At 19h00, Sunday, 21st December, NSRI Knysna duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following a Pan Pan (distress call) from the fishing trawler DODEKA, with 15 crew onboard, 10 nautical miles off Knysna, reporting motor propellor damage and adrift at sea in 60 meters depth and in that depth unable to deploy their anchor to stop their drift.
NSRI Knysna launched JT RESCUER and SPIRIT OF KYC but conditions in the Knysna Heads were unfavourable to exit (unless in a dire emergency) and after it was confirmed that DODEKA were in good sea conditions, in no imminent danger, and although adrift at sea they were safe, NSRI Knysna returned to base to be on alert to respond only if necessary.
NSRI Mossel Bay were placed on alert and arrangements were made for a Viking fishing trawler, SISTERS, to take DODEKA under tow on Monday morning and tow the stricken trawler to Mossel Bay.
At 23h28, Sunday, 21st December, NSRI Hermanus were activated following eye-witness reports of an unidentified yacht very close to shore and appearing to be in some sort of difficulties near Pearly Beach, between Hermanus and Struisbaai.
NSRI Hermanus responded a rescue vehicle to the scene to investigate while the sea rescue craft HUNTERS GOLD RESCUER was towed to Kleinbaai to be launched. The SA Police Services and WC Government Health EMS responded.
As NSRI Hermanus rescuers arrived on-scene a red distress flare was deployed from the yacht but no VHF radio distress call had been made and Telkom Maritime Radio Services unsuccessfully attempted to raise the unidentified yacht on VHF Marine radio frequency.
NSRI shore crew couldn’t make out the name of the yacht in the dark and all appeared quiet on the yacht. It was unknown how many people were onboard or why the flare was fired. NSRI shore crew then used the sea rescue vehicle siren and public address loudhailer to try to communicate with the crew.
As a precautionary measure, and in case the yacht needed to be towed, NSRI Agulhas launched their sea rescue craft VODACOM RESCUER VII and Overberg Disaster Management were activated to join in the operation.
The yacht was on the back breaker line and fears were that if the rising tide breaker line increased or if the wind picked up the yacht may be swept ashore.
Despite all attempts to attract the attention from anyone onboard the yacht all remained quiet, and rescuers were forced to wait for the sea rescue craft HUNTERS GOLD RESCUER to arrive from Hermanus and she would be sent to physically go and investigate what was going on.
At around 01h00 HUNTERS GOLD RESCUER arrived at the 30 foot yacht BANSHEE’s side. Attempts were made to communicate with the yacht’s crew and an NSRI rescue swimmer was sent aboard to investigate.
When the rescue swimmer knocked on the hatch door, 66 year old James Swan, lone sailor from Sydney, Australia, appeared from below decks.
After firing a red distress flare Mr Swan had decided to take a nap thinking that if anyone had noticed his red distress flare it would probably take hours before any rescue arrived, hence he hadn’t noticed the efforts to get his attention from the shore rescue party.
He reported that his anchor hydraulics had failed. He couldn’t raise anchor and realising how close he was to shore he thought he’d fire a red distress flare and wait for rescue.
His GPS also didn’t have reefs programmed in so even if he got under way he feared he may sail into a reef.
NSRI Agulhas were stood down to return to base.
NSRI Hermanus rescue crew bypassed the yachts hydraulic system to raise the anchor and the yacht was escorted under her own motor power into Gansbaai harbour where Mr Swan will carry out repairs.
The operation was completed at 05h30 this morning.