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Advertology 119

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PHOTOGRAPH: ANDREW INGRAM

FROM LEFT: NSRI Station 18 (Melkbosstrand) lifeguards Stewart Seini, Kiara Beuster, Peter O’Hanlon and Natasha Kriel

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INITIATIVES

SEA RESCUE

LIFEGUARDS Sea Rescue’s lifeguard initiative is proving, once again, that training, dedication and a passion to save lives lie at the core of successful rescue operations. Andrew Ingram spoke to to the Melkbos crew.

PHOTOGRAPH: ANDREW INGRAM

I

f dynamite comes in small packages, NSRI Melkbosstrand Lifeguard Unit Captain Natasha Kriel is explosive. As a highly trained helicopter rescue swimmer with seven years of lifeguarding experience in both the beach safety and sport of lifesaving, Natasha is the perfect person to lead the unit in the ways of making a beach safe for visitors. Over the winter months a group of 19 NSRI Melkbos lifeguard volunteers have been training on the beach and in the pool. Come rain or shine, they were out there with their trademark bright-pink rescue torpedo buoys running, swimming, paddling and practising rescue techniques. A highly experienced management team has been built around the lifeguard unit. Leading this new initiative of the NSRI is Melkbosstrand station commander Rhine Barnes. Rhine, a founder member at Station 18, is completely committed to making a success of the initiative. Using his 21 years of experience in running a Sea Rescue station, Rhine nudges the volunteers, both Sea Rescue crew and lifeguards, in the right direction with the help of his skilled diplomacy. Always considering both sides of an argument, Rhine balances individual needs with what is best for the

Melkbosstrand station and Sea Rescue as a whole before making a decision. His right-hand man is Peter O’Hanlon. Peter, a former navy officer, is also a Sea Rescue coxswain and lifeguard training officer with many years’ experience under his belt. His role in this new unit is training – making sure the volunteers are proficient in every skill, from CPR to swimming the required 400m in eight minutes. The fourth person in this

Come rain or shine, they were out there with their trademark bright-pink rescue torpedo buoys running, swimming, paddling and practising rescue techniques. tightly knit management unit is Stewart Seini. Stewart has a background as an NSRI volunteer, as has his father. It is in their blood: a deep love and respect for the sea, a desire to be fit enough to be able to perform rescues safely and caring enough to want to educate others to help them understand the ways of the ocean are what drives them. Education,

prevention and, lastly, rescue is the focus of our Sea Rescue lifeguards. To achieve a Lifeguard Award is not easy. It requires many, many hours of swimming training and the ability to use some pretty intense rescue techniques. Swimming out to rescue someone in distress should not be done without this training. It is a sure way for two people to drown. With the kind help of Big Bay lifesaving training officer Alain David, these weekly lessons are eagerly awaited by the lifeguard trainees. Alain, whose 12-year-old son is a lifesaving nipper at Big Bay, loves the beach and last year spent more than 120 voluntary hours on duty with his lifesaving club. Now he is also helping out at Melkbos. It is this kind of dedication that makes both Sea Rescue and Lifesaving successful: people who love what they do, people who give to their communities and ask for nothing in return. The sun is dipping towards the horizon and in the distance Koeberg nuclear power station is a grey shadow through the haze. A group of NSRI Melkbosstrand lifeguards, dressed in bright-red wetsuits with their distinctive Lifeguard branding, are running through the shallows holding their pink torpedo buoys. Rhine turns to me and laughs. ‘Those youngsters have re-energised the station,’ he says. ‘There is such a good vibe.’ SEA RESCUE / SUMMER 2017 /

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DIEREREDDING

DAAR LÊ DIE

KNOOP! ’n Suidelike noorkapperwalvis wat in toue verstrengel geraak het, het onlangs vir ’n paar benoude oomblikke gesorg toe vrywilligers van Stasie 17 (Hermanus) haar bevry het. Stuurman Jean le Roux vertel ons meer.

Met behulp van verskeie partye tydens die Walvisfees het ons wel so ’n stel toerusting as geskenk ontvang. Ek was soos ’n klein seuntjie wat ’n nuwe speelding gekry het, maar dit het egter jare geneem voordat ek dit werklik kon gebruik – en hier breek die dag toe aan! Ons het besluit om beide South Star (’n 10-meter Breede) en Jaytee III (’n 5.5-meter semi-rigid) te water te laat en onmiddellik om te beweeg na Kleinmond. Jaytee III was eerste op die toneel, met myself, Andre Barnard en Alwyn Geldenhuys aan boord. Dit was vir my nogal moeilik om my bemanning te kalmeer en hulle te oortuig dat alles wat ons gaan doen, baie stadig en beheers sal moet plaasvind – in teenstelling met normale omstan-

dighede tydens ’n reddingspoging, waar tyd en spoed van uiterste belang is. Met groot geluk het daar ’n lang stuk tou agter die sowat 12-meter suidelike noorkapperwalvis gedryf, met ’n boei ongeveer twee meter agter haar. Daar was twee tot drie draaie tou om weerskante van haar stert en drie draaie om die as van haar stert. South Star, met Deon Langenhoven aan die stuur, het intussen by ons aangesluit en die operasie was in volle swang. Meter vir meter het ons onsself nader getrek aan die walvis. Elke nou en dan het sy geirriteerd met ons geraak en dan moes daar met mening vasgehou word aan die tou, want dit kan om veiligheidsredes nie aan die boot vasgemaak word nie. Ons harte het vinniger geklop hoe nader ons gekom het, aangesien

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FOTO’S: VERSKAF

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ondagoggend, 20 Augustus 2017, Hermanus hawe: Ons as Stasie 17 het gereedgemaak om see toe te gaan vir ’n roetiene-oefening in die rigting van Gansbaai. Min het ons geweet wat die dag sou inhou… Ons oefening het goed afgeloop en met ons terugkeer het ons soos gewoonlik die bote gewas en saam alle ander toerusting voorberei vir enige moontlike toekomstige gebeurlikhede. Op daardie oomblik ontvang ons toe verskeie oproepe aangaande ’n walvis wat ’n boei agter haar aansleep in die omgewing van Kleinmond. Sowat ses jaar gelede het ek die voorreg gehad om ’n walvisbevrydingskursus by NSRI Houtbaai, aangebied deur Mike Meyer van SAWDN (South African Whale Disentanglement Network), by te woon. Met my terugkeer in Hermanus het ons die behoefte bespreek om ’n ‘disentanglement kit’ aan te koop, maar die koste daarvan was baie hoog.


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REAL-LIFE STORIES

ONCE A LIFEGUARD, ALWAYS A LIFEGUARD Retired lifeguard Peter Brits saved two people’s lives after noticing they became separated from their swimming companions. Judy Venter met with him to chat about the events of the day, and find out more about his love of the ocean and open-water swimming.

E

PHOTOGRAPHS: JUDY VENTER, SUPPLIED

very morning, except Sundays, retired resident and former municipal lifeguard Peter Brits swims at Hobie Beach, Port Elizabeth. But on Thursday 20 July it was raining, the sea was choppy and the water icy cold – so Peter, 68, decided to stay inside his parked vehicle and observe the early-morning beachfront activities. ‘I was reading my Bible in the car when I heard this commotion. I looked and saw three taxis arriving and dropping off approximately 40 young students. I thought to myself, “They won’t swim; it’s too cold and they’re all dressed up.” They walked out along the pier. I looked again; they were now on the beach and running into the water,’ Peter says. Call it intuition, but Peter immediately called someone to alert the Municipal Beach Office that there could be a situation developing. That is when he noticed two young men, separated from the group, swimming past the surf zone. They appeared to be in trouble. ‘I saw one student go down, under the surface, about 50m offshore. He came back up and tilted his head far back. I immediately realised that the next time he went under he would not come back up.’ Without hesitation, Peter discarded his outer clothing and rushed into the ocean to help. His many years as a lifeguard kicked in and his skills came as second nature. Peter quickly managed to reach the first swimmer, who was rapidly drifting out to sea with the strong current. The young student panicked when Peter approached him, and latched onto him. Peter pushed him away to break his grip before grabbing him from behind. Then

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PHOTOGRAPHS: JUDY VENTER, SUPPLIED

he swam backwards to shore, doing a breaststroke kick and keeping the casualty’s head out of the water. ‘He was 6 foot 4 and very tense, and I said “Relax – just lift your legs, that’s all,”’ Peter recalls. ‘I struggled to pull him up the beach, he was so tall. But in the shallow waters he sat up and I left him there.’ Peter quickly ran back into the sea to assist the second swimmer, who had now drifted 150m offshore, past the end of Shark Rock Pier. ‘When I got to him, his head was under the water already,’ Peter says. ‘I grabbed his head and pulled him up – and he started breathing. But by then I was completely out of breath from the cold water and the effort of rescuing the first swimmer. I had to take a few seconds to recover. Luckily he didn’t fight me and he wasn’t as tall or big as the first man. ‘I kept using the pillars of the pier as a reference to my progress. The wind was pushing and I had to take a few breaks. When I got him to the beach, he was out of it. His eyes were rolling back and he didn’t know his name or where he was.’ By now the Nelson Mandela Bay Water Emergency Rescue Committee (NMB-WERC) were on the scene. They received the emergency activation as a direct result of Peter’s call to summon help from the Municipal Beach Office. The group of students quickly alerted the NMB-WERC to a third student who had been swimming and was missing. ‘It all just happened so quickly that I didn’t even see the third person out there. He was just gone,’ Peter explains. By this time Peter was freezing, in shock and trying to warm up inside his vehicle. One of the rescued students, Mzuvele Mqikwa, 23, was treated for shock and hypothermia by EMS paramedics, while the other, Tyhoba Sihle, 26, was transported by EMS ambulance to hospital, having displayed non-fatal drowning symptoms.

The ‘Hobie swimmers’ have an honorary swim with Peter Brits. From left: Jared Cassidy, Michelle Barnett, Rolf Kickhöfel, Peter Brits, Katy Hofmeyr, Susan Derbyshire and Billy McNaughton. (Saturday 22 July, Shark Rock Pier, Hobie Beach, PE)

The group of 44 first-year mechanical engineering students from the Ingwe TVET College, Lusikisiki, had been in Port Elizabeth on a four-day training exercise. They had decided to stop along the beachfront before leaving the city. A coordinated search for the third student was launched, involving NSRI Port Elizabeth with its rescue craft, Spirit of Surfski IV, Coastal Water Rescue swimmers, the EMS rescue helicopter, AM3 and the Joint Nelson Mandela Bay Emergency staff. Unfortunately, due to the poor weather, the air search had to be suspended. The sea- and shore-based search continued, however, and the SAPS Dive Unit were brought in to assist. The search continued over the next few days. The body of Vacu Bayanda, 25, the missing student, was found and recovered off Pollock Beach on Thursday 27July. NSRI and emergency services convey their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Vacu. NSRI would like to thank Peter and commend him on this heroic rescue.

ABOUT PETER BRITS When asked about his life story, Peter replies: ‘As kids, we used to run over the Bluff to go and swim. We repeatedly got washed out with the rip currents and would have to make our way back to shore. It was not safe swimming etiquette. The Bluff was far from home, so I was late in getting home and there was often a punishment in store. ‘In my 40s I landed up living in Port Elizabeth and I used to swim and hang out at the municipal pools every day. I was sitting at the McArthur Baths, on the beachfront, when I was approached and asked whether I would like to come and work as a lifeguard. I immediately knew I could do the job, as I could swim well, I had a soft heart with people and I was good at dealing with the public. I put everything into this new job.’ After 20 years of duty, Peter is now retired. Yet he still enjoys a daily swim, should good conditions prevail. Other open-water swimmers often join him, but he stands out as a legend and a respected man of the sea, refusing to wear a wetsuit.

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PHOTOGRAPHS: JOH-MARE COETZER AND DARRYLL BENECKE

Station 39 in Rocky Bay, and there was even a crew member from Station 22 (Vaal Dam). Former crew member Audrey de Jager made and donated cupcakes and a cake with the Sea Rescue logo emblazoned on them. Another former crew member, Cathy Rolt, approached local music legend David Marks, who wrote the worldwide hit song ‘Master Jack’ made famous by the group Four Jacks and a Jill, with a request to perform on the sound stage. David readily agreed and then formed an impromptu group with local bass guitarist Maddie Linten and Cathy on percussion. Local ski-boat skipper and musician Winston Smile gave up his day to host the event and to entertain the crowds. Local dance schools offered their services. Zulu dancers of a variety of ages from the Msenti Cultural Group, and hip-hop and jazz dancers from the Phlex Dance Studio and the Ruth Jakeman Dance Studio cavorted across the harbour parking lot. Meanwhile, Smiles and Giggles Promotions set up a series of beach activities for our younger guests. The formalities were kept to a minimum. KZN NSRI Regional Director Eddie Noyons said a few words, as did Jeremiah Jackson. One of the emotional

‘...It then escalated almost beyond our control. As people heard about the all-inclusive concept, greater numbers of locals came forward to help. It was incredible.’ moments of the day was when Barry Payn, nephew of the late Captain John Payn, one of the founder members 50 years ago, took the microphone and said, ‘Uncle John would have been proud of you all.’ SEA RESCUE / SUMMER 2017 /

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BRIGHT FUTURES FROM LEFT: Head girl Katlego Makgato (from Johannesburg) and head boy Bohlale Motiseloa (from Welkom).

LAWHILL

MARITIME CENTRE

Megan Hughes spent the day at Lawhill in Simon’s Town, and discovered a group of enthusiastic students who are thriving in the maritime environment.

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PHOTOGRAPHS: MEGAN HUGHES

SIMON’S TOWN A

s you walk down the halls of Simon’s Town High School’s Lawhill Maritime Centre, you are greeted with confidence – students who are bold and exude success. Respect and honour are natural attributes and the joy that flows through them is contagious. This is evidence of the seeds that are sown in the lives of these students, with many hours of watering. Established 22 years ago, Lawhill offers two fully fledged National Senior Certificate subjects – Maritime Economics and Nautical Science – that equip young people to move from school directly into interesting careers within the maritime industry ashore. The maritime extension of the Simon’s Town school was named after the first South African training trade vessel Lawhill. Having started out with only five students in a converted storeroom, it now hosts 66 students with boarding, a staff complement of 12 and state-of-the-art facilities. The school is run like a tight ship, and strict rules and values are upheld. As Lawhill receives no direct government funding, the success of the operation can be attributed


PHOTOGRAPHS: MEGAN HUGHES

LEFT: (Front) Siphelele Ncube and JodieKirsten McFarlane travelled to the Blue Economy Seminar in Sweden in October 2017. The aim of the seminar is to bring together key players to explore partnerships, networking, technology transfer, knowledge sharing and benchmarking. (Back) Siphuxolo Mlaba, Lizwe Ncube, Olwethu Maneli and Nkazimlo Mtshixa travelled to Spain in September 2017. Twenty-one Lawhill students have participated in the Marine Inspirations programme since its inception, gaining handson seamanship experience and an insight into working in the superyacht and international maritime industries.

to the mutually beneficial partnership with the private sector, particularly with the shipping industry, that provides bursaries for students and contributes towards operational resources. With so much evidence of successful past graduates, students are offered a bright future if they apply themselves. They believe that, by hard work and determination, they too can overcome and become a success story. Coming from different backgrounds, cultures and circumstances, they all have a common denominator: the desire to better their lives with the opportunity that has been given to them. The students do not have a maritime background, yet most of them graduate to successful careers as seafarers. The future leaders of this school are taught a very different approach. They receive individual mentoring, where strengths are focused on and weaknesses are addressed in a positive way. The mission of the school is to create a safe, happy place where students thrive. ‘Rise, and we lift as we rise’ says Debbie Owen, head of the centre. They also get to have fun, participating in the annual show Lawhill’s Got Talent that encourages them to tap into their creative side and builds their confidence. The students are taught Mandarin, attend overseas maritime conferences and work on superyachts in Spain. The

saying ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ is evidence of how a life can be transformed. Caring, educating, taking an interest, and investing in the lives of our future leaders form the ethos of the school. Lawhill, the NSRI and the SATS General Botha Old Boys Bursary Fund have joined forces to provide bursary students with additional maritime skills and experience. NSRI will be partnering with Lawhill to teach drowning prevention, offer swimming lessons to the students and get them involved in the local rescue station. Fifty-one years ago, it was a swimming teacher in Simon’s Town, Miss Pattie Price, who campaigned for the start of a rescue service. We have come full circle...

The mission of the school is to create a safe, happy place where students thrive. ‘Rise, and we lift as we rise’ says Debbie Owen, head of the centre.

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NSRI FLEET

Crew safety and rescue capability lie behind the building of the new NSRI deep-sea rescue vessels, made possible through incredible support. By Megan Hughes

THE NEXT

GENERATION T

he NSRI is currently the only maritime rescue service operating in South African territorial waters and, although most rescues are coastal and inshore, an increasing number involves commercial vessels that require a more stretched capability in both distance and time. ‘We are very sensitive to the safety of our crews,’ says Director of Operations Mark Hughes. ‘Our fleet of 10m boats are ready to retire and our commitment to our crew is to provide a fleet suited to the austere conditions in which we operate. The new craft are well suited to the missions of medical evacuations and mass rescue operations in severe weather.’ Sea Rescue’s first 14m SAR (Search and Rescue) ORC-type hull deep sea rescue vessel Alick Rennie is currently being built in France. It was designed by the naval architects Pantocarene and is being manufactured by Bernard Shipyard. She is 14,8m in length and her beam is 4,8m. She has a crew capacity of six

and is capable of taking on 30 survivors. She has a 2 000-litre fuel capacity, her range is 300 nautical miles and she has two 442kW engines with a maximum speed of 28 knots – a dynamic vessel in terms of what it can do, providing much better levels of crew safety and capable of handling conditions that would prevent any vessels in our current fleet from launching. SAR ORC vessels have been used by the French Sea Rescue Service for many years and are used extensively for pilot operations around the world, notably in Australia and throughout Europe. The

‘It is our vision to support local people and local industries by having as many of our rescue boats as possible built in South Africa,’ says CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson.

Alick Rennie has the latest electronic navigation and communication equipment and is self-righting (provided that the water-tight doors are shut). There is air-conditioning in the forward cabin and wheelhouse for crew comfort on long trips. There are shock-mitigating seats and the wheelhouse is on a shockmitigating mounting system that separates it from the hull and wheelhouse to reduce noise and vibration. Sea trials are scheduled for February next year and delivery should take place in the following month. Safmarine has, once again, very generously offered to deliver our vessel to South Africa. Our second SAR ORC vessel for our Simon’s Town rescue base, Donna Nicholas, will also be built at Bernard Shipyard but will be brought to South Africa as hull, deck and bulkheads in March 2018, and fitted locally. The idea is to take a mould and source a local shipyard to build the following seven vessels under licence. If all goes

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PHOTOGRAPHS: SUPPLIED

REPLACEMENT PROGRAMME FOR OUR ‘BIG BOAT’ FLEET


PHOTOGRAPHS: SUPPLIED

The ORC 140 was selected by the French Rescue Institute (SNSM) for their replacement fleet of 25 lifeboats. The patented ‘beak’ hull of ORC class boats was developed with the purpose of improving seakeeping and speed of planing hulls in rough seas, without lowering other ship criteria such as speed in calm water, fuel savings or stability.

according to plan, our third vessel will be stationed at Richards Bay and should be completed by the end of 2020. ‘It is our vision to support local people and local industries by having as many of our rescue boats as possible built in South Africa,’ says CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson. ‘We pride ourselves on delivering a passionate and committed service to all – with the best equipment. The ORC will augment our services and facilitate quality rescue in our vision of making sure that nobody drowns at sea.’ We extend special thanks to our friends at DHL who shipped R500 000 worth of electronics from South Africa to France for the first ORC, free of charge and they arranged insurance cover on the shipment at no cost to us. Building the new generation of ORC vessels comes at quite a price. Many of our supporters have bought into this long-term vision and have contributed towards the first two vessels Alick Rennie and Donna Nicholas.

We invite our supporters to get involved in these projects, which will ensure the longevity of our work. We have a proud history of 50 years and look forward to heading with confidence into the next 50 years.

The funding has been ring-fenced and is accruing interest in a project account: ORC 1: Alick Rennie ›› R5 MILLION: Alick Rennie Charitable Trust ›› R1,5 MILLION: estate of the late Bruce Townsend ›› R1 MILLION: estate of the late MAR Bailey ›› R500 000: estate of the late EO Rainier ›› R2 MILLION collectively, thanks to Anita & Ruth Wise Charitable Trust, The Rolf Nussbaum Foundation, the estate of the late Leon Wilken, Koffie Venter Trust, EMJ Morgan Charitable Trust, Kathleen Hastie Trust Fund, Baltic Paints, Davies Foundation, Nestadt Charitable Trust, Professional Yachtmaster Training, and JRB Trust We have a shortfall of just shy of R10 million on this project. ORC 2: Donna Nicholas ›› R8 MILLION: Donna H Nicholas Revocable Trust ›› R500 000: raised through our February 2017 appeal letter. We have a shortfall of R6 million on this project.

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BIG-SEA ADVENTURES

WERNER SMIT’S

CONTINUE

Werner Smit is a crew member at Station 19 (Richards Bay). His spirit of adventure and interest in the sea have taken him on an exciting journey to many foreign parts of the world. By Willem de Waal

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n his own words, Werner had a pretty ordinary childhood. Born in Durban in 1987, his family moved to Richards Bay when he was young, and he attended Richards Bay High School before enrolling at the Umfolozi Technical College. He did a number of basic jobs, which included being a surfing instructor at the Gateway Wave House, retail sales in Trappers Trading, 10 months at an engineering firm and even a short stint as a merchandiser for South African Breweries. All this while playing ‘fairly serious rugby’ as a scrumhalf for the Rhinos under the tutelage of ex-Bok fullback Theo van Rensburg. ‘It was a pretty serious league, just under the Sharks, and I loved it.’ Werner’s involvement with Sea Rescue came about in 2009 after a friend saw an NSRI advert in the local

newspaper, asking for volunteers. Werner responded and recalls being taken on a tour of the base by current coxswain Ryan Chase, followed by an outing with Dorian Robertson, now station commander, on the 7-metre RIB Spirit of Round Table to test the newly installed Evinrude outboards. ‘It was love at first sight – I was hooked!’ Werner started going through the various in-house training programmes, completing the basic courses in firefighting, navigation and first aid, getting involved as a rescue swimmer on helicopter calls, and eventually starting his training as a Class III coxswain. In 2015 Werner was retrenched from the kitchen fitment company where he had been working since 2011. This was quite a blow, and he had to come up with a plan. ‘I did not have many options, so I

decided to enrol for a 13-week Yacht Master Offshore course. I opted to go to the Atlantic Yachting Sailing School in Langebaan, which offers the only Royal Yachting Association sailing waters in South Africa. The huge tidal difference makes it the ideal place to learn.’ By the end of 2015 Werner had qualified as an offshore yacht master, limited to 200 gross tonnes. He returned to Richards Bay, determined to go and work in the US as a deckhand on a superyacht. As luck would have it, a Sea Rescue connection paid off: Gavin Fordham, who is also a coxswain at Station 19 in Richards Bay, has a brother who is chief engineer on the 45-metre Matrix Rose, based in Florida in the US. In February 2016 Werner reported for duty as a deckhand. With his substantial boating experience, he was made responsible for operating the 10-metre tender. As the vessel was undergoing a major refit, there was no real opportunity to serve at sea, but Werner got involved with many of the refurbishment projects on the boat, and his previous engineering and carpentry job experience came in very handy.

PHOTOGRAPHS: SUPPLIED

ADVENTURE MUST

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PHOTOGRAPHS: SUPPLIED

LEFT: A visit to a local rescue base is on every rescuer’s bucket list when they travel. Werner (second from left) was fortunate to receive an invitation from the RNLI Howth crew.

After six months Werner had to return to South Africa for a visa and that was where things got complicated. When he tried to return to the US, he was told that the new visa was ‘the incorrect type’, and he was advised to go to Paris, France, to have it changed. He had no luck at the US embassy in Paris – so there was no way to get back to his dream job in Florida, and no job in France either. Being pretty much out of options, Werner decided to look for gainful employment in Antibes, a resort town between Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera that is littered with luxury yachts moored at the Port Vauban marina. After three frustratingly unsuccessful months there (sponsored by his big brother), his sister-in-law came up with the suggestion: to join Sea Shepherd, the non-profit marine conservation organisation that operates across the globe and is manned mainly by volunteers. ‘I completed an online registration form. One week later I had a Skype interview, and the following day I received an email that confirmed it: I had the job. They emailed me my boat papers – I had to get to Mexico by 5 December. I would be a volunteer, in other words no pay, but board and lodging would be provided.’ While waiting for the Mexican embassy in Dublin to get his travelling documents ready, he decided to visit the local RNLI station in Howth, a village on the eastern outskirts of Dublin. Here he met some of the crew, and when asked for ‘proof’ of his involvement with Sea Rescue in South Africa, he presented a photograph of the Station 19 all-weather lifeboat Spirit of Richards Bay. Great excitement ensued, and Werner was promptly instructed to kit up and join them on the Trent class Roy Barker III for a three-hour exercise. A week later he had his Mexican visa and caught a flight to Mexico City. From there it was a flight of almost four hours to Mexicali, followed by a 200km

bus trip to San Felipe on the Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd’s Captain Sebastian Fau was ex-French Navy. ‘We hit it off immediately. He was in charge of the Farley Mowat, a 110-foot Coast Guard cutter that carried 18 crew and was capable of 30 knots. I joined as a deckhand, was also the tender driver, and started training the crew in sea survival skills. When the captain realised that I had a 200 gross tonne licence, I was promoted to bosun, and promptly to second officer, which meant that I was in charge of the bridge when the captain and first officer were absent.’ After spending three months around San Felipe chasing illegal fishing vessels, Captain Fau went to Key West to collect the John Paul DeJoria, the sister vessel of the Farley Mowat. Werner was flown to Cuba to meet up with them in Havana. ‘In Havana I was hooked up with a

for the Cayman Islands, some 400km away. After 22 hours, they limped into George Town, Grand Cayman, to spend the next three weeks there doing repairs. ‘George Town was awesome. The people were incredibly friendly and they made us feel very welcome. Lots of goodwill, amazing hospitality. We reciprocated by opening the boat to the public for tours. Many of the crew also got involved with local charities during our time there.’ At the end of March they set off for Panama in perfect conditions, and reached the Port of Cristobal after three days. ‘Lots and lots of admin, and then we passed through the Panama Canal – on every seaman’s bucket list.’ The crew then started with Operation Treasure Island, chasing illegal fishermen on shark-finning boats around the Galapagos Corridor: the area in the Pacific inside the four points bounded by

‘When the captain realised that I had a 200 gross tonne licence, I was promoted to bosun, and promptly to second officer, which meant that I was in charge of the bridge when the captain and first officer were absent.’ Cuban auntie where I would stay in a dilapidated little house for three days. Cuba is particularly low-tech: no cell coverage, no Wi-Fi, no comms, and Cuban-only TV. The boat could not come quickly enough!’ After two weeks around Havana, the John Paul DeJoria set sail for the Galapagos Corridor via Panama to intercept shark-fin poachers. They had just left Cuba when they ran into a fierce storm, kicking up massive swells running perpendicular to the ship. Just about everyone on the vessel was suffering from seasickness, the captain included. The ship’s rudder was damaged, locked 30˚ to port, making steering incredibly difficult. They managed to sit out the storm in the Bay of Cortez on the Cuban south coast, but the vessel could not continue to Panama like that. A course was set

Coiba off Panama, Malpelo off Colombia, Cocos off Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. It was also in this period that Werner was promoted to first mate. During a refuelling trip to Panama, Werner was instructed to join the Farley Mowat in the Sea of Cortez, so it was back to San Felipe, where he had started. In May this year Werner applied for a job in the Cayman Islands as captain on a local charter boat. He had to return to South Africa to get police clearance and complete the visa application. ‘My appointment papers have just arrived, and as soon as I have my work permit, I will be going back to the Cayman Islands. I have a bucket-load of wonderful experiences and a new appreciation for Mom’s food, but the adventure must continue!’ SEA RESCUE / SUMMER 2017 /

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NSRI Sea Rescue Summer 2017  

Sea Rescue magazine is published three times a year for the National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa and showcases the rescue efforts o...

NSRI Sea Rescue Summer 2017  

Sea Rescue magazine is published three times a year for the National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa and showcases the rescue efforts o...