Safety at sea is important!
Even more so in a location like ours where there is so much boat traffic. Not just for the operators who are on these waters every day, but also for the many tourist who come out here and spend their time on and in the water. Whether you are on a bareboat charter or just having a swim in the ocean, it is important to know how to maintain your safety at sea! When you have a marine emergency in the British Virgin Islands, there is only one thing to do and that is to call VISAR!
Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) is a non profit organization. It is thanks to their amazing volunteers, who are dedicated to saving life at sea, that we can rest assure when out on the water. They are available 24 hour, every day of the year. They work closely with the Royal British Virgin Islands police, fire and ambulance services to make sure you get the help you need.
VISAR has been in operation since 1988 when it was developed on request of the BVI governement. It was formed after the model of the RNLI in the UK, which is the world’s oldest lifeboat service. Their mission statement says it all; VISAR saves lives at sea. Since then they have done over 1300 missions.
VISAR would not be able to get out at sea, without their two rescue boats. They started as a 1 location and 1 boat operation, but quickly expanded. VISAR now have their main base on Tortola and a smaller base on Virgin Gorda. With these 2 bases and boats they cover the entire territory and surrounding waters which make up the British Virgin Islands.
The volunteers who make this possible are fully trained and very dedicated. Their job is not an easy one and they need to undergo regular training. The experienced crew meet with trainees once a week and it takes between 7 months to a year for a new member to become full crew member. Their training goes from boat handling skills, to medical training, from simulations and practice to shadowing one of the crew during a real emergency. To give you an idea of their dedication; in 2016 the crew spend over 2200 hours of their personal time to train, go to meetings and attend rescue missions.
Saving lives at sea is a big task for VISAR and they can’t do it on their own. That is why they have also started to focus on educating both visitors and residents. There are many preventative measures we can all take while we are enjoying the BVI. They have started the SAFETY AT SEA campaign in the hope this will encourage the discussion on what to do if there was an emergency and how to stay safe.
Knowing the answer to just a few of the following questions will enable you to stay safe and/or to give the correct and necessary information to VISAR when making a call to them.
- If something happened to your captain would you know how to call for help?
- Do you know your location?
- Have you checked to see how strong the current is before getting in the water?
- When’s the last time you had a glass of water?
VISAR is an amazing organisation and we would not know what to do without them. The dedication and efforts they put out is incredible. They can’t do it all by themselves though and if we want to keep on enjoying the security of having them we should help. You can help VISAR in many ways;
If you live in the area, why not volunteer. The more volunteers there are, the lighter the work load will be for everyone. You can go and join one of the weekly VISAR meetings to see if becoming a volunteer would be something for you.
If actively volunteering is not an option for you, then maybe have a look at their membership options. VISAR has an annual operating budget of around $250 000.
By giving them a donation you will enable them to purchase medical equipment, hire professionals to come and train their staff…
Or join in on their annual Swim and SUP the Sound event. Sunday 6 May will be this years date for the annual event. VISAR organises this event every year in order to raise awareness and money. The start of this years event will be on our dock at Sunchaser Scuba, thanks to the approval of Bitter End Yacht Club. Therefore we have donated our boat to be able to pick up the participants from Leverick Bay and transport them to our dock at Bitter End Yacht Club. The first 50 participant will receive an amazing BEYC water bottle with courtesy of BEYC of course. Particpants pay an entrance fee to the event and will either swim or stand up paddle board for a distance of 1 or 2 miles, back to Leverick Bay, the host of the event. That is not all of the fun though. There is a lunch buffet and games for all who are interested.
We would like to thank VISAR and its awesome team of volunteers for saving lives at sea and keeping us safe, every day of the year!