In the 13th of a series of stories on NSRI bases around the country, we chat to a few crew members at Station 15 (Mossell Bay) to find out more about the base and its family of volunteers.
People are key
The ‘gunslingers’ of Mossell Bay is how station commander JC Roos refers to his ‘rowdy’ crew, with obvious affection… Not because they carry guns, of course, but to indicate that these individuals are bonded by danger – willing to risk their lives in the service of saving others – and common values.
“We have people from all walks of life; we are family, dedicated, motivated, caring, awesome! We always pull together to get the job done. I am sure every station commander says this, but this crew is definitely the best there is,” he says.
Not that danger isn’t minimised as far as possible. Training sessions are held on a weekly basis, while rescue operations – which have declined over the last few years – are carried out efficiently and professionally.
Although he’s been with the NSRI since February 2008, JC is new to the station commander position, having taken over the reins in June 2022 from Andre Fraser who stood at the helm for 10 years. JC served for 6 years as a deputy during this period. There’s no doubt that he’s bringing his own brand of integrity to the role: as with any good leader, his focus is his crew.
“I like to use the analogy of PPE – most people know this as Personal Protective Equipment, but within the station, PPE becomes People, Processes and Equipment, with the emphasis on ‘People’. You might have the best equipment and the best processes, or you might have the worst equipment with bad processes, but if you have the right people, it works. People drive success. So, for me, people are always my first priority.”
That doesn’t mean that working with people isn’t a challenge, at times. “Dealing with a multitude of cultures, backgrounds, personalities, and age groups can be tricky, especially in a voluntary service. Keeping everyone working as one team and focused on the common purpose we are serving, and not personal agendas is an art.”
A proud history
Station 15 has been going for 51 years, with a major highlight being the culmination of the Mossel Bay Golden Jubilee Book during the 50th-anniversary celebrations in March 2021. The brainchild of former station commander Andre Fraser, the plan was put into motion years before the jubilee, which proved to be a mammoth task requiring hard work and late nights. “But thanks to the editorial team we reached our goal, a dream come true,” says Andre.
The station itself is named the Ian Hamilton Boathouse, a symbol of pride for every member. “We are blessed to still have ‘Uncle’ Ian Hamilton on the station, a founding member and one of the longest serving members in the NSRI,” says JC. “Ian served in a multitude of roles including Statcom, Regional Director, and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors.”
No station is without room for improvement. “It might be training, maintenance or just updating a procedure,” says JC. “Improvement is a continuous cycle, if we don’t review how we do things and how we can do better, then we stagnate and eventually deteriorate.”
That said, he is proud of their rescue record, and the fact that Station 15 has received several Station Excellence awards in recent years – which indicates the level of dedication, he says.
Deputy station commander and Class 3 Coxswain Danie Verwey joined the NSRI at the age of 16. “We have quite a big responsibility on our shoulders as we are the only Class 1 station between Hermanus and Port Elizabeth. Even though the amount of calls we get varies every year, we are generally quite a busy station and there is always something happening at the base, whether it's a clean-up day, training or a real call.”
Danie and co-deputy Conrad Potgieter are responsible for the smooth running of the station in the absence of JC, and both clearly possess the dedication and leadership that characterises this base: “Even though we’re all trained to the same standard, every individual has his or her unique skill set, which is of enormous value to the station. These skill sets combined, are how we form our chain and achieve our goal of ‘Saving Lives on South African Waters’.”
Indeed, JC describes it as “perhaps one of the most rewarding things any one person can do. If you have not been in a position to give your everything without expecting anything in return but the thrill of saving a life, you are missing out on living life.”
To order a copy of the NSRI Mossel Bay Golden Jubilee Book, contact:
NSRI Station 15: 082 990 5954
Andre Fraser: 082 990 5472
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