The families of two Paternoster fisherman – aged 27 and 15 respectively – alerted the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) that they may be missing on Friday [June 5]. The reports came in at 3.27pm, as their families were concerned about their whereabouts.
“To our understanding from information gathered during investigations it appears that they had launched earlier in the day at Paternoster and may have become disorientated by the dense fog and although intending to fish in the vicinity of Seal Island they apparently missed the island and we now know that they had happened upon a group of Snoek fishing boats off-shore of North Blinder approximately 10 nautical miles North of Shelly Point only then realising that they had ventured further away from Paternoster than what was intended,” the NSRI said in a statement.
The two fishermen were reportedly in a small open fishing boat.
“Those Snoek fishermen had apparently pointed them in a direction back towards Seal Island but it seems that they had run out of fuel during the day and had started to row their boat but they remained disorientated by the dense fog,” the NSRI said. “It appears that in final cell phone communications with family during the afternoon they had said that they were rowing and thought that they may be in the vicinity of Seal Island but communications were lost and we believe that was from depleted cell phone battery power. When they failed to arrive home as intended family raised the alarm and we activated to search between Paternoster and St Helena Bay.”
Several sea craft was launched into foggy conditions to begin the search, with the NSRI liaising between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the families to keep them updated.
“NSRI continued searching until approximately midnight when our sea rescue craft were withdrawn from the search area to refuel and MRCC was requested to investigate airborne resources to be placed on alert to possibly join the search if dense fog lifted in the morning,” the organisation said. “Additional NSRI crew were arranged to take over at first light and NSRI crew from Cape Town were activated to respond to NSRI Mykonos to relieve some of the NSRI Mykonos crew in crew rotations. On Saturday morning our sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski 5 was launched and re-initiated a search Northwards from Paternoster in lifting fog conditions. Our sea rescue craft Spirit of Rotary East London was towed by our sea rescue vehicle and launched at Vluisterbaai and initiated a search in the lifting fog conditions.”
On Saturday morning, word was received that one of the families had heard from one of the fisherman saying they saw a tanker motor vessel in the water near them. This ship appeared to be in the vicinity of St Helena Bay.
“It appears that Snoek fishermen heading out to sea to fish had come across the casualty boat and had given them fuel and told them to use that fuel to head closer to a nearby motor vessel tanker and to wait there for NSRI and they used these Snoek fishermen’s cellphones to alert family to their position and intentions,” the NSRI said.
Bruce Sandmann, coxswain on the sea rescue craft Spirit of Rotary East London, told us that as they approached the casualty fishing boat the delight of the man and the teenager was obvious.
“When we reached them the two casualties were overcome by emotions and our NSRI volunteers emotions ran high,” said Sandman.
The Paternoster families and friends headed towards St Helena Bay as the news that NSRI were towing the craft towards the nearest harbour at St Helena Bay spread