I had for many years, on and around the sea, relied on the fact that the NSRI was standing by for me if ever I needed to call on them.
I contributed financially, but never seriously considered volunteering myself until sometime after I read two separate articles in the Sea Rescue magazine about two very different people. One was a story about a shore based trainee controller and the other of a seasoned sea going coxswain. Both were stories about ordinary people with an extra ordinary desire to make a difference. For too long, I’m sad to say, their stories merely questioned my real will to help but did not challenge me to get to my nearest base. Even after I had resolved to call the base, I found an ever present supply of reasons and excuses not to make the call. What if they don’t need me, what if I am not skilled enough, what if they’re not nice people, what if I lose my job, what if I am called out at night/during the day/in the week/over a weekend, will it affect my family, will it affect me?
When I had nowhere else to hide, I called and within a week I was on my first training course and had logged my first sea hour. Without exception, I have found many more of those ordinary folk with the same extra ordinary outlook on the Station. As a volunteer, you are never under any strict obligation to respond. You are trained for your purpose and continually prepare for the call to save lives at sea. Family comes first. I have lost sleep and I have missed work – but my employer is proud to have a sea rescue volunteer on its books and also now supports the NSRI in this indirect way. I have been to other bases and trained with and met some of the crew from about nine stations in my short time with Sea Rescue.
At the outset, I misunderstood my Station Commander to say that one could easily advance from trainee to crew within six months when what he actually said was that trainees cannot be promoted to crew in less than six months. I nevertheless set the goal of six months and got my family’s buy-in to the required courses and sea hours. My commitment was therefore a family decision and that was an important step in the process – Sea Rescue stations need you for the long haul and without your volunteering becoming a part of your lifestyle, your enthusiasm and commitment will wane and eventually die. I have learned that the NSRI actually invest in you, for without the volunteer, the Institute would simply not exist. During my time at the base, my son has also dedicated more than his quota of community service hours to Sea Rescue and is now anxiously waiting for his sixteenth birthday when he can become a junior trainee.
Sea going trainees require a medical examination and the right attitude – aptitude can come later. To advance to crew, you need a minimum of 50 sea hours split across the classes of vessel on your base (with ten percent of those hours at night), a marine radio license, a basic fire fighting certification and a level three first aid qualification. But, let me make it very clear to you – you DO NOT need to do this all in six months!
At Sea Rescue, I have met people who feared that Sea Rescue would affect them and still others who joined in the hope that Sea Rescue would change them. My fear was really a wish to stay within my comfort zone.
So, did Sea Rescue affect me?
Without a doubt – it has profoundly affected me and I am now able to say that I am making a difference. I am part of a team that is ready and able to save lives.
Station commander comment: I was first notified of Gavin’s wish to join through one of my Station Cox’ns, who highly recommended Gavin. His application was entertaining, different and had a fresh approach to what we do, just like Gavin. He has fitted in well and set a new standard for getting things done. He will do well in NSRI and the Station is grateful to have him. Hope we get more of the same!
Brad Geyser, Statcom NSRI Station 8 Hout Bay.