Giant leap for Kenton sea rescue project

LIFESAVERS: The president of Rotary Kenton on Sea Simon Matthews hands a cheque for R500 000 to NSRI Port Alfred Station 11 commander Juan Pretorius on the banks of Bushmans River on 18 December 2022, towards the estimated R1.2 million needed to set up an NSRI satellite station at Kenton on Sea. Picture: Sue Maclennan

“There’s no turning back now!”

Senior NSRI volunteer and former Port Alfred Station 11 base commander Juan Pretorius spoke to Talk of the Town after the “on-site” hand-over of a cheque for R500 000 by Rotary Club of Kenton-on-Sea President SImon Matthews. The amount represents close to half what is needed to establish a NSRI satellite base at the seaside town.

The first symbolic hand-over (of that same tranche) was done at the Port Alfred Station 11 base, which currently serves the entire Ndlambe coastline as well as inland dams and waterways. Last Sunday’s event was combined with a fun day out on the beach that included The Rotary Club of Kenton on Sea’s famous mini boat race.

Kenton has seen several emergency incidents in the past three years and the NSRI’s station 11 saw the need for an on-site service in the seaside town. The NSRI’s current response time from Port Alfred to Kenton on Sea is 55 minutes to launch a craft from Station 11 travelling by sea; 15 minutes travelling by road supported by local emergency services and 60 minutes travelling by road supported by local emergency services but towing a vessel.

Once again, the Rotary Club of Kenton on Sea has stepped up and on Sunday 18 December, they handed over a cheque for R500 000 to Pretorius.

The satellite station will service Kenton as well as neighbouring towns including Boknesstrand, Cannon Rocks, the Kariega River, Bushman’s River and Boknes lagoon, along with dams in the area.

“We firmly believe that a Satellite Station, situated within the precinct of Kenton on Sea, is of vital importance, not only to the safety of local residents, but also to the holiday community,” said Rotary Kenton on Sea president Simon Matthews, at the start of the project.

Rotary partner the Periwinkle Trust were the first to pledge a R100 000 donation towards the satellite project. The projects needs an estimated R1.2 million to get off the ground.

The satellite station will be set up in a repurposed shipping container at Kenton’s Middle beach. This structure will be fully equipped with a vessel, quad bike, rescue equipment and all the personal protective equipment required by the NSRI.

How soon?

“It depends on funding,” Pretorius said. “But our goal is to have the assets in place by Easter 2023.”

The NSRI will deploy some trained volunteers there, while running a volunteer drive in Kenton.

“We will train people – initially at our base in Port Alfred. When they’re ready, they will be assistants on call-out there,” Pretorius said.

“Then when we assess that they’ve been adequately trained and are self sufficient, the satellite station in Kenton will be run by local volunteers.”

The NSRI volunteers are community heroes: that’s certain. And it’s also quite a glamorous thing to do?

“No, definitely not,” says Pretorius. “It’s not glamorous at all and actually it’s pretty thankless. This work takes a special kind of person and it’s definitely not for everyone.

“You need to be properly dedicated. It takes a lot of your time – and that includes family time. It’s important to be aware of that.

“But organisations like Rotary make all the effort worthwhile.”

If you would like to donate to this life-saving project, please contact Mike Wilmot on 082-569-2136.