Arniston fishermen destitute after selfless sea rescue

2015-10-28 09:12
(File photo, iStock)

(File photo, iStock)

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Durban - They have no boat and no income after a rescue mission went awry, but they will always have hope.

And this hope is the thing that will carry them through, even though their fishing boat Mrs H is now at the bottom of the ocean, owner Gerald Swart, 59, from Arniston, said on Tuesday.

The sinking of the fishing boat, which was claimed by the ocean when it tried to rescue another stricken craft, has robbed a group of Southern Cape fishermen - breadwinners in their homes - of their livelihood.

Mrs H sank after towing another fishing vessel, the Agulhas, between Struisbaai and Witsand, the National Sea Rescue Institute said on Tuesday.

With a heavy heart, Swart said though he and ten crew members lost their only source of income, any fisherman in the area would help without hesitation if there was a distress call.

Feeding 11 families

And it was this call for help that prompted Swart to assemble a different crew to take Mrs H back to water on a rescue mission, after the usual crew had already left for their respective homes.

"It appeared the Agulhas may have been caught in a channel after its motor failed, and the sister boat, Mrs H, took in water while trying to tow the Agulhas to safety," the NSRI said in a statement.

But the statement belied the drama of the final moments of Mrs H, after a two-metre-high swell broke over the boat.

Swart told News24 that the boat, with its 500kg haul per day, put food on the tables of 11 Arniston families.

"That boat was everything to us…now it is in pieces," he said.

He said he received a distress call from the owner of the Agulhas, who desperately asked for his help.

His boat and crew had just returned to harbour, and Swart asked a group of fishermen to use his boat to rescue the Agulhas.

He said when they reached the craft the seas were relatively calm, but conditions took a turn for the worse when they began towing the other boat back to the harbour.

"The sea is normally very good to us, but Monday was a different kind of day," Swart said.

‘It is like a miracle’

The fishermen from both craft were eventually rescued by a third boat, which had rushed to their aid.

Swart said he had been badly shaken by what had happened. "When I heard the boat was sinking, all I could do was to lie down a bit. One is completely powerless. But then I thought all the crew members are safe, and my heart was not so sore anymore.

"It is like a miracle, ne? Not one person had to even go to hospital."

He had praise for the three other boats who also arrived to offer help - Ou Grote, the Miamie and the Timothy. "We all know each other. If one is in trouble, we all go to help. We will always need each other," he said.

And although admitting his boat is probably beyond salvaging, his hope shone through.

"Maybe the hull is still whole, then we can start building it again. We have no money, nothing, but we have hope.

"We can now only ask for God's help."

Read more on:    cape town  |  search and rescue

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