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On a cold and stormy Saturday morning in August, the community of Oyster Bay gathered to celebrate the long-awaited opening of the new Station 36 base building.

The opening of a new base is always cause for celebration at Sea Rescue, as it is usually the culmination of months or years of fundraising, as well as a commitment to training and establishing a rescue crew in a particular area.

oyster bay

On 26 August, the community of Oyster Bay gathered to witness this highly-anticipated milestone for Station 36.

“It was a cold and stormy day, but the boathouse was warm inside from all the people who came from far and wide to celebrate with us,” says Station Commander Lodewyk van Rensburg.

Guests included donors and crew members from neighbouring stations, as well as key role players in local emergency services and the community.

From the NSRI’s Volunteer Support Centre, Executive Director of Drowning Prevention Dr Jill Fortuin, National Lifeguard Coordinator Rebecca Smith, Event and Project Coordinator Maritha Blaauw, Operations Manager Bruce Sandmann, Capital Projects Executive Director Mark Hughes and NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon attended.

Guests nibbled on a harvest table stacked with snacks while listening to local band The Black River Gypsies live, before Mark Hughes stood up to say a few words about the project. Mr Ian Gray, NSRI Eastern Cape Regional Representative, also congratulated the crew and did a reading of a poem one of the trainee crew wrote about the station. Pastor Renier Kleinsmith gave a heartfelt message and blessed the new base and its crew, and previous station commander Mark Mans, who could unfortunately not make it as he had other commitments, sent a heartfelt message to the crew that was played on the night.

By all accounts, it was a festive occasion and the celebration continued well into the evening.

oyster bay

Station 36 origins

Starting with only a handful of members and a lot of passion, Station 36 was established in 2010 by Mark Mans (Station commander from 2010 to 2018), initially operating as a satellite station for St Francis Bay (Station 21).

“Mark donated a jet ski and also provided a home for our station in a garage building next to one of his properties,” says Lodewyk’s wife, Melissa van Rensberg, who assists with admin and fundraising at the station. “It was the size of a double garage, providing a single garage space for the jet ski and equipment, a small office and training area. It had quick access to the beach, but no view of the beach or bay. It quickly became too small for training purposes and training evenings were held at crew members’ houses.”

In 2018, Lodewyk took over the reins as station commander, bringing renewed energy and a passion for saving lives. He had a vision for Oyster Bay Sea Rescue and was instrumental in establishing a base for the crew to operate from.

oyster bay

The new building

The new rescue base has a split level design. On the ground floor there is a medical room and a store room, as well as male and female changing rooms, leading out into the boat shed area. The boat shed houses their four rescue vessels and the rescue vehicle. On the upper ground floor is the control room, with a magnificent view of the bay.

On the lower ground floor is a kitchen, training area and braai – arguably the best view in town!

“The new base finally gives the crew a place to call home, a place to wash and store their equipment and boats,” says Melissa. “A place to train. A control room with the proper equipment to handle any emergency. A medical room where patients can be stabilised if necessary, while waiting for an ambulance.”

This is especially important, as ambulances have to drive 20km on poor quality gravel roads to reach Oyster Bay, so they take about an hour to reach the town.

“The new base also gives us ample storage space with quick access for wetsuits and essential gear; a place to take a hot shower after a rescue operation or training day; and a place to relax and connect for the crew and their families.”

It is hoped the new base will ignite a passion for Sea Rescue in the local community and cultivate a serving and volunteer mind-set – inspiring others to do good in their communities as well.

“We are a very family orientated station; our children grow up at the base, as part of the sea rescue family,” says Melissa. “It’s amazing to see the junior crew in action, progressing to trainee crew, then crew, then coxswains.”

The crew is excited to take occupancy of the new building, which has already conferred a sense of ownership and pride.

“We have worked very hard to get to this point and this is really a dream come true for the crew.”

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