At 14h45, Saturday, 12th November, NSRI Witbank Dam duty crew were activated following reports of a 19 year old man missing on the dam.
The teenager, reportedly kayaking, was an hour and a half overdue.
Our NSRI rescue craft responded to the last known position and were then informed that the teenager had been found by fishermen on the Noupoort side of the dam and our assistance was no longer required.
The fishermen had called the SA Police Services and Legacy ambulance services had responded and the teenager was transported to hospital in a stable condition by ambulance where he was treated for non fatal drowning symptoms and later released from hospital requiring no further medical assistance.
On Saturday afternoon, 12th November, NSRI Richards Bay duty crew launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of Richards Bay to rendezvous with the French sailing yacht Papa Djo, with three French crew onboard, sailing from Madagascar to Richards Bay, with the yacht limping towards Richards Bay after sustaining structural damage (a broken stanchion – mast support) during strong winds.
NSRI had monitored their progress from around 10h00 on Saturday morning from their position 19 nautical miles off-shore of Sodwana Bay where they first called for assistance but reporting to be making some headway towards Richards Bay. NSRI Richards Bay launched at 14h30 to meet up with them after communications with the yacht had been lost and a storm with heavy sea conditions was moving in.
Assisted by MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre), TNPA (Transnet National Ports Authority) and Telkom Maritime Radio Services (assisting with search patterns, sea drift patterns and communications), NSRI met up with the yacht and towed them through heavy sea conditions, storms and strong gusting winds arriving in the Port of Richards Bay at 09h50 this morning (Sunday, 13th November).
The operation took all night because of heavy weather. The crew of Papa Djo, skipper Herve Boussard and crew Jacque Sarfaty and Marion Hoarau and the NSRI Richards Bay duty crew were all tired but safe in the Richards Bay Port by mid morning today.
Coxswain: Mike Patterson
Trainee Coxswains: Ryan Chase (at the helm) and Jacques Kruger
Jacques takes up the story here…
“From our last communication at around 13h00, Saturday, 12th November, we continued to monitor the yacht who were reporting to be about 19 nautical miles off-shore of Sodwana, and based on what they were telling us we were taking the drift pattern and conditions into account throughout the morning.
“With a language barrier between us and the crew on the yacht, with our best efforts to understand them we continued in contacting them hourly via Satelite phone and Telkom Maritime Radio Services (TMRS) assisted us in radio communication until about 13h00.
“During the morning, we managed to find a French sailor at the local Zululand Yacht Club that joined us in our control room as an interpreter assisting us to interpret exactly what had transpired with the casualty and to figure out if we needed to take any special equipment as the call had come through as a dis-masted yacht. (It was later determined that a stanchion had broken and the yacht was not dis-masted but the mast support had been damaged).
“Soon after 13h00 we lost all communications with the casualty vessel.
“We then contacted TMRS Durban Radio to try to contact the casualty vessel, but they also could not establish communications and our fears for the yacht and her crew grew more intense.
“Our first idea was to let the South currents push the vessel closer to Richards Bay, but since the yacht’s mast was not secure we decided to launch at 14H00 to try meet up with the casualty vessel with daylight on our side.
“We launched at 14h00 into a 30 knot North Easterly wind and a good 4m-5m sea with a full boat of crew.
“The run North was very eventful in that we were taking on growing seas, with a big frontal system and an electrical storm building up behind us.
“At around 7pm the weather caught up to us accompanied with hail and a 40 knot buster and electrical strikes all around us as we ran into a very confused 6-8m seas. During the run up, we tried a number of times to make contact with the casualty vessel, via Sat Phone, VHF marine radio channel 16, as well as asking Durban Radio & MRCC to assist us in trying to contact the vessel, but all attempts failed.
“We were looking for a potentially dark boat with no rig in the middle of a mature storm.
“Telkom Maritime Radio Services then put out a VHF all ships radio alert ‘Securite’ to all ships to be on the look out for the yacht , which resulted in a Russian vessel reporting a sighting of the casualty vessel.
“Throughout the day we took all the information and trends of the drift and managed to work out a very good ball park of where the casualty might be, and once on scene we got a call from Telkom Maritime Radio Services passing on the message that the yacht had seen us. We decided to fire an illuminating flare. We then asked Durban Radio to instruct the casualty vessel to also fire a flare.
“The Casualty vessel flashed us with a torch and we caught sight of them.
“Got alongside the casualty at 21h17 set up the tow and began the long tow home, now into a building South Westerly with big confused sea state around 6 to 8 meters at times, we arrived back at the Port of Richards Bay at 09h15 and proceeded to shorten tow, rafted up and placed the vessel alongside at Tuzi Gazi just before 10h00. No further assistance was required.”
Photograph: Papa Djo safely in Port this morning with NSRI Richards Bay.
TO REPORT A SEA RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 112 FROM A CELLPHONE