine life queries, visit www.surg.co.za.
A field guide to the marine animals of the Cape Peninsula
From sponges to whales via basket stars and tube worms, A Field Guide to the Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula by Georgina Jones contains field descriptions of more than 400 species of marine animals, all with colour photographs. It also contains illustrated explanations of the biology of the major animal groups covered. It can be ordered from email@example.com for R250 (including postage and packaging within South Africa), and is stocked at all good dive stores and bookshops. See www.surg.co.za or www.netbooks.co.za for more details. Georgina Jones first dived at A-Frame in False Bay in 1990. Despite having dived in many different places since then, she remains convinced that the most fascinating place to dive is right where she began.
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
gear THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH’S RECENT DONATION OF EQUIPMENT TO THE NSRI RECOGNISES THE VITAL ROLE THE RESCUE ORGANISATION PLAYS IN SOUTH AFRICA
he NSRI constitutes the only water-based rescue service in South Africa and, as such, provides the only maritime ambulance service in the country. Increasingly the NSRI is being required by SASAR (South African Search and Rescue Organisation) to perform not only its routine task of sea rescue, but also to evacuate casualties from ships at sea to medical facilities on shore. The National Committee for Emergency Medical Services, a sub-committee of the National Technical Committee for Health, discussed support for the NSRI in 2007, and it was unanimously agreed that the Department of Health, through the Emergency Medical Services, should support the NSRI in its endeavours to provide both rescue and emergency medical care to patients ill or injured at sea. It was decided that the best way to support the NSRI was to procure medical equipment, both capital and consumable, to compliment the training of NSRI crews and to provide them with the capacity to deliver quality patient care. After consultation with the NSRI on their equipment needs, (and taking the equipment procured from existing national contracts into account), the new rescue and safety gear was delivered in December 2009. The equipment includes a wonderful range of defibrillators, rescue stretchers, suction units, and resuscitators – everything the crews would need to rescue and treat patients. The NSRI expresses its sincere gratitude and thanks to the Department of Health for its fantastic support, and looks forward to the benefits of the symbiotic partnership created for the benefit of those who are on the water, either for work or recreational purposes, every day in South Africa.
1 Dr Cleeve Robertson, Sea Rescue medical adviser, shows Cherelle Gordan of Station 8 (Hout Bay) a suction machine, part of the medical gear that was donated to each station. 2 Some of the new medical gear. 3 Dr Cleeve Robertson and Ian Ruthven of Station 8 (Hout Bay) with the newly donated safety stretchers.
Dr Cleeve Robertson is the director of Emergency Medical Services, Western Cape, and voluntary chief medical advisor to the NSRI. Apart from being passionate about caring for people, he loves mountain climbing and scuba-diving. He’s also involved in underwater photography and skipper training.
32 Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
PHOTOGRAPHs: ANDREW INGRAM
RESCUE REPORTS NSRI RESCUE CREW RESPOND ANY TIME â€“ DAY OR NIGHT
eyewitnesses save the day
sea and, with no way to sail back to shore, they deployed two red distress flares, the second one after an interval of five minutes. This incident highlights the importance of carrying safety equipment on board. Both crew members were wearing life jackets and had the necessary safety signalling devices. Ray Farnham, Plettenberg Bay station commander, confirmed that despite the manageable 15-20-knot winds suited to sailing craft in the area, a sudden wind squall of the likes that occurred that day can cause wind gusts to peak suddenly at more than 40 knots. Wind squalls are known to occur with westerly winds along the Southern Cape coast, and have caused water accidents in the past. Two years prior, at least 15 people were rescued on a Southern Cape lagoon following a sudden wind squall, which caused boats and other sailing craft to get into difficulties.
ILLUSTRATION: DARRYL EDWARDES
At 17h33 on 21 December, Station 14 (Plettenberg Bay) responded following eyewitness reports of a red distress flare spotted in the deep ocean off Robberg Nature Reserve. During the search, a second red distress flare was sighted in the same vicinity by NSRI coastwatchers. It was determined that the flares were coming from two people on a Hobie Cat being swept out to sea in a sudden gusting offshore wind. Alex Bivov, 62, from Midrand in Gauteng, and his daughter, Christina Davies, 35, from Washington in the US, were rescued, taken on board the NSRI rescue craft and brought safely to shore. Their Hobie Cat was towed ashore by the second NSRI rescue craft. According to Alex, their mainstay broke during a sudden gusting wind squall. The 15-20-knot offshore westerly wind then swept them out to
Operations > 14 487 / Persons assisted > 25 939
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
DANKBAARHEID Hierdie gedig het ek geskryf om baie dankie te sê vir Deon, Jean, en Pierre – my drie engele wat God gestuur het om my uit die water te red. Dankie aan Henk, ook lid van Stasie 17 (Hermanus). Baie dankie aan al die lede van die publiek wat vir my gebid het. Ek waardeer dit geweldig baie. En spesiaal ’n groot dankie aan U, my Vader! Storm Bedaar
Maar toe... Skielik! Onverwags! Die kragtige see bars oor die rots, spoel ons om Suig my in – afwaarts, donker, deurmekaar, angstig Soos ’n blaar in ’n stormwind – ek is onder die water Diep, bang – golwe druis bo-oor my, en die see dreun magtig. Ek kry nie asem! Here, help my, dink ek soos my gedagtes maal Here, ek is nog te jonk. Asseblief! My liggaam slaan teen rots My gees ge-anker op die rots! Die Here se hand neem my stroom-diep die baai in Jane! Gerrit! Help my! Groot deinings, stormsee woed rondom my. Vader, doodsbang roep ek na U Vader, help my! Red my tog! Al sou die vyeboom nie bot nie, sing ek Nogtans jubel ek in U! Vader, stuur U engele! Ek swem, swem, onseker, bang – maar sterk! Christus in my! Christus by my! Christus maak die storm stil! NSRI rooi boot: Deon, Jean en Pierre – my engele! Ruk my uit die stormwater. Here, dankie! Vader, dankie! Aan U goedheid en genade is daar geen einde nie! En soos ons die see verlaat besef ek een ding: Die storm was stil! Binne my, Christus in my, Maar buite woed die stormsee nog! Johan Jakob Botha
34 Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
PHOTOGRAPH: MIKE FRASER
Twee van ons sit op die rots Ons is vry! jubel ek en jy Die branders breek oor die rots Hul spat oor ons – nat, gelukkig, vry.
Above: Mike Fraser captures his friend Nicolas Willemin with a whaleshark at Ponta d’ Ouro. (The two friends found themselves stranded after a dive near Scottburgh in the rescue story featured.)
OUR LONG SWIM My friend, Nicolas Willemin, and I set off from Park Rynie Ski Boat Club at 10h00 on 1 December 2009 to go diving in the Scottburgh/Park Rynie area. Nicolas is a dive instructor and I am an advanced scuba diver, with 21 years scuba-diving experience. We did our first dive on a reef south of Landers Reef off Park Rynie. The water was clean and warm (22ºC and 15-20m visibility). We were diving in water that was 35m and the current was moderate (2-3km/h) south to north. We use oxygen-enriched breathing gas (32% nitrox) when diving here to give more bottom time and increase safety. I carry a reel with 200m of line attached to two surface marker buoys, which the boatman follows to keep our position. We thoroughly enjoyed the first dive and decided to do a second dive on Landers Reef, which lies in 22 to 32m of water between Park Rynie and Scottburgh about 4.5km offshore. There was a moderate south-westerly wind on the surface and some rain squalls, but the sea was fairly calm. We entered the water at about 12h45 and dived for about 30 minutes. The current had increased slightly in strength and I estimated that we drifted about 1,5km north before we surfaced at approximately 13h15. At this stage, I noticed that the boat was not in sight and immediately inflated my fluorescent orange surface-marker buoy. This gives added visibility. As soon as I realised the boat had not spotted us, I said to Nicolas that we should start swimming in. This was at about 13h20. We swam slowly in the direction of the shore. Both of us are fit swimmers, and we knew we’d make it to the beach even if we weren’t rescued. A diver’s scuba tank is attached to an inflatable life vest, which
lets you float if you need to rest, so there was no danger of drowning. We knew it was going to be a long swim and set our sights on reaching the shore before nightfall. We were more concerned about our friends and family worrying about us back at the beach. We swam slowly and steadily, resting from time to time. The wind and swell were also helping to push us inshore. We could gradually see the land getting closer and this helped buoy our spirits. Around 17h00, when we were about 1km off the beach at Umkomaas, we started to see and hear boats in the vicinity and knew that a rescue effort had been mounted. We then heard a helicopter but it was far out to sea and the occupants did not notice us waving our marker buoys. A few minutes later, the helicopter appeared closer inshore, flying directly toward us. Again I waved my buoy and flashed my torch at the aircraft, but it flew out to sea. We carried on swimming inshore and anticipated beaching just south of the Whaler Complex at Umkomaas. When we got to within 300m of the shore, I noticed a blue rubber duck heading in our direction and waved my buoy. Carl, the skipper raised his hand to indicate he had spotted us and I knew our long swim was about to end. He picked us up and another two boats arrived shortly afterwards. The NSRI boat from Shelly Beach also arrived and the SAPS helicopter was alerted. They circled overhead as our skipper drove us into the Umkomaas estuary. It was really heartening to see how many boats and people banded together to coordinate the rescue mission. These included the members of the Park Rynie and Pennington ski-boat clubs, the SAPS, NSRI and Umkomaas diving community. We are deeply appreciative of your time and effort. I have tried to thank many of the people involved personally, but there will be some whom I have missed. Nicolas and I would like to say a big thank you to all of you as well. Our faith in the generosity of humanity has been confirmed. Back at Rocky Bay, I spoke to my top man, Kenneth Cele. He said that he’d been changing one of the boat’s fuel tanks when he lost sight of the surface marker buoys in a rain squall. He called for help and searched for us until the boat was critically low on fuel before returning to base. Mike Fraser
Rescued in Reverse I have regularly made donations to the NSRI and have considered it almost as an ‘insurance’. On Sunday, 20 December 2009, due to a misfortune, the forestay on my 40-foot yacht, Spindrift, broke. The havoc this caused resulted in the loss of the sail, pulpit and roller furling, as well as various fittings on the deck being pulled out. Station 5 (Durban) responded, and the rescue team spent more than four hours assisting us by taking off all non-essential crew, towing us backwards into the wind to save the mast from falling down, and then eventually finding a lee in Durban harbour from the 30 knot wind. Sean Serfontein came on board Spindrift early during the incident and coordinated the rescue, which included being hoisted to the top of the mast to cut away the rigging. I can only say, with thanks, that all the members of the NSRI who took part in the operation did so professionally and competently. They all went far beyond the call of duty, particularly Sean. The NSRI should be proud of these guys. John Banfield
Another sad day on Fish Hoek beach False Bay was put in the spotlight earlier this year when a swimmer lost his life in a shark attack at Fish Hoek beach, Cape Town. This beach has for generations been a popular tourist- and family-friendly beach on the Cape south coast. Holidaymaker Lloyd Skinner of Harare, Zimbabwe, had been in chestdeep water near the popular ‘corner’ of Fish Hoek beach when he was attacked. All that remained was a pair of black swimming goggles. Station 10 (Simon’s Town) launched Spirit of Safmarine III, as well as the 5.5m RIB, while the rescue vehicle and crew hastened to Fish Hoek beach where an extensive search operation was initiated and other on-site support was provided until dusk. Station 26 (Kommetjie) also provided support to the lifeguards and Red Cross AMS helicopter. We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Lloyd.
Cold shivers down our spine
With Paul Ingpen’s story (‘When things go wrong’, Sea Rescue, Winter 2009) still fresh in his mind, one of our readers saw this family at the same beach at Bakoven. Please excuse the poor quality of the cellphone pictures – unfortunately our reader didn’t manage to reach them in time to alert them to the dangers. We can only assume that it was a family from out of town who was genuinely unaware. Please remember always to wear life jackets when you or family members go onto the water, and that children should be accompanied by experienced adults at all times.
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
TRAINING DAY In order to keep crew focused, we host mock scenarios at training sessions. Here, Station 12 (Knysna) talks us through the various exercises they encorporate into their training. The scenarios range from surf rescues and locating missing life rafts to establishing search patterns, night navigation (manual and GPS) and ongoing first-aid sessions in trying conditions. Exercises incorporating the practical taskbook requirements are also slotted in, allowing crews to get these sections signed off. This doesn’t, however, mean that the boats have to be launched during every session – sometimes a swim in the lagoon is thrown in too. The crew is divided into two groups and they’re dropped off about 3km from the base and have to swim back. Trainee crew members act as ‘casualties’ and this gives them the opportunity to watch, listen and learn as they see the rescue crews in action. They also get to know more about first-aid procedures as these are performed on them. Crew duties are shifted, with noncoxswains put in charge of scenarios, thus giving us an idea of future leaders and coxswains at the base. We also like crew members to experience being loaded on our floating stretcher and being either carried off the rocks or swum through the surf – this gives them an idea of what a casualty is going through. Base exercises include first aid, engine and boat maintenance and monthly CPR drills. After each training scenario, there’s a debriefing where possible improvements are discussed with input from all crew. When the crews are out doing these scenarios, the balance of the team is kept busy doing rope work (knots) and basic base maintenance. Crew members are also randomly selected to present lectures, often on subjects they need to brush up on. This strengthens their knowledge of the subject and creates a healthy competition among the crew to improve on the last lecture. This variety keeps our crew looking forward to Wednesday night training sessions and maintains a positive attitude among them. Most importantly, when we’re presented with the real-life rescue scenario, this training kicks in and things go like clockwork.
36 Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
NEVER SAY NEVER I’ve been involved in Sea Rescue down here on the Wild Coast since the early 1970s, and during that period have run rescue operations assisting planes, freighters, ski boats, kayaks, ferries, downings and yachts. These incidents have involved crew and vessels from all over the world. The callouts that I dread the most are from ‘yachties’ who sometimes seem to lack the seamanship skills that should prevent them from getting into trouble, or if in dire straits, allow them to sail their way out of it. Throughout all that time, the only people I have never been called out for are members of the Wild Coast ski-boating fraternity. I guess launching out of river mouths into breaking surf and going to sea along an isolated coastline where no effective communication system exists for easily calling for help when something goes wrong instills a healthy respect of the sea into these skippers. This particular story is one with a different twist, and involved people with a totally different mindset from the norm. It’s the story of Mark Davy and Chris Beyers from Mount Frere, and local gilly, Tim Zinto, who launched a 5m ski boat from Umgazana River mouth to spend a day fishing off the Wild Coast. At about 16h00 that afternoon, Mark’s wife, Karen, started to worry because they had not returned. So, grabbing cellphone and camera, she set off to the high ground at the river mouth to see if she could spot or communicate with them. The conditions were hazy, making visibility out to sea difficult, but at least good enough for her to spot a bright yellow and orange blob drifting slowly out at sea. Despite using the zoom lens on her camera, she couldn’t quite make out what it was. A local told her it was a weather balloon. This puzzled her, so she watched it idly, wondering why a weather balloon would be offshore and drifting so slowly down the coastline. It was only when it got close enough for her to make out details that she realised that this was her husband and crew clinging to the bottom of their overturned ski boat. Mark takes up the tale and recounts how they had been fishing some 3.4nm offshore, when, at midday, he hooked a shark. While fighting the shark, the line fouled the propeller, and in the excitement of freeing it and landing the fish, they all moved to the one side of the craft, somewhat towards the rear. The combination of their collective weight and the wave action overturned the boat, and they all landed in the water. This is the stuff of nightmares: three men, miles offshore along the Wild Coast, their boat overturned with only the slippery bottom to cling to and no means of communicating their predicament to anybody as the radios fitted to the craft were underwater and flooded, as were their cellphones.
Above: The pictures Karen Davy took of her husband’s capsized boat
Whale shark coaxed to safety In December last year, Station 5 (Durban) rescued a whale shark from the harbour. The large fish was seen in and around the harbour entrance, but it wasn’t chased away. Once such a creature enters the confines of the harbour, with all the large and small craft buzzing around, the chances of it ending up on a sandbank are good. The moment the shark loses forward motion, there is no water flowing through the gills. The shark was very close to death when the Durban crew, together with the SAPS and Enviro personnel refloated it and secured it alongside the 7m rescue craft with a loop of rope. It was quite happy to swim alongside the RIB and only started to show signs of anxiety halfway through the harbour entrance. They released it shortly thereafter and herded it further out to sea.
There is nothing in the safety manuals that prepares you for this situation, and the best you can do is cling to the craft until help arrives. But this would normally be the following day as family and friends only start to get really worried by nightfall. But this is where the normal scenario changed. Mark and Chris dived under the overturned craft and retrieved their lifejackets, which they had taken off while fishing, and with them the capsize safety kit stored in a large deck-mounted canister and mandatory for every small craft venturing offshore. According to Mark, they huddled on the upturned hull, using the yellow plastic sheet from the capsize safety kit to protect them from the elements, and hoped they’d drift to shore. At 14h10, they set off a distress smoke marker, which failed to ignite, and at 14h30 set off a hand-held red distress flare. They decided to save the remaining flares for the evening, fearing they wouldn’t be seen if activated in daylight. After 10km of drifting, and by now offshore near Port St Johns, an easterly wind came up and Mark used the orange plastic sheet and the fishing rod (the same fishing rod he had used to hook the shark) to rig a rudimentary mast and sail. With this they managed to sail back in the direction of Umgazana. They reached Umgazana where Tim was to swim ashore to get help, but by then Karen had spotted them and raised the alarm, and a local boat had already launched to come to their assistance. They were picked up, and aside from sunburn, dehydration, and sore muscles, they were otherwise no worse for wear. The overturned boat ran aground on the rocks near the river mouth. John Costello, Station Commander, Station 28A (Port St Johns)
Life jackets I am your life jacket. When we are on the water, I will keep you safe. And when we are in the water, I will keep you alive. I will stop you from drowning. I will keep you afloat, even in rough weather. Even if you are unconscious, I will support you until help arrives. All this I will do for you if you do one thing for me. Please put me on.
Sea Rescue > autumn 2010
STN 2 // BAKOVEN
STN 10 // SIMON’S TOWN
StatCom: Mark Thompson ( 082 990 5962 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: Spirit of Rotary Table Bay – 6m rescue craft Needs: High-pressure water jet cleaner (eg Karcher)
StatCom: Darren Zimmermann ( 082 990 5965 Fuel sponsor: Caltex Craft: Spirit of Safmarine III – 10m deep-sea rescue craft, Eddie Beaumont II – 5.5m RIB Needs: Industrial strength wet/dry vacuum
STN 3 // TABLE BAY StatCom: Pat van Eyssen ( 082 990 5963 Fuel sponsor: Shell Craft: Spirit of Vodacom – 13m deep-sea rescue craft, Rotary Endeavour – 5.5m RIB Needs: Air-conditioner for training room
STN 4 // MYKONOS StatCom: Craft: Needs:
STN 5 // DURBAN
StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Graeme Harding ( 082 990 5956 Colorpress Rescuer – 8.5m RIB, Jaytee III – 5.5m RIB, Spirit of KYC III – 4.2m RIB Flatscreen TV for use in the new museum
STN 14 // PLETTENBeRG BAY
STN 6 // PORT ELIZABETH
StatCom: Ray Farnham ( 082 990 5975 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: Ian Hepburn – 7.3m RIB, Sally Joan – 5m RIB, Airlink Rescuer – 4.2m Zapcat, Discovery Rescue Runner 2 Needs: Mae West life jackets
STN 15 // MOSSEL BAY
StatCom: Ian Gray ( 082 990 5970 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: Spirit of Toft – 10m deep-sea rescue craft, Eikos Rescuer III – 7.3m RIB, Boardwalk Rescuer – 4.2m RIB Needs: Stove (preferably gas), new boathouse floor, binoculars
STN 7 // EAST LONDON Geoff McGregor ( 082 990 5972 Spirit of Lotto – 13m deep-sea rescue craft, Spirit of Rotary East London – 5.5m RIB High-pressure cleaner, wet/dry vacuum cleaner
STN 8 // HOUT BAY
StatCom: Dawie Zwiegelaar ( 082 990 5954 Fuel sponsor: Shell Craft: Vodacom Rescuer – 9m deep-sea craft, Vodacom Rescuer II – 5.5m RIB, Vodacom Rescuer IV – 4.2m RIB Needs: Basic furniture, eg stackable chairs, tables and cupboards
STN 16 // STRANDFONTEIN StatCom: Michael Saunders ( 082 990 6753 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: Spirit of GrandWest CSI – 5.5m RIB, I&J Rescuer III – 4.7m RIB, Discovery Rescue Runner 3 Needs: High-pressure hose
STN 17 // HERMANUS
StatCom: Brad Geyser ( 082 372 8792 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: MTU Nadine Gordimer – 10m deep-sea rescue craft, Albie Matthews – 7.3m RIB Needs: 4 Icom M36 radios and waterproof extension microphones
STN 9 // GORDON’S BAY StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Juan Pretorius ( 082 990 5971 Kowie Rescuer – 9m deep-sea rescue craft, Arthur Scales – 5.5m RIB A good set of tools, helmets
STN 12 // KNYSNA
Darius van Niekerk ( 082 990 5966 Spirit of Freemasonry – 9m deep-sea rescue craft, Gemini Rescuer II – 5.5m RIB, Loved 1s 24:. – 4.2m RIB High-pressure hose
StatCom: Andrew Stevens ( 082 990 5948 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: Eikos Rescuer II – 10m deep-sea rescue craft, Megan II – 7m RIB, Spirit of Svitzer – 3.9m RIB Needs: Dehumidifier
StatCom: Craft: Needs:
STN 11 // PORT ALFRED StatCom: Craft: Needs:
StatCom: Henk Henn ( 082 568 1829 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: South Star – 10m deep-sea rescue craft, Hunters Gold Rescuer – 5.5m RIB, Doris Bell – 4.2m RIB Needs: Dehumidifier
STN 18 // MELKBOSSTRAND
Mark Burton ( 082 990 5977 Sanlam Rescuer – 10m deep-sea rescue craft, Douglas Murray – 5.5m RIB, Inge – 3.2m rescue runner Fenders (large), kitchen cupboards, tool box
StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Rhine Barnes ( 082 990 5958 Spirit of Rotary Blouberg – 5.5m RIB, Men’s Health Rescuer – 4.2m Zapcat Two new boatshed doors, data projector for training
THE NSRI IS MANNED BY 880 VOLUNTEERS AT 30 BASES AROUND THE COAST AND ON THREE INLAND DAMS. ALWAYS KEEP THE EMERGENCY NUMBER 082 911 AT HAND WHEN YOU ARE VENTURING OUT ONTO THE WATER. OUR VOLUNTEERS HAVE DAY JOBS, BUT WILL ALWAYS RESPOND TO YOUR EMERGENCY. FOR ADMIN OR GENERAL INFORMATION, PLEASE CALL NSRI’S HEAD OFFICE IN CAPE TOWN ON (021) 434-4011
STN 19 // RICHARDS BAY StatCom: Mark Hughes ( 082 990 5949 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: Spirit of Richards Bay – 12m deep-sea rescue craft, Spirit of Round Table – 7m RIB, Rotary Ann – 4m RIB Needs: R5 million sponsorship for naming rights
STN 20 // SHELLEY BEACH StatCom: Mark Harlen ( 082 990 5950 Fuel sponsor: Caltex Craft: Caltex Endeavour – 7.3m RIB, Caltex Challenger – 5.5m RIB, Caltex Discovery – 3.8m RIB Needs: Data projector for training room
STN 21 // ST FRANCIS BAY StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Gary Ryder ( 082 990 5969 Spirit of St Francis II – 8.5m RIB, Eikos Rescuer I – 5.5m RIB, Pierre – 4.7m RIB Dehumidifier, laptop computer
STN 22 // VAAL DAM StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Dick Manten ( 083 626 5128 Harvey’s Fibreglass – 5.5m RIB Headlamps
STN 23 // WILDERNESS StatCom: Hennie Niehaus ( 082 990 5955 Fuel sponsor: Engen Craft: Spirit of Rotary 100 – 5.5m RIB, Serendipity – 4.2m RIB, Swart Tobie – 4.2m RIB, Discovery Rescue Runner 1 Needs: Waterproof Pelican case, waterproof Bushnell binoculars
STN 24A // LAMBERT’S BAY StatCom: Craft:
Ron Selley ( 083 922 4334 Private vessels are used for rescues
STN 25 // HARTBEESPOORT DAM StatCom: André Kachelhoffer ( 082 990 5961 Fuel sponsor: Shell Craft: Afrox Rescuer II – 5.5m RIB, Vodacom Rescuer 5 – 4.2m RIB Needs: Binoculars
STN 26 // KOMMETJIE StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Ian Klopper ( 082 990 5979 Rotary Winelands – 5.5m RIB, FNB Wavescapes – 4.7m RIB Filing cabinet or credenza
STN 27 // VICTORIA LAKE, GERMISTON StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Graham Hartlett ( 082 441 6989 Vodacom Rescuer 6 – 4.7m RIB Data projector for training
STN 28A // PORT ST JOHNS StatCom: Craft:
John Costello ( 082 550 5430 Freemason’s Way – 5.5m RIB
STN 30 // AGULHAS StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Shane Kempen ( 082 990 5952 Vodacom Rescuer 7 – 8.5m RIB, Crusader – 3.7m RIB Portable petrol water-extrication pump
STN 31 // STILL BAY StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Enrico Menezies ( 082 990 5978 Spirit of St Francis – 7.3m RIB, Walvan Rescuer – 4.2m RIB Ropes: 30m and 50m each in 12mm,15mm and 20mm
STN 32 // PORT EDWARD StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Mick Banks ( 076 617 5002 Wild Coast Sun Rescuer – 7.3m RIB High-pressure hose
STN 33 // WITSAND StatCom: Craft: Needs:
Attie Gunter ( 071 683 8162 Queenie Paine – 5.5m RIB, Falcon Rescuer – 4.5m RIB Desk, training table, screen, overhead projector
STN 34 // YZERFONTEIN StatCom: Craft: Needs:
André Nel ( 082 990 5974 Rotary Onwards – 7.3m RIB, Spirit of Iffley – 4.2m RIB Support to build a boathouse
STN 35A // BEACON BAY StatCom:
( 083 306 3037/047 498 0042
ASRU (Air Sea Rescue Unit) StatCom: Needs:
André Beuster ( 082 677 7946 Dry suits, personal EPIRBs
Unused frequent flier miles to assist our crew who often need to fly to attend training courses. If you can assist, please call Krista French at head office on (021) 434 4011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
sea rescue thanks: • St Augustine of Hippo Church community for the donation of R1 000. • The Beaumont family who kindly donated a coffee machine to Station 10 (Simon’s Town). • The Simon’s Town Yacht Club member who donated R5 000 towards a coffee machine. (We have asked him if we can use it to replace the salvage pump instead.) Donations in kind all qualify for a SARS 18A certificate and BEE points for donors’ scorecards.
NSRI HEAD OFFICE: (021) 434-4011 MEDIA LIAISON: 082 380 3800
CATCH MY DRIFT
You can’t take it with you WE SPEND OUR LIVES COLLECTING THINGS, ONLY TO HAVE TO LET GO OF THEM when WE PASS ON. BUT HERE’S A THOUGHT... WHY NOT MAKE A CONTRIBUTION TO A WORTHY CAUSE WHEN YOU CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS?
40 Sea Rescue > Autumn 2010
one lady left HER fortune TO A MAN WHO promised HER eternal life These flouters of convention might not have had any heirs (or any they liked anyway), but there are other equally satisfying ways to divide your legacy. What would happen if, for instance, you left R1 000 to Sea Rescue? Not even the grumpiest relative is going to get upset about that. (And just imagine if all 42 500 donors do this?) I’ve stopped panicking about my will – my family would be resourceful enough if I got knocked down tomorrow, but I do relish the thought of writing an inventory and deciding who gets what. In the words of a wise friend, ‘We don’t really own anything, we just borrow it for a while.’ And what better time to pass them along to the people who need them when you no longer do?
WORDS: WENDY MARITZ, illustration: darryl edwardes
he first time drawing up a will crossed my mind was when I got married. But it was a fairly easy and painless process that accompanied our antenuptial contract. I would leave all my worldly riches to my husband, and he would leave me his books and CDs. Should we die together in some tragic accident, my sister would get my worldly riches, and his mother would inherit his goodies. Since it was unlikely we would have children (both of us are in our 40s and used to the relative frivolity of two decades of single adult life), we chose our nicest relatives to be our beneficiaries. Perhaps it was my giddiness at the impending marriage that was to blame (I barely read the final version of the antenuptial contract), but it dawned on me almost exactly a year after our wedding that I really hadn’t taken the will thing very seriously. There were many more ramifications I should have taken into account. Who will look after the dogs? Should I stipulate that if my husband remarries, he gets nothing? What if my brothers get jealous because I left everything to my sister? Should I include a clause that she, in turn, must be responsible for equally dividing all my riches between my immediate family and my niece and nephew? Then I realised that all my policies still stated my father as my beneficiary in the case of my death. I was useless, and my poor husband was going to live in poverty for the rest of his lonely life.
The truth is there isn’t much any of us can do about this once we’re gone. But it’s human nature to take stock of what we have, and to want to make sure the people we care about are looked after when we pass on to a place where worldly possessions have no value. And some of us have more to dispose of than others. I read with interest the story of the very wealthy Charles Vance Millar, who in life was a great lover of practical jokes. His will, if you’ll excuse the pun, was testament to this. He wrote, ‘I have no dependents or near relations and no duty rests on me to leave any property at my death and what I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime.’ His will was full of playful bequests and one particularly strange and eccentric one: a portion of his estate was to be turned into cash 10 years after his death and given to the woman who had the most children in that time. The happy ending to that story was that four mothers received $125 000 dollars for each producing nine children in what was known as the Great Stork Derby (1926 to 1936). Another wealthy man, a Portuguese aristocrat named Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara, left his fortune to 70 people whose names he randomly picked out of the telephone directory. Then there’s the story of multi-billionaire Nina Wang who, on discovering she had ovarian cancer, left her fortune to a feng shui master in exchange for a promise of eternal life. (Yes, I’m asking myself the same question.)
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Sa d n a
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Jo s n u e T : ts
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24th April 2010
New Harbour, Hermanus
Cost: Adults R120 Children (under 12) R60 Full-day entertainment for the whole family from 10h00 Tickets: NSRI shop on Market Square, Mr Price in Gateway Spar or call 082 445 9722/082 828 5676
THE OLD SHANGHAI FIRECRACKER FACTORY R70390
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Official magazine of the National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa, showcasing the rescue efforts of the volunteers, as well as fundrais...