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I can save a life! What can you do? Not all heroes have fancy names and multi-coloured robes. The Waterwise campaign is an NSRI programme that educates children about the importance of water safety. It also empowers them with the life saving skill of CPR. With 61% of drowning cases happening at dams, lakes and the sea, this initiative trains kids and fishermen to react to these situations. Minimizing the number of deaths and giving rise to a whole new generation of heroes.


READERS’ letters

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

WE INVITE YOU TO AIR YOUR VIEWS, STATE YOUR CONCERNS OR SHARE YOUR COMMENTS WITH FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE NSRI FAMILY

WINNING LETTER Congratulations to Isabelle Gordon. You have won a copy of Michael Walker’s book, Shipwrecks of the Western Cape.

The boat wobbled as well. On either side of the narrow bay, sharp rocks protruded and seaweed swayed lazily in between. There is nothing like a little apprehension to sharpen the senses. Still, I am glad that at the opening of the bay, my brother turned the canoe. The expanse of ocean beyond us was overwhelming. We paddled safely back to shore. What an unforgettable adventure. I’d been to sea!

Of course, it could have turned out differently. We might have capsized. I couldn’t swim. There was no NSRI. Over the years, I have seen many wrecks in this part of the Peninsula – the Livanos, the Seafarer for instance. The sea can be a friend and comfort but also capricious and, at times, seemingly cruel. It always commands respect. The foolish and the unlucky can be thankful to the NSRI.

ILLUSTRATION: DARRYL EDWARDES

Let me take you down memory (sea) lane for a few moments. This is from a sea lover. I have been on several voyages in large and medium ships but my first trip in a flimsy craft is the most memorable.

One summer’s day in the 1930s, my older teenage brother made a small canoe of galvanised iron, wood strips and lashings of smelly tar. He was very proud of this achievement and invited me to go out into the bay at Three Anchor Bay on the canoe’s maiden voyage. I agreed, excited and nervous. There was an awful lot of sea out there. But the sun shone, the sky was blue and the sea sparkled. I wobbled in behind him and he paddled out to sea.

NSRI HEAD OFFICE > 1 Glengariff Road, Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town, 8001 / PO Box 154, Green Point, 8051 Tel: +2721 434-4011 Fax: +2721 434-1661 Email: nsri-hq@iafrica.com

OUR REGIONAL OFFICES

DURBAN > Durban Rescue Base, Small Craft Basin, Point Waterfront, Durban / PO Box 38446, Point, 4069 Tel: +2731 332-9772 Fax: +2731 332-9773 Email: nsri-kzn@iafrica.com PORT ELIZABETH > 216 Cape Road, Mill Park, Port Elizabeth, 6001 / PO Box 7909, Newton Park, Port Elizabeth, 6055 Tel: +2741 374-8315 Fax: +2741 374-8316 Email: nsri-pe@iafrica.com GAUTENG > Bouhof, 31 Robin Hood Road, Robindale, Randburg, 2194 / PO Box 3432, Pinegowrie, 2123 Tel: +2711 888-5451 Fax: +2711 888-5458 Email: nsri-elane@iafrica.com

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FAMILY ties

A FAMILY AFFAIR

CHRISTINE CURTIS CAUGHT UP WITH THE VAN STADEN FAMILY IN KNYSNA, AND DISCOVERED THAT FATHER AND SONS ARE AS DEDICATED TO EACH OTHER AS THEY ARE TO THE RESCUE WORK THEY THRIVE ON

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n those make-or-break moments when lives are at stake, communication, understanding and trust between members of a unit become absolutely crucial. Considering that these same values and skills help make relationships work and keep families together, it’s no surprise that the family analogy often comes up when you chat to Sea Rescue volunteers about team dynamics. But what’s it like to be serving with your own blood family within the NSRI clan? We caught up with the Van Stadens in Knysna to find out more.

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Chris van Staden (54), who owns a building contracting business, volunteers alongside his sons, Grant (28) and Marc (26). Chris joined the NSRI 19 years ago after he and the boys moved down from Benoni. Having always admired Sea Rescue efforts during holidays at the coast, he was thrilled when he was invited to join Station 12 soon after settling in Knysna. Becoming part of this organisation made sense, and not only because he grew up in a boating family. ‘It was a tough time… I had just lost my dad and was recovering

from an operation. Surviving cancer made me appreciate how easily our lives can be taken. Rescue work was, and still is, very fulfilling. It’s a privilege to be able to repay the debt I felt I owed.’ Growing up on the lagoon, Grant and Marc had a keen interest in Sea Rescue from the early days. ‘Any chance we got, we’d be down at the station,’ laughs Marc. But while they both attended Grey High in Port Elizabeth, joining as junior crewmen wasn’t possible. After completing his studies, Grant, now the project manager at

Pezula Estate, joined the station. That was seven years ago, and Marc, who works with Chris, joined them three years later. The Van Stadens understand the logic behind the NSRI policy that forbids volunteers who are family members from serving on the same craft. ‘If something were to go wrong, I, and I think any parent, would rather face one and not a double problem,’ Chris says. And he knows what he’s talking about. Last year, Marc was on board Jaytee when it flipped in huge surf while escorting competitors in a paddle-ski race onto the


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SASAR AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY

LAST KNOWN POSITION WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CASUALTY’S EXACT COORDINATES AREN’T AVAILABLE AT THE TIME OF A RESCUE? CHRISTINE CURTIS FINDS OUT WHAT PROCEDURES ARE FOLLOWED WHEN RESCUERS HAVE TO ESTABLISH A SEARCH PATTERN BASED ON MINIMAL INFORMATION

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s seasoned rescuers will tell you, ‘every second counts’ is a cliché for a very good reason. And since the success of a rescue operation is directly affected by the amount of time it takes to respond, it is critical to determine the search area fast. ‘Our ability to coordinate a response to an emergency at sea, and the survival of the people involved, depends on what we can find out about their situation, and how quickly,’ says Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) chief Johan Carstens. Based

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in Cape Town, the MRCC is the main operational unit of the South African Search and Rescue Organisation, which, as part of the global safety system of the International Maritime Organisation, coordinates all available resources (such as the NSRI, the South African Navy and Air Force) in assisting those in distress at sea. This is no small task, watching over the surrounding oceans – halfway to South America to the west, halfway to Australia in the east and all the way down to the South Pole. ‘If someone runs into

trouble at sea and his only way of signaling that he needs assistance is to fire a red distress flare, it implies that we rely heavily on members of the public or crew of other vessels, firstly, to see the flares and secondly, to report them as soon as possible,’ Carstens says. According to MRCC supervisor Jared Blows, the first step MRCC staff take when a distress flare sighting is reported, is to establish that the call is legitimate and credible, because they receive a large number of hoax reports. When callers don’t want to give their names

or put the phone down when asked for more information, it’s normally not a good sign, Blows says, ‘but, we still verify such reported sightings with the nearest Port Control, the police and other resources in the area to make 100% sure.’ The area is blanketed with a broadcast message to all ships to request that they investigate and report back. Next, with all the details about the sighting that they have at their disposal, the latest weather reports, as well as any information about missing or overdue craft or individuals, MRCC staff set


IMAGE COURTESY GOOGLE EARTH

SEARCH and rescue

about determining the search area, using SARIS, a very impressive software programme developed by a UK company in coordination with the UK coast guard and Germany’s search and rescue service. It is based on information from past search and rescue incidents, and is updated regularly based on information on new incidents. ‘SARIS takes into account all the variables that could affect where and how large the search area is, such as wind current, sea current and the type of vessel – for instance, a life raft would be affected much more by current than a large ocean liner,’ says Blows. ‘It plots a craft’s drift [see diagram A] by estimating how it would move in the ocean current, where the wind-driven current takes it and how the wind current pushes it. Divergence also comes into play – this is the deflection of the casualty off the normal downwind direction to the left or to the right [see diagram B].’ A radius of error is worked into the equation, which means

Diagram B Search Area

surface position

exponentially every hour [see diagram C]. If it weren’t for modern technology, MRCC staff would have to work all of this out using pen and paper, maps and formulas – and they can, says Blows, but it takes time. ‘Having such software available saves us a lot of time: you feed the information into the computer, press enter and there’s your search area. But the biggest advantage is the fact that SARIS findings are based on Diagram C

Diagram A

Resultant Drift Sea Current

5th search date 5 Leeway

Wind Driven Current

the search area is expanded depending on the accuracy and credibility of the last reported sighting of the craft – in the case of a distress-flare sighting, 30 square nautical miles is added to the search area. The amount of time that has passed since the sighting also means the search area grows

4th search. date 4

3rd search. date 3 2nd search. date 2 1st search. date 1 surface position

information from past events,’ he adds. Next, the coordinators would decide how best to allocate the

available resources, which would by now have been activated and sent in the general direction of the search area. Blows explains: ‘Resources such as the NSRI or Air Force aircraft are not necessarily allocated to subsections of the search area equally. It depends on how many search units there are, their capabilities and their limitations, such as range and endurance.’ While all the role players are searching, they continually report back to the MRCC, which keeps adapting the plan according to changing conditions and developments. For instance, if it’s getting dark, efforts are initiated to organise an aircraft with searchlights. ‘We would continue in this fashion until the casualty is found or the possibility of success is no longer reasonable and all hope of rescuing survivors is past,’ says Blows. ‘But a search is never completed, really – as soon as we receive additional information, a case can be reopened and we go back to the drawing board.’ While the details on such procedures shed light on the inner workings of a search and rescue operation, it should serve as a reminder to everyone to take responsibility for their own safety, Carstens concludes. ‘Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. Make sure your safety equipment is serviceable and use it appropriately,’ he says. ‘Don’t compromise – if something goes wrong, you must be able to survive until help arrives, because even if your exact location is known and conditions are good, no

rescue team will get to you immediately’.

A TYPICAL SCENARIO Simon’s Town station commander Darren Zimmerman talked us through how it happens in real life. ‘An SMS comes through to my emergency response phone from Port Control at the Cape Town harbour. I immediately respond. The duty controller reports that he has received calls from three Simon’s Town residents who have seen two red distress flares over the False Bay area. He gives me their telephone numbers and I quickly phone them back for detailed information. Just before I am about to dial, I receive a call from the Netcare911 call centre. They give me the name and number of a fourth person who also saw the flares from the Fish Hoek area. This report confirms that the flares were definitely over the water – someone in Fish Hoek would have a 90° difference from the callers in Simon’s Town on the viewing angle of False Bay. It is almost certain that somebody needs assistance urgently, so we need to make a decision about whether to launch a boat and which area to send it to. I contact the duty coxswain (skipper) of our rescue boat and instruct him to call out his crew. I then get back to calling the first spotter to ask him whether he had to look up to see the flares or whether they were in his horizontal view, because this gives us a good indication of whether the flares were close or

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THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR 33 YEARS, DEDICATED CREW AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS HAVE BEEN WORKING TIRELESSLY TO SECURE AND MAINTAIN A BASE IN THE PORT OF RICHARDS BAY. THIS YEAR, THEY RECEIVED THE KEYS TO THE BUILDING OF THEIR DREAMS

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ike Patterson heralds the opening of the new base building at Richards Bay – the well deserved fruits of a labour of love: ‘We gather here today to celebrate the official opening of this magnificent new building.

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Those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of Station 19 (Richards Bay) may be just a little envious. This building is without doubt the finest rescue base in South Africa. A brief overview of the station’s history will give you some idea of just how much

we really appreciate our new base and the important assets it now protects. Some 33 years ago, three young men who were aware of the dangers along the Zululand coast approached the NSRI Head Office in Cape Town and proposed the idea of a rescue

base within the new Port of Richards Bay. In 1975 crew recruitment and training commenced, and in 1976, Station 19 became a reality when a boatshed was donated by the RB6 Consortium that was building the harbour at the time.


PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF DAVE SAVIDES PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF DAVE SAVIDES

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF WILLEM DE WAAL

FOCUS on

BHP Billiton Bayside Smelter General Manager, Lucas Msimanga, hands over the keys to Sea Rescue Station 19 Commander, Mark Hughes

The building under construction

A few months later, the 6m inshore rescue craft Aberdare 2 was transferred from Port Elizabeth. In her first year of service, Aberdare 2 was used in many rescues – some of which were extreme for a craft of her class. The need for a larger craft became apparent, and 1977 saw the arrival of the Spirit of Safmarine, a 15m converted pleasure craft that was purchased with money donated at the official opening of the port on 1 April 1976. A certified master was required to take her to sea, and this was not always possible. So, in 1978, she was exchanged for the Hubert Davies, an ageing but very seaworthy 10m, capable of a top speed of only 9 knots. Hubert Davies served us well, and, although heavy on maintenance, she was responsible for some difficult rescues off the Zululand coast. The most noteworthy rescue

correct design for these waters. We soon came to realise that we may never have the funds to replace this craft and did what was necessary to keep her in the best condition; however the elements began to take their toll as she stood at moorings alongside the wharf. We had to do as others throughout the world have done. House this valuable asset out of the water and under cover. We had to prolong her life and ensure her readiness when the call came for her to go to sea in extreme conditions. The possibility of raising the money locally for a new base building became a reality in 1999 when the late Doug Pheasant left a substantial bequest to our station to put toward a new base building. Doug had always supported Sea Rescue, and having owned the first yacht in Richards Bay, he served for many years as a dedicated and wise member of

involved the fishing trawler, Jolly Dolphin. Ten crew were rescued as she floundered 6 miles off the Mozambique border. The 55-hour rescue operation was an extreme test for craft and crew. In 1978 the station obtained a secondhand Ford F250 and a rigid 4m rescue boat that could be surf-launched by two persons anywhere along the Zululand coast. This successful combination proved invaluable for rescues on rivers and inland waters, especially when two cyclones tested our crews to the limit in the 80s. The station was able to assist hundreds to safety when major bridges were destroyed. Toward the end of 1980, the crew who had worked every weekend and late into the night, finally completed building their new home for less than R12 000 using materials donated by local businesses. This building within the Yacht

Club grounds served as our rescue base for 28 years. By the year 1981, it again became apparent that we needed a long-range, reliable rescue craft for our station’s large area of operation, which stretched from the Tugela River in the South to Kosi Bay in the extreme North, and fundraising for the new boat commenced. In 1985 Hubert Davies was retired to Cape Town waters, and by mid-1986, Spirit of Richards Bay, a 12m rescue boat, was proudly commissioned to Lochin Marine. NSRI’s new flagship cost about R520 000, which even at R1.80 to the pound, was very expensive for a piece of equipment with a life expectancy of only twenty years. Spirit of Richards Bay has served with distinction and has been responsible for many rescues with many craft towed to safety and numerous lives saved, proving that she has the

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Sea Rescue magazine