Sea rescuer’s pas­sion for help­ing peo­ple

Manjimup-Bridgetown Times - - Front Page - Tari Jef­fers

We kind of keep an eye on the coast­line when we’re not at the head­quar­ters.

- Com­man­der Nigel Kelly

SERV­ING the com­mu­nity and be­ing near the wa­ter are big parts of Nigel Kelly’s life.

For 10 years, Nigel has served as com­man­der of Windy Har­bour Volunteer Marine Res­cue.

Nigel has been in­volved with marine res­cue for 30 years, which be­gan in Duns­bor­ough and has led him to Windy Har­bour.

Man­jimup born and bred, Nigel moved from the re­gion when he was 25 to start busi­nesses but life led him back to the re­gion where he has been liv­ing in Windy Har­bour now for the past 10 years.

“I’m a boater, through and through,” he said.

“I en­joy fish­ing and div­ing and it’s just an ex­ten­sion of that and help­ing the wider com­mu­nity and boat­ing public.

“You know, we all take and not enough of us give back and I had the time to give back to the com­mu­nity, so I de­cided I would.”

Nigel de­votes a lot of time to the res­cue group but said it was an en­joy­ment for him and to watch peo­ple come along and de­velop into com­pe­tent boat op­er­a­tors was great.

For him, be­ing in­volved with the res­cue group was not about hav­ing a job and he was lucky enough to be semi-re­tired so he could de­vote the time needed to the group.

Hav­ing been around boats for much of his life, Nigel said he pre­ferred a cat, which was a twin-hull ves­sel, that he owns and uses as part of his com­mer­cial fish­ing.

“The res­cue boat we have does go very well, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

As much as he is a sea-lover, Nigel does en­joy car­a­van­ning and does so ev­ery year, an en­deav­our which still in­volves a boat.

A me­chanic by trade, he also fixes boats for a liv­ing and has even helped friends find the right ves­sel for them.

“I’m drawn by the sea, I get too far in­land and I get a lit­tle bit twitchy,” he joked.

“I like to be about to see it and know it’s there, we’re lucky our house over­looks the ocean.”

Hav­ing a home that over­looks the wa­ter is also a ben­e­fit to the group, as Nigel and his wife mon­i­tor the group’s ra­dio 24 hours a day.

“We kind of keep an eye on the coast­line when we’re not at the head­quar­ters,” he said.

“We do res­cues and those are of course ben­e­fi­cial to the com­mu­nity.

“A lot of those you’re go­ing to res­cue, you may know.

“Hope­fully it’s never a worst-case sce­nario and while we have had some of those, they’re never en­joy­able and it does give fam­i­lies some clo­sure.”

The Windy Har­bour Volunteer Marine Res­cue is about 100 mem­bers strong, of which about 30 are ac­tive and of that group, about 12-15 are qual­i­fied to skip­per ves­sels.

In ad­di­tion to the group’s ded­i­ca­tion to the com­mu­nity and its ca­ma­raderie, its achieve­ments also in­clude the con­struc­tion of the group’s head­quar­ters.

The shed in­cludes the op­er­a­tions room from where it can run res­cues, a train­ing area, a kitchen and a shed for the bush­fire brigade’s truck.

“The whole build­ing is so­lar-pow­ered so it’s self-suf­fi­cient,” Nigel said.

“It proved to be in­valu­able to the wider com­mu­nity when it was used dur­ing the North­cliffe bush­fires as a head­quar­ters, as peo­ple could be evac­u­ated there and the area could be de­fended.

“It proved that what we had built was worth­while to the com­mu­nity as an as­set and, even though there had been some knock­ers when we built it, they were happy we were there.”

One of Nigel’s most re­cent achieve­ments was to be named as a fi­nal­ist in this year’s De­part­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices awards in the Out­stand­ing In­di­vid­ual Con­tri­bu­tion cat­e­gory.

While he did not win, Nigel said it was an hon­our to be named among two other highly-ded­i­cated vol­un­teers.

And for all his trav­els around the world to dif­fer­ent coasts and wa­ters, Windy Har­bour is still his favourite.

Pic­ture: Tari Jef­fers

A fi­nal­ist in the De­part­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices awards in the Out­stand­ing In­di­vid­ual Con­tri­bu­tion cat­e­gory, Windy Har­bour Volunteer Marine Res­cue com­man­der Nigel Kelly starts to miss the sea if he is away from the wa­ter for too long.

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