As I’m sure many boat owners now know, St Barth has an official French rescue-at-sea station (www.snsm-stbarth.com) and a handsome new rescue boat, the Capitaine Danet, which was put into service in November 2007. The boat is now parked near the main dock in Gustavia, where a slip was built for it during the recent renovations of the walkway destroyed in Hurricane Omar. The boat’s name reflects one of the old family names on the island—the Danet family—and in fact, the boat was named in memory of Louis Théodore Danet, a Saint Barth sailor from the charming village of Corossol. Another island native, also from Corossol, Ingénu Magras is president of the St Barth rescue station, the SNSM, which stands for the French National Society for Rescue at Sea (if you are wondering where the M comes from, sea = mer in French, and the second S is for security).
For the SNSM, safety depends first and foremost on those who navigate at sea and Magras feels that it is more often negligence than anything else that causes problems out on the waves. His volunteer crew is ready 24/7 to head out to sea to help anyone in need, and can be reached via cell phone at 06 90 64 08 07.
They are not called out more than a few times a year (fortunately) but on February 24 they received an SOS at approximately 8:30pm from a mega-yacht in difficulty on the reef in Anse des Cayes, off the coast near the Manapany Hotel. The boat in question was the 86’ mega yacht by the name of “Front Row,” which flies a flag from the Cayman Islands. A blogger on a St Barth forum pointed out that he could see the excitement from his house and that the SNSM and a lot of other boats were trying to help.
We quickly drove over to see what was happening and indeed the yacht was marooned on the reef. Half a dozen other mega yachts, including “A”—the unusual looking vessel designed Philippe Starck, were on the scene. By 10:30pm the boat was off the reef and the boat was towed to Saint Martin the next day by the SNSM: Quite a bit of excitement for one evening, with a few people on the beach taking it all in and those living on the neighboring hills watching from afar.
Fortunately this was not a case of lives being in danger, but that is often the reality facing the SNSM, when boats take unnecessary risks, do foolish things, or the weather turns unexpectedly and folks are caught in sudden high waves or flash storms. Even local fishermen set out without their VHF, yet they might also find themselves in difficulty.
The local SNSM accepts donations for their cause (stop in at the Capitainerie for information) and let’s all keep our fingers crossed that the Capitaine Danet isn’t called out too often, and that all remains calm at sea!