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This April, a small but tenacious crew moved into their new base building, finally giving them a place to call home.

In mid-2018, a group of like-minded locals who were part of a specialised rescue unit in the area banded together to form a Sea Rescue station headed up by Quinten Power, who became the first station commander. There is a large boating community in the area and Ballito was ideally situated in respect to the nearest station in Durban. Back then, the station was based in a sectioned-off area under the access ramp to the parking at Tiffany's Superspar – it had no water and barely any lighting and was hence dubbed “The Batcave”.

“The NSRI provided us with a 5.5m RHIB, a Yamaha WaveRunner, and the required PPE [personal protective equipment],” says current station commander Mike Bishop. “In late 2021, we relocated to a small factory unit in an industrial area just outside Ballito, where we finally had lights and water!”

The station is now set for another upgrade, which will see the base moving to a more suburban setting. “I’m happy to say that we have just purchased a freestanding house which is ideally located close to a launch site, with amazing exposure for the NSRI brand. We hope to move in this month.”

Mike has been with the station since its inception and was voted in as Station Commander in May 2022, but his history with the NSRI started well before that.

“My journey with the NSRI began when I was about 17 years old. Myself and a friend capsized our Hobie Cat off Port Edward, and we were rescued by the NSRI crew from Shelley Beach (Station 20). This left a lasting impression. When Station 32 (Port Edward) opened in around 2004, I joined shortly after that as a trainee. We operated out of a tin shed behind the super tube! I qualified as a crew member and began training to become a Class 3 coxswain, however, during 2008 I relocated to Ballito with my family for work, and since there was no station there, my volunteer work came to an end. Of course, when Station 41 was established in 2018, I did a refresher and continued with my coxswain training, qualifying in November 2021.”

The base’s current crew is a lean and mean contingent of six volunteers, who train most Tuesdays (theory) and every second weekend (practical).

Mike says their biggest area for improvement is to grow the membership to a point where the crew can be split into two teams that can rotate shifts – as it is, all six crew are on call 24/7, 365.

Deputy station commander Reese Hendrikz, who has also been with the station since inception and stepped into the deputy role when Mike became station commander, hopes that the new station will attract more recruits: “It will have much more of a family feel to it. That’s what it should be. It’s a house, a home. Not surrounded by panel beaters and the like.”

For both Mike and Reese, the most memorable rescue work they have done to date happened during the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal in March 2022.

“Teams using jet skis, small RIBs and JetRIBs rescued dozens of casualties from flooded areas at great risk to themselves, navigating raging waters with tanker trailers floating around and water levels up to nine metres,” says Mike. “In one area, people who would have surely drowned were rescued through the roof of a building where the water had reached the roof trusses. In Umdloti, people were trapped in buildings by mudslides and had to be evacuated from the second storey by rescue personnel using high-angle equipment – one lady was almost 80 years old. NSRI crew went above and beyond the call of duty during these traumatic times, evacuating people, assisting with recoveries of the deceased and witnessing the aftermath and devastation left by the storms. I'm proud of how our crew handled that disaster. It's a privilege for me to work with a great group of people and to serve our community.”

He is also proud of Station 41’s rollout of Pink Rescue Buoys in the area: a total 56 buoys placed at strategic locations, with eight dedicated custodians to ensure that this public rescue equipment is maintained and available in the event of a bystander rescue attempt. “The custodians’ dedication has resulted in a significant decrease in missing buoys.”

Mike describes the role of station commander as simultaneously humbling and daunting – yet he is excited about the future: “Our current vision is to get into the new base, spruce it up and begin a recruitment drive so we can grow our members. We would also like to try to get local businesses as sponsors to team up with us and help fulfil the vision by donating and contributing to our budget.”

If you would like to make a donation towards Station 41, call 078 867 6025 or send an email to station41@searescue.org.za



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