“The NSRI Station 23 (Wilderness) was started in earnest in 1984.
NSRI Headquarters informed us that they would send us a boat if we raised the money for it. Undaunted we started collecting and the local community responded supportively.
We placed an article in the newspaper with the heading “R16,000… AND THE BOAT IS NAMED”. That appeared in the George Herald on 16 July 1985 a few days later Mr Len Siberman from Plettenberg Bay phoned us to say he wanted to sponsor our rescue boat and name it in honour of his father Mr Sam Silberman. The first rescue carried out by SAM (as we fondly called her) and the first life saved by this boat was on Sunday 6 October 1985, when a young lady from Wilderness was plucked from the sea at Leentjiesklip.
We are sure she would like to forget the incident- but we never will- it was proof for us that we had started something worthwhile- and in the years since then this station went on to save many lives and has assisted many more people back to safety.
In those early days our base was at the Lakes Holiday Resort. We then graduated to our very own base on the beach, a 6m Safmarine container, that we “borrowed” we were under the impression then that within 6 months we would have a proper rescue base.
We were given permission to put the container on the beach by the old Divisional Council. It would appear that they must have some insight into how long it would eventually take us to get this far. When applying for permission to place the container on the beach for a temporary period of 6 months their reply was “There is nothing more permanent then a temporary structure”.
Their prophecy was accurate – at least for the next 6 years! During all this time Safmarine were incredibly patient. They allowed us to keep the container all this time and in fact eventually gave it to us.
The container at least enabled us to have our rescue boat close to the beach- even though it was not ideal- it served its purpose. The only problem was that once the doors were closed it was properly sealed and everything inside corroded very quickly and wet-suits were just that… always wet!
We made the container as operational as possible. We had a telephone installed and the Lions Club donated an aerial mast together with the two aerials that we required for our marine radios. They installed the aerials and to this day we are still using those aerials.
To further enhance our operational capability we needed to replace our old Landrover – so we approached the Round Table and invited them for a drive in the Landrover. One trip around the block and they said “how much ?”
Their donation enabled us to buy a second hand 4×4 Toyota and an old Caravan which we bought from Eskom.
In the meantime we were still working on getting a proper base built and in 1988 it looked as though we had made some progress. In anticipation of us requiring funds to start building, the Southern Cape Nomads Golfers presented us with the proceeds of their Andrew Mentis golf day. The R20 000 donation was enough to buy the basic material required for a timber frame building in those days. But unfortunately we were held up for various reasons. We did not know how to go about building a base on what was essentially public open space.
Fortunately for us along came Eric Moll who did a tremendous amount of work in finding a suitable piece of ground for us. Through his efforts we eventually signed a lease with the Wilderness Local Council for his property.
So now we had a piece of property, but we still could not build on it! We were informed that we would have it rezoned and if we were not for all the hard work that Retief Kleyhans put into that, we would not have the fine station that we have today.
With all the red tape behind us, we could at last start building. Earthworks were undertaken by Sandy Haddad and Kirsten & Tulleken.
Semper Prima built the foundation and footings and Active Construction poured the cement slab – on a particularly wet and windy day- even the weather was surprised that we had eventually started!
Multi Modules had drawn up plans for us years ago, so when the slab was ready we went back to them for the construction of the building. This is where D&A Timbers/Urbans Industries and Multi Modules really pulled out all the stops and assisted us tremendously.
Just over two years after construction began, they completed their bit in just 3 weeks, which consisted of building the shell. The crew members were going to do the rest, cladding the inside walls, tiling the floor, the showers etc.
During that time our crew members sacrificed a lot of their spare time to work on the base and can now honestly feel proud of what they have achieved.”
………….We all look forward to the future, but sometimes it’s just nice looking back to see the long way we came to be where we are today….