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It’s often been said that NSRI volunteers regard each other as family. There’s a closeness that develops while training and on callouts, especially, when crew need to look out for each other as well as the casualties they are helping. But how does this dynamic work when you have real family at the base? What if your dad or mom, brother or sister is crewing beside you? We decided to find out…

It’s not often that one comes across a mother and daughter team who joined as volunteers on the same day and graduated as crew on the same day. This speaks to the closeness between mom Janine and daughter Stacey Rudolph of Station 5 (Durban), who relish the time they’ve been able to spend together, first as trainees and now as crew.

It was a happy default moment that led the pair to join up. ‘My ex-finance had joined as a trainee and his car was in for a service. Instead of driving around or waiting in the car for him while he attended crew meetings, we decided to sit in,’ explains Janine. This piqued their interest and it was Stacey who suggested to her mom that they join, ‘to see what we could do and learn’. Stacey learnt to fish when she was just four years old and has always loved the sea. ‘The NSRI could help me learn more and do more in the ocean that I loved,’ she says. Initially, Janine felt that she would be more comfortable as a shore crew member, helping out doing admin. But to date she has clocked almost 120 hours on Station 5’s Offshore Rescue Craft (ORC), the Alick Rennie.

Being put through their paces

Learning the ropes was fun for both mom and daughter. ‘It was fantastic,’ says Janine. ‘It was such a great opportunity to spend time together in such an amazing environment. We had strengths in different areas, and helped each other study, learn and grow. It was real quality time.’

Stacey agrees, saying the training was fun and busy. Both she and her mom enjoy learning and expanding their knowledge. ‘We supported each other throughout the whole process to qualify. My mom and I are close and do a lot of things together, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that we had to be kept on different boats. I say this because we were both able to establish ourselves and learn our strengths and weaknesses for ourselves.’

Stacey and Janine joined on 2 May 2017 and both qualified on 23 October 2018. It was a heart-swelling moment for Janine when her 16-year-old daughter qualified. ‘To see her grow and achieve the level of maturity, responsibility and commitment needed to become crew made me very proud,’ she says. It was a special moment shared and Stacey recalls how proud she was when they were both called up to receive their crew badges and kit. ‘It was amazing to achieve this together.’

Memorable rescues

The duo are not permitted to go out on the same vessel and decided between them that Janine’s domain was the big boat and Stacey’s the 8.8m. They try alternate on callouts to get as much sea-going experience as possible and to keep current. Often if one goes out, the other will assist with shore control, and vice versa.

Janine remembers one particular time when Stacey was part of the crew involved in quite a serious rescue operation involving the search for missing casualties. She had to keep reassuring herself that her daughter was capable and qualified. ‘I was the duty controller and stayed at the base to help in the control room. I had to get out of Mom mode and into crew mode,’ she says. It was a successful rescue and all the casualties were brought back safely.

It’s true that Stacey, who is in her second year of studying to become an ECP (emergency care practitioner) at Durban University of Technology, has seen her fair share of excitement on callouts. One memorable one that comes to mind involved two paddlers missing off Umhlanga.

‘We were worried when we got the call because the sun was setting and we didn’t have much light left to search for the missing paddlers. We launched the 8m Spirit of Surfski 6 and raced towards Umhlanga,’ she explains. ‘We all acted as lookouts and as we crested a wave about 1 nautical mile out to sea I saw a capsized ski floating in the water. I remember the utter relief I felt as I shouted and pointed towards the ski. When we arrived, there were two older gentlemen holding onto the ski with their lifejackets on. We quickly got them onto our vessel and covered them in jackets and space blankets to keep them warm.’

As it turned out the two men who were rescued, while being highly appreciative, also realised that their paddling club had donated the funds for the boat that had saved them!

Future plans

From wanting to be a shore controller initially, Janine qualified as full sea crew, perhaps surprising herself in the process. She loves the ORC where she serves as navigator and is looking to complete an ENS course in the future. Also on the cards is getting her boat rescue swimmer qualification. Stacey wants to become a Class 4 coxswain and rescue swimmer too. Both agree their success as volunteers is due to the support they give each other constantly, but also the larger family at Station 5.

‘For me it’s always been amazing to know that if I (we) break down or need help, we just have to ask and the Sea Rescue family will assist, no hesitation, no questions asked,’ says Janine. Stacey agrees, ‘The crew is like family and supportive of everyone. We have fun and are always helping each other even when it’s not NSRI related. The crew encourage each other to be the best they can be, and push each other to get better. I find comfort knowing there will always be someone I can call when I need them.’

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