After 18 years of perseverance, working from garages and people’s back yards, the official opening of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Kommetjie Station 26, was a genuinely heartfelt celebration.
Station commander Ian Klopper was elated to formally launch the station’s own permanent base, and the delight of the NSRI crew members was palpable.
Amid those in attendance were some founder members of the Kommetjie NSRI, one of whom, Tony Jarvis, had travelled from Robertson for the event.
Mr Klopper used the analogy of the success of the station’s launch to a buck escaping from the claws of a cheetah. He said while the cheetah just missed out on lunch, the buck got away with its life, and to the buck, this was a momentous occasion.
“For us the opening of this permanent base, after 18 and a half years, is that momentous occasion,” he said. “I cannot believe what we have been through to get here, but here we are,” he said, to cheers from the crowd.
The new building cost R5.2 million to build, and included in this was the demolition and re-building of the adjacent new public toilets, which was a condition of the sale of the land.
The building took 18 years of negotiating – and eight months to build.
It is situated at 6 Van Imhoff Road and overlooks the Kommetjie coast. There is a 34-strong volunteer crew, two boats – 1 x 6.5m and 1 x 4.2m RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) – a quad bike, a Rescue Runner and a 4×4 sea rescue vehicle and a tractor.
With this equipment the crew is able to go up to 40 miles (more than 64 kilometres) off shore to rescue all manner of capsized boats, crew and fishermen in trouble. There is also a pump which can be used to put out land fires. Their work is not just rescuing people; the crew have also cut free whales caught in commercial nets.
The annual budget for the Kommetjie Station is just over R1 million to run Station 26, maintain their assets and replace equipment.
The NSRI crew members have been an integral part of the Kommetjie community since their inception, and have been stationed at various points throughout the area for all the years they have been in operation.
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Mr Kloppers said local grandmothers have stored their boats in unused garages, other years the crafts have been stored at crew members’ homes or the Shell garage on the corner.
The community knew the crew members were there for their safety, and for the safety of their family and friends, so the buy-in to keep the crew invested and the crafts safe was massive. And, Mr Klopper says, dearly appreciated.
Looking ahead, there is a massive drive which has just been launched for a junior academy, in the hopes that giving the community’s children the chance to learn crucial lifesaving skills, will not only ensure their safety and that of their friends and family, but also hopefully the next generation crew for the NSRI.
Now, the Kommetjie crew have their own space, and it’s permanent, with thanks to the Rolph-Stephan Nussbaum Foundation and the Rotary Club of Claremont – among many other generous donors.
Paul de Groot of the Rotary Club of Claremont said Rotary was honoured to be there, that the station was beautiful and that the people who ran it were tremendous. He said Rotary has been delighted to help because the NSRI put into action Rotary’s motto of service above self.
Ben Whitely of the Rolph-Stephan Nussbaum Foundation said that he was particularly pleased to see this grant paid out to NSRI because it was actually approved on March 26, 2007. “It has been a long process and the NSRI have worked their socks off to get through all the red tape and processes, and they have conquered it, so congratulations to them for sticking with the process so we can celebrate this beautiful site today.” He congratulated the crew for their sterling work and professionalism in dealing not just with the difficulties of rescues, but also with great tragedies and the aftermath of these. “I think it is amazing that the crew so willingly gives up so much of their time, goes out there to rescue people in trouble, and saves lives, and I want to thank them for that.”
The NSRI faces a number of challenges. These include increasing costs of fuel equipment and costs escalating due to the Rand/Dollar exchange. Also, the organisation views crew time as more valuable than ever, because everyone has to work longer and harder, to survive.
Dr Cleeve Robertson, CEO of NSRI, brought a great laugh when he said he has any times felt like that cheetah chasing the buck. “Perseverance and persistence are hard lessons learned in leadership I am very glad that Ian has shown both,” he said. Mr Robertson said his personal association with the Kommetjie crew began in 1986 when a yacht named Gulliver went aground in the area, and the event imprinted in his mind.
“Honestly having been out on the sea here and meeting people crawfishing in baths, in bakkies and tin canoes, brings home the dire need for a rescue base right here. This is also an area where boats regularly capsize,” he pointed out. He thanked the donors saying that charities like these result in tangible facilities and closed by thanking the crew members who risk their lives in all manner of awful conditions on the water, to save the lives of others. Lastly he thanked the families of the crew members, for sharing their loved ones with the community on such a significant scale.
Another founder member of the Kommetjie , Dave Jensen, described succinctly that what he has gleaned from his years of involvement as a member of the NSRI crew, is perpetual learning.
“I’ve been involved since the earliest formation of this crew and station, I cannot believe where we are standing today.. where we have come from, this is absolute luxury, and I am so happy for them,” Mr Jensen said.
“What I would use as a drawcard for others to join is the learning which never stops. I’m on a course right now.. we always are, whether it is medical or navigation or something else, joining the NSRI means you will never stop learning. And you can use that information to help others, your family and yourself,” he said. Both Mr Jensen and his wife Jaane are delighted at the youth programme, and laud the way of life and multi-disciplinary benefits of being on board with the NSRI. Both encourage the youth to embark on a lifelong journey of service and learning.
Emergency Number: 082 990 5979
Station Commander: Ian Klopper
Deputy Station Commander: Mark Knight