On 3 November 2018, NSRI Kleinmond Station 42 was launched amidst great excitement. This was the culmination of a lengthy period of discussion between Hermanus Station 17 and a number of motivated enthusiasts in Kleinmond who felt that there was a need for an additional station along the Whale Coast. When it was decided to go ahead with the project, volunteers were recruited in the Kleinmond area and trained by the Hermanus station.
After less than a year of operation, the Kleinmond station was excited to be presented a fortnight ago with an NSRI Station Excellence Award: ‘In honour of outstanding stewardship of the Rescue Base, displaying excellence, pride, good governance and upholding the brand image of the National Sea Rescue Institute.’ This was made sweeter by the fact that ‘Big Brother’ Hermanus was awarded a similar certificate at the same time. “We definitely couldn’t have achieved what we have in such a short period of time without their support,” emphasises Station Commander Schalk Boonzaaier.
“The audit Head Office carries out on the station beforehand is very thorough, all-encompassing and stringent, so it really is a credible assessment of our ability.” The station has now grown to 12 fully-trained members and nine in training. The course takes a full year to complete, and consists of a series of online modules covering various aspects of theoretical knowledge, with exams at the end of each component, together with practical training at the local station, as well as at Head Office in Cape Town.
The Kleinmond and Hermanus stations maintain a very close relationship and often work together on missions. Recently, when the Hermanus base acquired a new state-of-the art boat, their previous vessel was donated to Kleinmond. Although it may not be the most up-to-date model, according to Schalk it is in perfect condition and precisely what they needed.
In the seven months they have been operational, the enthusiastic crew has been involved in more than 40 rescue missions. While it was certainly not the most dangerous or spectacular rescue, Schalk describes the one that had the greatest emotional impact on him: “We were called out one day during the summer holidays to the Palmiet River just outside of Kleinmond. A young chef from Australia, his fiancée, to whom he had got engaged the day before, and his father, were driving through to visit a family member in Betty’s Bay. On the way, they decided to stop at the Palmiet River to have a swim and this is when disaster struck.
“The young guy dived off a rock into the river and broke his neck. When we arrived on the scene, the father had managed to drag him out of the river and was holding him in his arms. He had lost another son only four months earlier and was completely shattered. We were able to stabilise the young man and get him to hospital immediately. Apparently he had broken vertebrae C6 and C7 and was paralysed from the waist down, but the doctors told us that had it not been for our timely and effective on-site treatment of the patient, he would have been immobilised from the neck down. The family has kept in touch with us and we were very excited to hear recently that after continuous therapy, there now appear to be signs of movement in his feet.
“I can’t tell you what an effect that incident had on me and the rest of the crew. It really highlighted the fact that we can make a difference not only to the life of the person directly involved, but also to the whole family.”
Kleinmond NSRI Station 42 can be contacted on 063 6992765. NSRI is a non-profit, voluntary association with high overheads and values any assistance members of the public can give it.