History of the South African Maritime Mobile Net.
01 September 2009 | Umzumbe, Natal.
The Net started on 26 October, 1979, when Alistair made contact with two yachts coming from Mauritius. The next day another two joined in and a sked was arranged for 06h30 the following morning when more yachts came on frequency and following a request for weather information a twice daily Net was set up at 06h30 and 11h30
In the beginning weather information was obtained from TV and the SABC Alistair then contacted Durban Radio and we used to copy their daily weather broadcasts Gradually our equipment became more sophisticated and today the internet enables us to get good, up to date information.
Over the years we have had assistance from many other Hams without whom it would have been extremely difficult, and at times impossible, to run an efficient maritime net. We have also liaised with other Nets particularly the Travellers Net in Australia, VK6ART, Art, and VK6BO, Roy, and the Net run by FZ4FZ, Tony, from Kilifi in Kenya.
When Alistair suffered a heart-attack in 1995 and a stroke in 2005 the Net continued due to the unfailing support of our fellow Net members, particularly Graham, ZS2ABK, who took charge for months until Alistair was well enough to take over again.
We have experienced tragedy, comedy, romance. We have shared in the excitement of new babies, weddings, birthday celebrations and new yacht launches, have grieved over the loss of Net members and with our yachties over the loss of dear ones, despaired when nothing could be done to save a yacht or a "man overboard" and rejoiced at successful rescues.
Friendships made over the years with yachties and fellow Hams who have been part of our Net have brought so much pleasure and added an invaluable dimension to Ham radio as a hobby.
Being hosted by the BOC, through their South African subsidiary Afrox, during two BOC Races was greatly appreciated and enjoyed.
A special trip to the Cape was organised by our Net members who hosted us all along the coast, giving us such a heart-warming welcome and showing us the local sites and scenes. It was a wonderful and never to be forgotten holiday. We remember the lovely walks with ZS2OM, Andy, who was blind, with whom we shared a love of nature and interest in birds; Jan and Susan who had us to stay in their lovely home near the beach and took us to the Cape Aghulas light house; Fanie and Antoinette at Stilbaai where we swam in a deep beach pool, enjoyed their beautiful home and private nature reserve, beautifully made items of wood, and learnt to play boules! in company with Greet and Henk who were also staying there; Graham and Barrie - laughter, good conversation, walks, real fun and friendship; A delicious tea at Jack's (ZS1AEG) home and a walk along Kommetjie beach; the warm welcome from Johan (ZS1WC) and the pride with which he showed us around Gansbaai; spending time with Kobus and Ansie and the wonderful sea food and bread which they cooked for us; lunch with Rien and Leilani at Noordhoek and seeing their new yacht under construction in the garden; meeting yachties and friends in Cape Town; visiting Costa and his welcoming family on their yacht at Saldhana - even if language was a bit of a problem! The surprise of finding a restaurant in Saldhana which was run the Schuitemakers, people we had once talked to while they were circumnavigating Africa and who had visited us at home; sleeping aboard "Silver Cloud" with Don and Mimi in Knysna and going drinking at Mitchell's Brewery with Paul and Gwen off "Upyrs".
We have had the great joy of entertaining so many delightful and interesting people from all around the World which has greatly enriched our lives.
In recording the following incidents I have been very factual because it is really hard to express the tension and emotions which we go through when we are involved in helping yachties in distress.
Dr. John and Jean Matthews
In December 1979 we experienced our first maritime tragedy when the 34 ft. sloop, Drambuie, was caught in Cyclone Claudette about 400 nautical miles south of Madagascar. The skipper and his wife, Dr. Jon and Jean Matthews, were from America where he was a Professor at Caltech doing research in nuclear physics and electromagnetic energy. Hams in Johannesburg, Australia and America all tried to keep contact with them and in their last report, on Christmas Eve, they said they were in the eye of the cyclone and were battened down and hoping to be able to ride it out. Someone claimed that he had spoken to them on 4 January but this proved to be incorrect, and despite air searches and requests to shipping to watch out for them they were never found. Great friends of theirs later came to South Africa and visited us.
The Net received a call from Cele, KA6JKA, to say that her skipper, Mike Kuich, appeared to be suffering from a heart attack. Alistair contacted a doctor in Durban, Andrew Love (ZS5LV), who was able to give them medical advice until the passenger liner, World Renaissance, found them in the early hours of 26 December. Mike was taken off the yacht and treated by the ships doctor. After arrival in Durban he was taken to hospital where it was found that he did not have a heart problem but was suffering acute pain from a hiatus hernia. He later said: "........I didn't really believe in the usefulness of ham radios, but after this experience I'm a convert. In future I will regard a radio as my most valuable piece of equipment."
S/Y "FAIAL TWO"
Charles and Edi
Charles Livingstone and Edi Penaforte left Spain en route for Indonesia in their steel yacht, "Faial Two". When they were about two weeks out from Gough Island the fuel pump broke and the engine stopped. They headed for Cape Town and when they were about 160 nm. away a strong south easterly blew them to about 220 nm. away so they called in on the MM Net to ask for assistance in the form of a tow. Alistair reported their problem and once they reached about 40 nm from Hout Bay the NSRI went out to tow them in. They said afterwards "Alistair, Davina and the NSRI were magic. They saved us from disaster."
Axel, EL2AP, a German single-hander, was on his way to Cape Town when he went to sleep in a south-westerly. About 5 miles north of East London he went aground but despite waves breaking over his boat he managed to get her off with very little damage - HE WAS LUCKY!
Don & Muriel
Mike du Toit (ZS1WX), who used to be a regular station on the MM Net, picked up a distress call from Muriel Border (ZS5ABX) saying that her husband, Don, was lost overboard and the yacht was drifting in a 60 kt. Gale. He immediately informed Alistair giving him the yacht's position. The rescue services were informed and a Dakota was sent out to find the stricken yacht. Mike kept contact with Muriel until the plane was in direct communication with her and arrangements had been made for the naval vessel, Oswald Pirow, to go to her assistance. They towed "Mabili" to Richards Bay. Don had been washed overboard when the yacht was knocked down while they were trying to fix the headsail furling gear. He was hanging over the side in his safety harness and Muriel tried to pull him back on board using a spare halyard. He told her he just hadn't any strength left and as he went weak he slipped out of his harness and was washed away.
S/Y "ALTECH VOORTREKKER"
On the Second Leg of the BOC Challenge developed a badly infected right wrist, poisoned by diesel absorbed into the cuff of his polar wear while he had been cleaning out the bilge a week before. He could not find his antibiotics and the infection spread up his arm and he was in a lot of pain. He asked Alistair what he could do about it. Alistair remembered "the sugar cure" but first checked with Dr. Andrew Love, a fellow ham in Durban, who confirmed that this would work. Andrew spoke to Bertie telling him to put sugar on the wound and bandage it. The cure worked, drawing out the poison "It was hard, just like soggy macaroni, and once the last bit came out, the hole in my arm looked like the butt end of a cigarette ........" said Bertie. For several days he could only use one arm which made sail changing very difficult but he recovered completely.
Inga & Orca D68AO (ZB2TZ)
While moored in Richards Bay they were woken one night by their dog, Lotta, barking. The fuel inlet exhaust pipe had been left standing loosely in its fittings and fell over resulting in water pouring into the yacht. They grabbed a few precious belongings and the dog and climbed ashore. Two cranes later lifted the sunken yacht and the water was pumped out.
S/Y "KIM CHOW"
Glen was attempting to be the first Canadian to circumnavigate, single-handed and non-stop, from east to West. We had been in contact with him as he sailed across the Indian Ocean into the Atlantic and on 23 March, 2008, he sent us an email: I knew one day we would lose contact but I could not prepare myself for the over whelming feelings I felt to know I would not have the same contact with you again. You have been a welcome guest on board KimChow since the beginning of January all the way across the Indian Ocean and half way across the Atlantic, giving me positive support as well as the ever important weather reports. You have shared my days when progress was in the minus numbers and when I turned your weather into 150 mile days, and everything in between. You have shared your personal lives with me and been an interested party in my voyage. Thank you for passing on my position to others as well. I bid you a heartfelt 73 and will never forget your kindness and help. Cheers from Glen VA7MLW".
On 24 April, 2008, he reported that the yacht had been rolled in a 50 kt sw gale with 6m. swells, losing a hatch and the life raft, giving a position of 48.10s 51.57 w. which was quite near the Falklands. He was concussed, cut his head and hurt his ribs.
The British Royal Navy in the Falklands were prepared to give him assistance but he decided, very regretfully, to abandon the yacht and was rescued by the Argentinians.
S/Y "KODEN OKERA"
Koden Okera was knocked down early in the Second Leg of the BOC Challenge. His sewing machine and saxophone landed on top of him causing a lot of bruising. He said he would cure himself using acupuncture! For the rest of the race he wore a crash helmet whenever he lay down!
S/Y "LADY PEPPERELL"
In December 1982, Tony Lush aboard Lady Peperell, was sailing the Second Leg, from Cape Town to Sydney, of the BOC Around Alone Race. "I was doing 4 - 6 knots under bare poles. It was dark and things were looking under control, I went below to take a nap. I was awake when the wave hit...........I think she was sailing down a wave on a very broad reach when the crest broke, throwing the boat into a sort of swan dive with a third twist, rolling her over 135 degrees." He was about 2000 nm from Cape Town. Initially he thought the yacht was undamaged but when day came he realized that the keel reinforcement inside the hull had broken away and the keel was moving from side to side "which was very disheartening to say the least" and he decided to edge north and try to head for Durban. Later he sent a PAN call but failed to get any response from Cape Town Radio. At our Net time he called Alistair and told him of his problem but said that if the keel went he would have time to get off. This was relayed to Rob Koziomkowski the Ham at Race Control in Newport. Alistair spoke to Francis Stokes, another competitor, who was about 50 nm. ahead of Tony. Weather conditions improved and so did propagation and when Tony turned on his radio the following morning he heard Alistair and Francis discussing him. He said he "butted in" and after discussion asked for an hour in which to decide what he should do. His decision was that as the boat was taking on water so fast he would have to abandon ship; Francis remained hove-to waiting for Tony to sail down to him and Alistair passed on the Argus fixes to them. Eight hours later, just before dusk, Francis saw Lady Pepperell about 3 miles off and shortly afterwards the made their rendezvous. As they came alongside each other two ropes were thrown across and Tony across sent some clothes, a sleeping bag and cameras, a well-protected bottle of Scotch and Joshua Slocum's book Sailing Alone around the World, and his antibiotics in case Bertie Reed's arm infection recurred and he needed help. Then he donned his life jacket and safety harness - he could not swim - and pulled himself hand over hand across the 150 ft. gap to "Moonshine". The boats were cut apart and Francis and Tony celebrated with a nip of Scotch!
Michel and Susan Debie
1 - 3 January, 1991
"We never thought we'd make it" commented Michel Debie when they disembarked from the rescue vessel, salvage tug John Ross and he congratulated the South African Airforce and the John Ross for the professional rescue. "The real heroes of the story, the ones who saved our lives, are Alistair Campbell and Ros Nelson" Susan Debie said. Had it not been for "a little thing the size of two packets of cigarettes we would not be alive" said Michel. He was, of course, referring to the EPIRB.
The Danish couple were en route to Melbourne when, about 300 nautical miles south east of Port Elizabeth at 38s 28e, their yacht was knocked down three times before being rolled in winds up to 65 kts., sustaining considerable damage which caused a severe leak. They tried, unsuccessfully, to raise Cape Town Radio so just before 2 pm. they called Alistair on the SA Maritime Net which they had listened to. They were not Hams but as this was an emergency the Net was able to assist. Conditions were poor but between them Alistair and Roz were able to find out what had happened and Alistair manned the radio listening for them until they called a Mayday about an hour later. They said that they were getting into their life raft and on being asked for their current position and what frequency the EPIRB was on Susan bravely went into the cabin to get the information.
Alistair reported the incident to the Durban Port Captain asking him to pass the information to the relevant authorities who, thereafter, kept contact with him. A Hercules C130 was sent out to look for them and picked up their signal. It had to return to base because fuel was low but passed on the EPIRB information to a second Hercules which found them and circled over them passing on the information to the John Ross which eventually picked them up and brought them to safety in Port Elizabeth.
This was a text book rescue in which everyone stayed calm, correct and accurate information was received and passed to the authorities, the life raft was properly equipped and everyone knew exactly what should be done and how and the authorities responded promptly. It was also a very emotional event as right up until the Debies got into their life raft we knew exactly how things were going aboard and lived through every moment with them. The relief when we heard that they had been picked up was tremendous.
MRCC, CAPE TOWN
Over the years we have got to know MRCC very well and have built up a trusting relationship with them which means that when we call for help they know that the information we pass to them is the latest and most accurate we can obtain and because of this good working relationship they often contact Alistair for information or to ask for help in tracing missing yachtie people and their yachts.