Yesterday morning, 8 June, NSRI St Francis Bay searched for the Buttcat fishing boat which was still at sea in rough conditions and not responding to communications.
The Buttcat had been taking part in the local Tuna Classic fishing competition. It was overdue after the fishing competition had been called off owing to unfavourable seas.
Sarah Jane Smith, NSRI St Francis Bay station commander, said that as the fate of the outstanding boat with four crew members on board was unknown, NSRI St Francis Bay launched its sea rescue craft, Spirit of St Francis II, and NSRI Oyster Bay, NSRI Jeffreys Bay and NSRI Port Elizabeth were activated.
Two fishing trawlers, Rigel and Elke M, assisted in the search and a private aircraft at a local flying club was voluntary offered for use. Private donors in St Francis Bay volunteered funds to fuel the aircraft to join in the search. Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) Port Elizabeth co-ordinated the search operation in co-operation with NSRI St Francis Bay.
All indications were that the crew was still fishing unaware the competition had been called off. But later the wife of the missing boat’s skipper, phoned NSRI to relate her husband had reacted to whatsapp messages and the boat was returning to St Francis Bay’s private port.
The aircraft, not yet airborne, was cancelled and the search was cancelled. NSRI commended the two fishing trawlers, Telkom Maritime Radio Services, the Tuna Classic organisers, the private aircraft owner and all others who assisted.