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NSRI St Francis Bay crew are looking forward to their new base and the arrival of their 10.6m cabin RIB.

While construction is underway, they wish to thank and acknowledge the builders on the project and the Chokka fishing community whose annual contribution to the base has been invaluable to their running costs and ability to render their life-saving service.

“Our base as we know it is the third one in St Francis and was commissioned in 1997 when the harbour was built,” NSRI St Francis station commander Sara Smith explains. “During 2016 and 2017 we discussed a replacement vessel and building upgrade, but realised that our existing base was just too small to accommodate a larger vessel; there would even have to be considerable renovations done to accommodate an 8.8m RIB, which is only 300mm bigger than our current vessel,” she adds. “So, the long process started with the Volunteer Support Centre on finding something that was appropriate for our base and for our crew – especially for the long term – in terms of vessel size and how we would accommodate it given the limited space we have allocated to us in the harbour.”

The St Francis Bay base is one of only two NSRI stations that houses its boat over the water, suspended in a cradle.

“Our old base had one dual shower and one loo – and our new base will have both female and male locker rooms, each outfitted with their own showers. A major bonus will be the addition of a medical room, more storage space and easier vessel access, for example for an ambulance. We’re also planning on using water responsibly by recycling rainwater.”

St Francis Bay new boat

But, what’s really cool, Sara adds, “is that Langkloof Bricks, the brick sponsor involved in the renovations now is the same one used back in 1997, and NKS, the guys who did the steel for us then, is doing the steel now. St Francis is the last private commercial harbour along the coast, so getting buy-in from all the locals and body corporates, fishing companies and private individuals has been a long process, but eventually we got there! Their support means a lot to us,” Sara says.

There is a large chokka fleet in St Francis, and roughly 80% of the station’s callouts are to the fleet. “They are incredibly supportive,” Sara says, “and each year donate funds to the station to ensure that we can continue to get the training and equipment we need to effectively service them.”

“This particular project – the base rebuild and the replacement of Spirit of St Francis II (currently 17 years old) – will ensure the longevity of the base and our rescue operations around St Francis. We service the community in the town, as do many small bases, and we have the most delightful crew that come from this community as a result. We will be able to continue this service for many years to come,” Sara concludes.

This “most delightful” crew is hoping to move into their new base in March 2023 and thanks everyone who has contributed to making it happen – from the brick and steel suppliers and St Francis Bay’s chokka fleet to the town’s community members and NSRI Volunteer Support Centre. It really does take a village ....

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