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Welcome to the Spring 2017 VISAR Newsletter!

We've had a busy start to 2017 - the first four months of the year have seen a rescue boat launched 34 times in 17 weeks - an average of twice a week.

Calls of distress have included medical emergencies, boats adrift or run aground, boat & engine fires, missing kayakers, kite boarders, a surfer, a person adrift in a dinghy. We urge people to take care when having fun on the water, many incidents can be prevented and whilst we are always there 24 hours a day, it's much better to not need us!

We were delighted to welcome Mr Roger Harris and his family to the Tortola Base Station for the dedication ceremony to rename base in honour of his late wife. It was an amazing day to remember the memory of an amazing and much loved lady.

We have also started featuring some of the 'Faces of VISAR' - 2 of our crew are featured here but look out for more of the VISAR Facebook page where we give you an insight into some of our crew and VISAR family!



The Elisabeth Ann Harris Base Station Dedication

On Saturday the 18th February, our base in Tortola was renamed in memory of Elisabeth Ann Harris. It was a beautiful day to honour the support that the entire Harris family has given to VISAR and the BVI community over the years. Mr Roger Harris and his daughter Susan attended the event as well as VISAR's patron His Excellency Mr. John S. Duncan, OBE and The Premier of The British Virgin Islands, Dr the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, as well as VISAR Crew and Volunteers.

We would like to thank Mr Harris and his family for their continued support and dedication to VISAR over the years.


Faces of VISAR


Joining VISAR was almost inevitable for me. My boss, Barney Crook was one of the founder members, and Sam Welsh, a co-worker at TMM Yacht Charters happened to be one of the coordinators.
My first crew meeting was in late 1997, after returning from a near catastrophic yacht delivery back to Europe, when Hurricane Bill ‘nearly’ had other plans for me, in the July of that year. 
As soon as my basic training was over, I joined one of the 3 crews. The Rescue vessel at the time was a lovely little Halmatic Artic 22 with twin 85hp Yamahas. 20 years have passed, and I still enjoy driving that old Artic 22, as TMM purchased her when she was retired from active duty – new engines and inflatable collar, but still a great little boat! I also met my wife Helen at VISAR, and we now have 2 wonderful sons, William and Charlie, so I guess you could say, in our case, VISAR doesn’t only save lives, it has a hand in creating them too!

Mark Sanders, VISAR Helm and Board of Directors Member


In the early years of VISAR we were starting to see more medical shouts and our medical box seemed to grow and grow. Our first bit of “medicine” in the med kit was kindly donated by Dr Robin Tattersall in the form of Epi Pens. All crews were trained on this potential life saver that was to be used for a casualty suffering from anaphylactic shock.The first time it was used was during a call to a boat anchored in The Bight, Norman Island. The casualty was reported to be having difficulty breathing after being stung by a jelly fish. We were a crew of 3 that day and I took the lead as the medic. On arrival the casualty was in distress and disorientated but was conscious and sitting upright in the cockpit. The crew handed the oxygen kit over and I was just starting to administer oxygen to him when all of a sudden his eyes rolled back into his head and he became unresponsive. Knowing that it was a jelly fish sting I immediately asked the crew for the Epi Pen which seemed to sail through the air into my hands. Quickly placing the Epi Pen into the correct location, as we had been trained, I injected the medicine into him and waited the long 15 seconds before there was a gasp of air from him and his eyes opened.


VISAR has the equipment to save lives, it may not be used every time the boat is launched, but when it's needed it, as on this day, it resulted in a life saved!

It turned out it was this couples first day out on the charter boat and on their honeymoon, hopefully we were able to give them many more anniversaries!

Cris Ruffell-Smith, VISAR Helm and current Vice President


Hello and Bon -Voyage!

2017 has already welcomed 1 new crew member and sadly said farewell to another. Welcome Coree Fos!

Coree is a trained nurse from the Philippines.  She is currently working with NAGICO in their medical insurance department.


Pictured here Crew Member Elwin Lee attended his last VISAR Meeting, before moving on to start a new life in Hungary. Elwin is know to many as DJ Dolphin, due to him working at Dolphin Discovery and being a great late night DJ!

As well as crew, Elwin has strongly supported VISAR with his fundraising efforts, most notably by organising many darts tournaments in aid of VISAR. Good luck Elwin - we will miss you!


'Above & Beyond'

These were the words of Melissa Edwards, Senior Reporter with BVI Platinum, the online news service, when she took part in a training exercise in February:

'There are many professionals who are known for going above and beyond in the call of duty, but then there are the unsung volunteers who do it for free. One such group is the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR), a voluntary organization dedicated to saving lives at sea.

VISAR received over 80 calls in 2016. Saving lives is their motto and on Thursday, February 9 at 5:40 pm at its Road Town base, a five member crew suited up to head out to sea, responding to a distress involving a vessel with one person aboard.

This shout was a training exercise for potential members and this journalist was on board with the response team.

“We try to set up the alert system for people to get to us. We are volunteers, so we are not sitting at the end of a radio for people to call. Police and Fire know how to get in touch with us,” Phil stated.

Persons in distress can dial 767 (SOS) from any phone, including from a foreign number, and they will have direct contact with VISAR.'