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05 December 2011

TSITSIKAMMA SATURDAY 03 DECEMBER 2011. NSRI IN MARATHON YACHT TOW


At 12h30 on Saturday 03 December NSRI St Francis Bay volunteer duty crew were called out following a request for assistance from the 40 foot mono hull yacht SONNE AZUL, from Holland, reporting loss of rudder steering and requiring assistance 20 nautical miles off Tsitsikamma. They were 25 nautical miles from our sea rescue base, with 2 Dutch Nationals onboard, skipper Onno Verver, and his female crew companion.

Our NSRI duty crew launched SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II and on arrival, in fair sea and weather conditions, we found the yacht drifting and unable to steer or maneuver her way out of her predicament. The yacht’s rudder had jammed in position and was unable to be moved, suggesting that the yacht may have collided with an object while underway.

A tow-line was rigged and the long tow back to St Francis Bay began while NSRI Port Elizabeth and NSRI Oyster Bay were placed on alert to assist if necessary.

The towing progress was particularly difficult because the position in which the casualty boats rudder had jammed caused the direction of the yacht to head in a different direction to what we were towing her.

The size of the yacht and the class of our sea rescue craft put the tow effort on the edge of our capabilities particularly because of the jammed rudder.

Making slow progress we determined that if the weather changed for the worse we may need help.
As a precautionary measure we, assisted by Maritime Radio Services, broadcast a request for all Chokka fishing boats, in the vicinity between us and our base, to assist us if necessary.

We admit it was quite a relief to see the many Chokka boats, on our way home, which came over to check on us and make sure that we were doing okay. Had we needed their help at any point the good relationship we share with the Chokka fishing community would have put us in their good hands.

After a 5 hour and 30 minutes tow we finally arrived at our sea rescue base and our smaller sea rescue craft EIKOS RESCUER I was launched to help corral the yacht safely to a berth in the harbour.

For the sea rescue volunteers the cost to family time was unusually high. One crewman missed his child’s birthday party during the call-out. He had hidden his child’s presents so his household had to wait for the rescue to be complete before the birthday party could commence. Another missed his anniversary dinner and a third missed a family reunion.

“ Its all in the line of duty,” said Station Commander Marc May.

- NSRI