The United Nations honoured the NSRI Witsand crew in London at the
“International Maritime Organisation Awards for Exceptional Bravery
at Sea” where they were presented with certificates of commendation
in recognition of meritorious services rendered during the rescue
of yacht Gulliver crew. “The RNLI treated us like family and when we arrived at Heathrow,
Andrew Steward of the Tower Station, met us and took us to his home
to freshen up and have breakfast. He then took us on a guided bus
tour of London before dropping us at our hotel. We felt like royalty.
The next evening, we were at Tower, and were given the royal treatment
which included a trip on the Thames in their 8.5m 40 knt 'lifeboat'.
Have you ever heard of a 40 knt lifeboat?? This took place in freezing
rain, but we were all togged up in full RNLI kit (dry suits, boots,
self-inflating lifejackets, communication helmets - more kit than
Neal Armstrong had on when he landed on the moon I’m sure).
Michael Vlasto of the RNLI kindly hosted the South African
contingent at the awards dinner; our South African High
Commissioner was due to accompany us but he was unfortunately
the Chief of the Navy of Canada come over to shake our hands,
and to offer their support in whatever way they could assist
Our visit to the RNLI headquarters and training facility in Poole
was a real eye opener. We loved it. Michael Vlasco again kindly
escorted us around, introduced us to all and sundry, with the
intro 'These South Africans are mad of course, totally loopy –
no-one in his right mind would proceed into the sea off the
Southern Cape coast in such a small boat!'
Every person who met us had read the story, or had been very
well briefed. Our crew were allowed to test drive the boat
simulator, which was fantastic and so realistic, it could
make you sea sick. Then we visited the big training pool
which has liferafts and a full weather simulator including
thunder, lightning and hurricane winds.
Although the RNLI has a lot more resources, we all felt the strong similarities between our organisations, and more specifically, between the people and their passion.
Thank you to everyone, from the bottom of our hearts, for making this trip a reality.”
Rob Wilson, Deputy Station Commander, NSRI Witsand