The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Shelly Beach

Station 20, based at the Sonny Evans Small Craft Harbour at Shelly Beach, was started in 1985 by Stan Walters, Commodore of the ski-boat club at the time. He recognised the need and fulfilled it, becoming the first station commander.

The base has four rescue vessels – a 7.3m Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) Caltex Endeavour, a 5.5m RIB Caltex Challenger II, a 4.2m RIB Le Jen Mar and a Rescue Runner (a jetski adapted for rescue operations). The station has a tractor to launch and recover our NSRI vessels, but is also used to render assistance to other vessels using the harbour. The station also has a 4×4 rescue vehicle.

There is a fully equipped first aid room where casualties can be treated by medical personnel. All sea rescue volunteers are trained as level 3 first aiders, that is, advanced first responders.

There are 33 volunteers (eight of whom are women) currently serving on the station. These are divided into three teams with each team on standby for a week with mandatory attendance at the station on the Saturday and Sunday of that week. The longest serving member has been with the station for up to 17 years.

Training is an ongoing process and is done after hours in the evening and on weekends. It normally takes a minimum of six months before a trainee volunteer will be ready for a real-life rescue. Training includes first aid training to level 3, fire-fighting, radio procedures, navigation and GPS training. Training never stops because repetition builds confidence and therefore professionalism.

The Water Wise Academy is the educational arm of the NSRI aimed at proactively preventing drowning tragedies. The primary focus is on children between the ages of 9 and 14 from underprivileged communities as they are most at risk of drowning. The aim is make youngsters aware of the dangers around water; to give them hands-on practical experience of what to do in an emergency; who to call for help and what to do while they wait for help to arrive. This training also includes basic bystander first aid.

In the last financial year Station 20 assisted 81 persons – more people than any of the other 33 stations around the country. The station executed 31 operations logging up 53 sea and air hours.

The most harrowing recent rescues were:

Lost Diver

At 08h30 on Tuesday 26 February 2013 NSRI Shelly Beach volunteers were activated following reports that a scuba diver – a dive master – went missing while diving at Protea Banks off Shelly Beach. A full-scale search and rescue operation was immediately launched with a successful outcome after the diver was found exhausted, but alive some 7 hours later.  Station 20 was assisted by crafts launched out of the NSRI base at Port Edward, the Transnet National Ports Authority and private crafts.

Tow of Yacht Sweet Caroline

On 13 September 2011. Shelly Beach crewmen spent 15 hours at sea – five of them in the dark – towing a 41-foot motor yacht from off-shore of Port Edward to off-shore of Hibberdene.

The yacht, Sweet Caroline, underway from Cape Town to Durban with a crew of three aboard, snagged a fishing net off Protea Banks,

At 00h55 the station received the call. The duty crew launched two sea rescue craft, Caltex Endeavour and Caltex Challenger II.

Upon arrival on-scene rescue swimmers first tried free diving to cut the net from the propellers, but the currents proved to be too strong. Caltex Challenger II then returned to base to collect dive equipment and divers.

All attempts by divers to free the propellers also failed and Sweet Caroline was taken under tow. Eventually, at around 15h30, the Durban sea rescue boat Eikos Rescuer took over the tow of the casualty craft and the Shelly Beach crew were finally relieved from the operation after over 15 hours at sea.

The NSRI is funded solely by donations, sponsorships and bequests. The all volunteer crew saves the NSRI a salary bill in excess of R275 million a year.

NSRI has 60 000 regular donors who pledge R25 a month.  Donors are eligible to win cash prizes in monthly and an annual draw. To get involved send your contact details to [email protected] and be sure to indicate that your preference is for your contribution to be earmarked for Station 20 Shelly Beach.

(Any persons wishing to volunteer should contact NSRI on 082 990 5950)


Who to contact...

Tel: 082 990 5950


How to get there...

Address: Sonny Evans Small Craft Harbour at Shelly Beach

Charles Kohler

Author: Charles Kohler

Charles is a 'long standing local' who enjoys fishing off his jet-ski, Voodoo Lady. He is co-owner of Xclusive Media Group which publishes a local business directory twice a year.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. The Information was correct at the time of publication. We do ,however, encourage readers to contact service providers directly to confirm availability of any services, products or features mentioned.
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