Andre Fletcher, NSRI Durban deputy station commander, said: At 11h00, Saturday, 11th June, NSRI Durban duty crew, while preparing for routine exercises at the Durban Sea Rescue base, were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following a Mayday distress call from the 66 foot sailing catamaran Michelle Rose, with 8 crew on board. 6 women and 2 men, reporting their sailing craft to be taking water.
Initially believed to be only a few nautical miles from Durban’s Port, the Mayday distress call was intercepted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services. MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) requested Durban TNPA to activate NSRI Durban while Telkom Maritime Radio Services relayed the Mayday distress call, alerting all vessels in the area to divert to the casualty catamaran position to assist if possible.
It was then determined that the catamaran was some 20 nautical miles south of Durban and approximately 5 nautical miles off-shore the vicinity of Umkomaas, in a 4 to 5 meter swell and 20 knot South Westerly winds – off-shore.
The catamaran, sailing from Cape Town to Richards Bay and then on to the Seychelles, had stopped in at Simon’s Town and East London during the voyage but were now taking water in the port engine room and reportedly flooding in some bulk heads and compartments. Crew were using their water pumps to bail water but it appeared that the catamaran was flooding and, in rough seas, she risked sinking or capsizing so the skipper called a Mayday distress call.
NSRI Durban duty crew launched the sea rescue craft Eikos Rescuer II and the container ship Maersk Vilnius diverted to the scene while an NSRI shore team were dispatched to stand-by on the land side. A TNPA ports rescue helicopter was placed on alert.
The yacht crew of eight, from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Botswana, were geared to abandon ship if necessary but using water pumps to bail water. The Maersk Vilnius arrived on the scene and stood by at the yacht’s side while the NSRI craft, battling through rough sea conditions, arrived on the scene at 13h33.
The casualty boat was found to be lying low in the water, all eight crew were safe onboard the casualty boat. One woman crew was suffering from motion sickness and the crew were treating her with rehydration.
Finding the casualty boat in relatively good shape and with the water ingress seemingly being balanced by water being pumped out, the skipper of the casualty boat requested his casualty boat to be taken under tow and confirmed that they were pumping water free of the catamaran at full capacity. Despite rough seas, the large size of the casualty boat (bordering on being too large for the sea rescue craft to safely tow), the difficulties associated with towing a catamaran and the added weight of the catamaran because of water flooded compartments and a flooded engine room – NSRI Durban agreed to attempt the tow effort in a effort to save the crew and their boat. The risks of attempting to tow the casualty catamaran were weighed against the risks of abandoning the casualty boat and transferring her crew in the rough seas. It was decided to give a full effort to towing the casualty crew on the casualty boat.
The yacht, lying low in the water, was taken under tow by NSRI Durban and, to assist with lightening the weight of the casualty boat, the crew of the catamaran dumped their fresh water.
The tow effort was made difficult by the rough sea conditions, the size of the catamaran and with the added weight from the water flooding causing her to be lying low in the water despite the full effort of the casualty boats crew to use all available means to pump water free.
A Subtech tug boat, the Indongeni, was placed on alert to assist in the tow but NSRI pressed on with the tow effort. Following a concentrated effort that lasted throughout the afternoon, in the rough confused sea state, NSRI Durban towed the Catamaran Michelle Rose into the Port of Durban arriving at 19h33.
The sea rescue craft Megan II was launched assisted with the maneuvering of the casualty catamaran to a mooring. Because of the size of the casualty craft a berth was provided by TNPA at the container terminal where the casualty boat was moored and the casualty crew will affect repairs to their catamaran. The operation was completed at 22h30 with all crew of the casualty craft safe and well.
GORDONS BAY: Edward Roussouw, NSRI Gordons Bay deputy station commander, said: At 21h41, NSRI Gordons Bay duty crew were activated to assist two yachts taking part in a Gordons Bay Yacht Club “Around Sea Island Yacht Regatta”. Both yachts had experienced problems after strong winds came up during the yacht race in the late afternoon causing one yacht to be blown out to sea and fuel shortages on the second yacht.
NSRI Gordons Bay launched the 5.5m sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski. NSRI Simon’s Town duty crew were activated to assist and the 10m deep-sea sea rescue craft Spirit of Safmarine III was launched.
The sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski delivered fuel to the 30 foot Delmega, with 2 crew onboard, but despite fresh, fuel her motor could not be started. NSRI Gordons Bay transferred a sea rescue crewman onboard and then stood by her side.
NSRI Simon’s Town first towed the 20 foot yacht Time Out, with 3 crew onboard, to Harbour Island as the casualty crew were getting cold. Gordons Bay Security (GBSec) ambulance service were activated to medically assist crew of Time Out and one of the crew (who had mild hypothermia) was transported to hospital by ambulance for treatment and is expected to fully recover.
The sea rescue craft Spirit of Safmarine III then towed the yacht Delmega safely to Harbour Island without incident. With both yachts and their crews safely in Harbour Island no further assistance was required.
TO REPORT A SEA RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 112 FROM A CELLPHONE