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Lone fisherman drifting at sea rescued

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Extensive, lengthy search

A LONE fisherman drifting at sea off-shore of Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard after he ran out of fuel was rescued by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) after a lengthy and extensive search on Saturday afternoon.

NSRI Kommetjie were alerted at 1.09pm to a lone fisherman on a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) overdue at Hout Bay Harbour and missing, NSRI joint operations command coordinator Brad Geyser said on Sunday.

On investigation, it was determined that the fisherman was last known to be between three and five nautical miles off-shore in the approximate vicinity of Llandudno earlier in the day, which presented a number of possibilities because of a change in wind direction that had occurred during the morning, he said.

“It became evident very soon into our investigations that had the fisherman’s boat suffered engine failure or fuel starvation it would depend on a more accurate time to determine if he may have drifted towards Cape Point or if he may have drifted towards Table Bay or if he may have drifted further out to sea depending how far off-shore he had been.”

Observing Covid-19 regulations and protocols and maintaining reduced minimum crew requirements and social distancing, NSRI Kommetjie, NSRI Hout Bay, NSRI Bakoven, and NSRI Table Bay duty crews were activated. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) took steps to place the South African Air Force 22 Squadron, NSRI Airborne Sea Rescue, and the EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter on alert, Geyser said.

A joint operations command centre (JOCC) was established at NSRI Hout Bay sea rescue station and five sea rescue craft – NSRI Table Bay’s Spirit of Vodacom, NSRI Bakoven’s Rotarian Schipper, NSRI Hout Bay’s Nadine Gordimer and Spirit of Tintswalo, and NSRI Kommetjie’s Spirit of the Vines – were launched.

A coordinated search from Bantry Bay to Scarborough up to five nautical miles off-shore commenced, with shoreline crews searching along the coast, an NSRI Hout Bay sea rescue vehicle, an NSRI Table Bay sea rescue vehicle, and an NSRI Kommetjie sea rescue vehicle positioned along the Atlantic Seaboard to assist with observations and communications. The NSRI coastwatcher network was also activated to keep a sharp look-out.

NSRI Simonstown were placed on alert to be prepared to launch if the search area extended into Cape Point. Police and other Western Cape and City of Cape town law enforcement and health authorities were also alerted. Telkom Maritime Radio Services assisted with Marine VHF communications and posted an all ships alert to vessels and craft in the area to keep a look-out, Geyser said.

“With the JOCC using drift prediction software to plot most probable search areas, during the search the NSRI Table Bay crew on board Spirit of Vodacom investigated a sighting of a possible craft or vessel deep sea off-shore of Camps Bay. On closer inspection that was a vessel passing by that was too large to be the casualty RHIB that was being searched for.

“While returning to the search grid, the casualty RHIB was spotted five nautical miles off-shore of Camps Bay, in the predicted search area that had been plotted, and the NSRI Table Bay sea rescue craft rendezvoused with the fisherman, finding him to be dehydrated and cold but extremely relieved to see the rescue team.”

NSRI Hout Bay, NSRI Kommetjie, and NSRI Bakoven’s sea rescue craft rendezvoused with them and the RHIB, that had run out of fuel, was towed to Hout Bay by the NSRI Hout Bay sea rescue craft Nadine Gordimer, escorted by NSRI Kommetjie sea rescue craft Spirit of the Vines, without incident. Once safely ashore and reunited with his relieved family no further assistance was required, Geyser said.