National Sea Rescue Institute Media Release, 19th April 2021:
Simon’s Town abuzz with excitement as NSRI’s new Search and Rescue (SAR) Vessel – The Donna Nicholas – begins her maiden voyage home
The National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI) second Offshore Rescue Craft began its maiden voyage to its home station in Simon’s Town on Saturday, 17th April 2021.
The second vessel, which was imported as “hull, deck and bulkheads”, was completed by Two Oceans Marine in Cape Town earlier this month. The innovative French-designed Offshore Rescue Craft (ORC) will take the NSRI’s crew safety and marine rescue capability to a new level.
Named the Donna Nicholas, the R20 million vessel was destined for service at Station 10 in Simon’s Town.
“The station is very proud to be receiving this high-tech Search and Rescue (SAR) vessel and we look forward to being able to reach those in peril speedily and in all weather conditions. The vessel has been purposely designed in France by Pantocarene Naval Architects and built for the worst of the conditions the Cape has to offer”, said Station 10, Station Commander, Darren Zimmerman.
The new self-righting and purpose-built rescue vessel is designed for rescue operations in extreme conditions. At 14.8 m long and 4.8 m wide, it can be deployed on rescue missions as far as 50 nautical miles (over 92km) from land and has an expected lifespan of at least 40 years.
An excited Simons Town rescue crew will begin training and testing the new vessel before it is officially welcomed to the NSRI’s growing fleet later this year.
“Station 10 Simons Town is buzzing with activity as we make the final preparations for the arrival of our new Search and Rescue (SAR) vessel Donna Nicholas. With any new vessel comes planning and facility alteration in order to accommodate her. The rescue base has been rebuilt and the slipway and winch gear upgraded in order to house this magnificent vessel. The upgrades are now complete, and the crew is busy adding the final touches to make it home for Donna Nicholas and crew”, added Zimmerman.
“Our fleet replacement program will see the entire NSRI all-weather search and rescue fleet replaced with the new vessels over about 10 years, allowing for increased operational capability,” said NSRI CEO, Dr Cleeve Robertson.
The new world class search and rescue vessels will accommodate six volunteer rescuers on board, in shock mitigating seats to allow for high-speed operation in difficult sea conditions and has the ability to carry up to 23 survivors.
“Although most rescues are coastal and inshore, an increasing number of our operations require search and rescue vessels with extended range and advanced capability in safety and technology,” said Dr. Robertson. “As the only maritime rescue service operating in Southern African waters, we needed to make this investment to ensure all round safety for crew and those being rescued.”
“In addition to the building works is the need for crew training and upgrading of the coxswains and crew skills in order to man the new vessel. She is a huge step from what we are used to, and we have really had to adjust our culture in order to safely and effectively crew Donna Nicholas. Once she is on station, we will continue with the training program to ensure we are fully operational in as short time as possible to be ready to put to sea for any rescue operations. Station 10 is very appreciative of all the efforts that have gone into making the arrival of Donna Nicholas possible and we wish to thank everyone involved. We would like to especially thank Mark Hughes (NSRI Executive Director of Capital Projects) who has driven the project for the past 5 years” added Zimmerman.
With crew and casualty safety a top priority, the new rescue boats will have the latest electronic navigation and communication equipment. They are also self-righting, which provides increased safety for those on board.
“We see this investment in the new rescue craft as a concrete response to the need to modernise our fleet to execute search and rescue missions including deep sea operations, medical evacuations and mass rescue incidents along South Africa’s coastline.”
Robertson also cited the additional impact on South Africa’s maritime economy. “Our new vessels will be a safety net for a range of industries such as tourism, fishing and water-based recreational industries. Not only will they improve safety, but the fact that we are investing and assembling locally also presents an opportunity for the maritime boatbuilding industry.”
The NSRI is entirely funded by donations, receives limited government support and is the only national organization delivering coastal rescue services. “This is a huge investment for a non-profit organisation, but it had to be done. The investment into lessening the risk of lost lives, of our crews and those stranded at sea, is more than worth it. Our coastline is busy, and the people who make our blue economy thrive deserve to be protected.”
The NSRI is inviting all South Africans to assist in funding the new ORC’s.
Through the NSRI’s “Launch a Legacy” campaign, donors and supporters can celebrate or commemorate a loved one by making a donation of R2 000 and submitting a loved one’s name that will then appear in the lettering of the third Offshore Rescue Boat in the fleet.
“We are appealing for donations from as many people as possible – that way we will ensure that our rescue craft and services touch the lives of all South Africans” added Dr. Roberston. To donate to the ORC project, go to nsri.co.za.
More about Donna Nicholas
Donna the Brave: Donna Hayhurst Nicholas April, 11 1940 – April 15, 2014 – RYE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Donna Hayhurst Nicholas, an accomplished yet amazingly honest stockbroker and analyst, gifted property designer and friend-maker extraordinaire embraced life fully and joyfully. She took time to smell the roses and grasped every opportunity to travel the world, magnetically attracting so many people and etching her mark on those she touched. Far from demonstrative yet her incredible gift for remembering the smallest details of those she met left so many of us feeling we were immensely special to her. She had a huge heart and spent her life thinking of others and how she might help them in her quiet and unassuming way.
Donna was born in Toronto, Canada, the only daughter of the late Phoebe Hayhurst and the late Donald Lee. She was raised by her mother and the late George Hayhurst.
She graduated from the Branksome Hall school, Toronto. She spent one year at Neuchatel junior College, Neuchatel, Switzerland, attended the Ontario College of Art and then graduated in Liberal Arts at Katherine Gibbs School in New York City at the age of 19.
After studying security analysis at the New York Institute of Finance in the early 1960s she became a registered stockbroker and then President of the Women’s Stockbrokers’ Association of New York City in 1967. She spent 15 successful years on Wall Street, during which time she married and divorced Walter Untermeyer.
She later moved to Palm Beach to become Assistant Manager of Cowan & Co brokerage. In 1975 she met and married Dimitri Nicholas, a lawyer/industrialist and became stepmother to his two youngest children. Being so passionate about art she then enjoyed owning and running the Nicholas Art Gallery in Palm Beach, Florida. They moved to Savannah, Georgia in 1980 and she became a ship owner of vessels that were managed by Colonial Marine Industries. After joining the Board of Trustees in 1983 she became President of the Telfair Museum for 3 years.
The family then moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where the family remained whilst the children completed their high-school education. It was then on to Piqua, Ohio after which they travelled extensively through the years also setting up homes in Montreal, Canada; Nice, France; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Winchester, UK and then Cape Town, South Africa. Their main home remained Piqua, Ohio until Dimitri’s retirement when they retreated to Cape Town. After Dimitri’s death in 1999 Donna remained in Cape Town. She eventually rekindled her relationship with teenage sweetheart, Dr. Alan Perkin. They moved to Baltimore, then Annapolis and finally Rye in New Hampshire, travelling as much as possible.
She was Vice President of American Eagle Airlines (East Coast), Vice President of the Orr Felt Company, Piqua, Ohio (subsequently President and Chairman until 2003) and President of South African Felt Industries, Cape Town, South Africa. She and her late husband invested in a number of properties in Cape Town.
It was during one of her visits to Cape Town that she was introduced to the NSRI by Andrew Sutherland who invited Donna to one of the Rotary Wine Auctions in aid of the NSRI. She was an active bidder at these auctions over the years.
Donna really admired the work done by the NSRI and always said that she wanted to support it.
Donna included a bequest to the NSRI in her will which substantially funded the new Offshore Rescue Craft for Station 10 Simon’s Town and it gave us great pleasure to honour her by naming the vessel in her memory