A Somerset West resident recalls being overwhelmed by mixed feelings about whether God would keep him and companions safe and reunite them with their families when they found themselves in grave danger.
Timothy Crossley, his friend Stiaan Lodewycks and the latter’s 11-year-old son had got into difficulties when fishing in Strand waters on Saturday (1 February). They were snatched from the swells by the “Angels of the Ocean”.
The day started very well for the three, who were feverishly excited about fishing by boat. The experienced and licenced fishermen, with the boy in tow, set out from Gordon’s Bay Old Harbour at 16:35, but when they were returning, around 19:40, huge ocean swells and strong winds overtook the little crew and their vessel, leaving them at the mercy of mother nature.
According to Alan Meiklejohn, National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Gordon’s Bay Station 9 commander, duty crews were activated at 22:04, following reports of red distress flares sighted off Harbour Island as well as a mayday distress call received at the time.
He said the sea rescue craft, Spirit of Surfski, was launched. Rescue swimmers found two men and a child on board a waterlogged catamaran with a failed motor.
“The child was transferred onto the sea rescue craft and attempts to tow the vessel to the harbour failed for it capsized, and the two men were also taken on board the Spirit of Surfski. The sea rescue craft, Jack & Irene, was then launched, but in the rough sea conditions the casualty boat was abandoned. On Sunday, the NSRI launched the two sea rescue craft and located, righted and recovered the casualty boat.”
Crossley recalled being out on the water for about five-and-a-half hours and for the entire time remaining focused on his main concern, which was his and the others’ safety, all the while mulling over their fate: “Will we get back? Will the boat handle the conditions? Was the boat going to flip because of the huge swell and prevailing winds?
“It had already become pitch black out at sea and all that we could see were the lights in Strand and Gordon’s Bay.
“The incident was completely not predicted. It was as if a bad omen was cast on the ocean. I am very humbled by the incident; when you are at the mercy of mother nature you feel very insignificant, exposed and vulnerable.”
Asked how he feels about the rescue efforts, he said: “Ah man! What a question. To them we owe a massive debt. But to what extent can one ascribe preserving one life, let alone that of two others, to them? The rescue was timely, swift and angelic all at the same time. It was heaven-sent, and one just relinquishes all control to them. I will forever remember them, will never forget them.”
Crossley said the experience has taught him always treat each person with love and respect; they may be the one saving your life when you least expect it. A promise he once made to his family is one he will now most certainly keep. The experience has also brought him closer to his work colleague and friend, and has encouraged him to listen to his gut.
“It is my intention to write to the NSRI. If I can share my, our experience with others, it can, it will save lives. The day’s conditions were not forecast, turning the way they did, which induces us to be more prepared and expect the unexpected.
“Life is truly beautiful when you can wake up the next day and are still part of an incredible life, despite all the daily challenges. So God and family are on top of the list. Listen to your wife, men.
“And lastly, I was a deckhand to my skipper. His name is Stiaan. He was very brave and showed so much patience. He remained focused and persisted to check on the young lad and me during the long ocean chaos and ordeal.
“Stiaan shot the flares out. He sent a distress call on the radio. I managed to call NSRI, who radioed Station 9 at Gordon’s Bay Harbour. Stiaan was and is a stand-up skipper for the right time and place giving us the instructions to put on our life jackets.
“Stiaan I have thanked, and I will always feel indebted to him. NSRI, the ‘Angels of the Ocean’, you will hear from me.”
“The sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski was launched, our sea rescue vehicle and GBMed security ambulance service responded to investigate, while the police were alerted. There was no sign of the man and the search consequently called off. No related missing person report has been received by police.”
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