Donate Shop Call for Help Now Find a Base

NSRI EMERGENCY
OPERATION CENTRE (EOC)

087 094 9774

For almost 20 years, this station has dedicated itself to ensuring swift and professional rescue services to its growing seaside community.

Much like the origins of the very first NSRI station, the establishment of Station 34 in Yzerfontein was sparked by tragedy.

In June 2003, commercial fishing vessel “Skati” capsized just outside the harbour in Die Poort, between the harbour wall and Meeurots. Sadly, three lives were lost on that day, and the commercial as well as leisure craft owners decided that the time had come to organise a rescue service. For a few years, they operated on their own; it was only in July 2006 that three of the members met with Rhine Barnes, Station Commander of nearby Station 18 (Melkbosstrand) at the time, to discuss what was required to operate as an official NSRI station. In October 2006, the station was allocated the number 34.

At first, the station did not have an official NSRI rescue vessel, and the crew used private vessels to conduct rescues. “The first boat they used, ‘Magic Gal’, belonged to André Van Reenen, one of the founding members of Station 34,” says Yzerfontein’s current Station Commander Junré Marais. “To date, he still has Magic Gal!”

Junré volunteered to become Station Commander in April 2023, and today the crew of 20 operate out of their very own building, which was completed in 2015.

“As a boy growing up in this area, I used to see the people in their red wetsuits go out to sea, but I never knew what they did. As I got older, I started to investigate what the NSRI is and what they do. While at university, back in October 2015, Station 34 had an Open Day, and I signed-up immediately. Seeing that their vision is saving lives, changing lives and creating futures, I decided to see what I can do to help others. I've always had a passion to assist and help other people, and being part of this amazing organisation gives a person the opportunity to serve others by being there when they need help.”

Junré’s crew consists of ten sea-going crew, four shore controllers and six trainee crew. “Due to Yzerfontein being fairly isolated, residents travel out of town on a regular basis for a number of reasons, be it for work, getting to a shopping mall, medical services other than a GP, or getting a car serviced. As a result, all our crew are not always available, and we would like to expand our crew slightly. We would especially like to recruit more shore controllers.” Shore controllers are not part of the sea-going crew, yet perform an essential role in the functioning of the base by coordinating radio communications with crews in the water and on land during callouts, as well as assisting concerned family members waiting for news of their loved ones, activating resources like helicopter, ambulance, fire and rescue, and any other services required during an incident.

John Coleshill is currently one of Station 34’s valued shore controllers. “I've always sailed and enjoyed the water and felt it would be good to give something back,” he says. “Through joining as a volunteer I have learnt a lot and continue to do so. My only regret is being too old to join the sea-going crew, but being employed as a pilot meant I was away from home a lot. To me, if I help to save one life it has been worthwhile. At Station 34 we are definitely a family. We operate on a very democratic basis so we always know what is happening and we share in decision making, which is so nice. Shore and sea-going crew are all on equal footing.”

The crew train twice a month, and regularly combine training sessions with neighbouring stations in Melkbosstrand and Mykonos. Due to their limited number of crew, each crew member is on standby 24/7, all year long. “We do not have a second or third crew, like some of the bigger stations, where crew rotate or have a duty week once or twice a month.”

Rescues are unpredictable, adds Junré. “For the past couple of months, and even during December, we haven’t had many callouts, but within the last week we’ve attended to four. Traditionally, we are very busy with whale disentanglements during February, and it is not uncommon to receive three or four calls regarding entangled whales within a week.”

For the past couple of years, Station 34 has probably done the most whale disentanglements of any NSRI station, adds Junré. “Freeing a trapped whale, and being in such close proximity to those massive mammals, is always special.”

Up to a couple of years ago the average age of crew members was in the high fifties, but in the last couple of years, more people have started moving to Yzerfontein and working from home, says crew member and former training officer Coenraad van Staden, who is also part of the station’s management committee. “This has resulted in an influx of younger people, for which we are very grateful. We now have a range of ages from late twenties into the eighties. The morale at our station is good and I feel we are busy creating something worthwhile.”

Coenraad joined the NSRI in 2017, for similar reasons to Junré and John, and no doubt many of their fellow crew: to give back. “I just felt that living on the coast, it was my duty to contribute. At that time our station was very small, with only a couple of active crew members, and I felt that living in Yzerfontein and working flexible hours from home, I could be available for a call out on very short notice.

“I feel proud to be associated with the NSRI. In the time I have been involved, we have saved lives, assisted boats in distress and also rescued many whales from certain death. This is a very satisfying experience and makes me feel that I am a proud member of our community; that I am doing my part to keep the environment safe and enjoyable for the residents of Yzerfontein.”

Class II coxswain André Livingston-Louw, one of the Station’s longest-serving members, having joined in 2012, agrees with Coenraad that the current crew is something special: “We have the flipping nicest crew that we’ve ever had,” he says. “We’re all on the same page. We’re all here to serve. There is a sense of integrity. It’s just a great bunch of people. Our crew turnover has come right down.”

While Junré is pleased with his crew’s morale and performance, in order to reach his goal of “being able to respond to any call, at any time”, he is setting his sights on expansion: “We need more crew qualified as coxswains, as well as creating a space where we can expand our crew with people who are more permanently in town and available.”

The station is also in need of a JetRIB, says André.

“Volunteering for the NSRI has changed me in a number of ways, and also how I think about life and go about it,” says Junré. “I've grown tremendously as a person. It has taught me countless practical skills, life skills, and how to work with and understand people from different backgrounds, age groups, and so on. We are all unique individuals, and it is not like a work environment where most people have similar qualifications or interests. Volunteering [for the NSRI] is part of who I am now; it would be difficult to imagine a life without it.”

If you would like to apply to become a shore controller at Station 34, fill out the application form here.

If you would like to donate towards a JetRIB for Station 34, send an email to station34@searescue.org.za.

Next Article

WATCH: The NSRI's Survival Swimming Centre heads to Barcelona

Read More

You may also like

Stn 2 Bakoven
RESCUES  | Published: 14 June 2024

Two men sadly deceased, and one man survived a tragic boating accident.

At 14h04, Thursday, 13 June, NSRI Table Bay, NSRI Bakoven and the CoCT (City of Cape Town) water rescue network was activated following eyewitness reports of a boat capsized at the back breakers surf zone, between Saunders Rocks and Queens ...

Rocky Bay Station 39
RESCUES  | Published: 11 June 2024

A commercial fishing vessel, capsized at the backline surf zone at Umgababa Main Beach

At 08h16, Tuesday, 11 June, NSRI Rocky Bay, an NSRI lifeguard, an NSRI Durban crewman, the SA Police Services, Police Search and Rescue, Netcare 911 ambulance, eThekwini Fire and Rescue Services, KwaZulu EMRS (Emergency Medical and Rescue Services), Metro Search ...

Cape fur seal
ANIMAL RESCUE  | Published: 7 June 2024

Rabies outbreak: City of Cape Town urges public to stay away from seals

The City of Cape Town is advising the public to stay away from seals as far as possible, and with immediate effect. ...