When there’s an emergency that requires the services of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), 67-year-old volunteer Bruce Morgan is usually the first to respond to the call.
Mr Morgan has spent the past 15 years at NSRI Station 8 in Hout Bay as the duty crew’s shore-based controller, with responsibilities including launch and recovery of their sea rescue craft and operating the radios in the control room.
He is also responsible for keeping an accurate log of events on the water for the duration of the exercise or operational call-out, as well as maintaining regular radio contact with the rescue craft while at sea.
“I also have the important responsibility of (being) safety officer for our duty crew, with specific regard to Covid-19 safety protocols at the base that have been put in place, and which are to be maintained at all times,” Mr Morgan said.
He told Sentinel News he has always lived at the sea and worked in the shipping industry for nearly 42 years. He was introduced to the NSRI through a close friend and in 1991, he was given the opportunity to join Station 8 in Hout Bay.
“The NSRI gives you the opportunity to obtain high quality training in different disciplines of rescue work, and gives you a great sense of pride to watch the younger members becoming qualified in boat work, medical expertise and leadership, which is the future of the station,” he said.
Mr Morgan was born and raised in Green Point and attended the then Sea Point Boys’ High which joined with Ellerslie Girls’ High School in 1989 to become Sea Point High School.
In 1974 he finished the compulsory military service in the navy.
In 1981, he tied the knot and three years later, moved to Hout Bay.
Since retiring from the shipping industry at the end of 2018, Mr Morgan qualified as a regional tour guide with the Department of Tourism and also recently qualified through the international TEFL Academy to teach English to foreign-language students, either on-line or in the classroom.
Mr Morgan is also an active member of the Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch, and does regular night-time patrols during the week.
When he is not attending to the well-being of others, he plays the bass guitar at church, having honed his skills playing in different bands over the past 48 years.
Apart from that, he said: “I also enjoy being a grandfather to my three granddaughters.”
For Mr Morgan, his work with the NSRI has become an important part of his life.
“During those moments when you are launching on an urgent call-out, you remember your training, and most importantly the crew trusts each other implicitly to perform their duties.
“You have confidence in your ability, and in the person next to you,” he said.
The job comes with a few risks, something Mr Morgan is all too familiar with as he explained that visibility at night, blowing gale-force winds and making sure everybody is on board all the time.
“You are looking after your crew mate next to you. Mostly night-times I would say, when you can’t see the big waves coming,” Mr Morgan.
And these scary images of him at sea were things Mr Morgan’s family had to become accustomed to when he was still actively involved in sea rescues.
“My wife and children have been very supportive since the first day, although I think they are happier now that I’m no longer sea-going due to my old-age and damaged knee, and that I stay behind in the station operating the radios and doing admin,” he said.
When asked when he planned to throw in the towel, he added: “Not any time soon; so long as I can climb the stairs at the base and can be of service to the station commander, my captain and the crew I will continue for some years to come.”