100908. Cape Town. The NSRI conducting a search for a missing body of Camps Bay beach. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has urged people living along the coast and those who use the sea to heed a Weather SA alert to take precautions in the face of gale-force winds and very rough seas at the weekend.

The affected area is along the West Coast, Western Cape and southern Cape, from Cape Columbine to Plettenberg Bay.

Weather SA has warned fishermen, boaters, paddlers, surfers, anglers, bathers and the public:

* Gale force W/NW winds (35kt or 65km/h) are expected south of Lambert’s Bay on Friday overnight into Saturday, reaching strong gale force of 40-50kt (75-85km/h) between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas, spreading to Plettenberg Bay on Saturday.

* Very rough seas, wave heights between four to six metres, are expected between Alexander Bay and Plettenberg Bay on Friday, overnight into Saturday, reaching high seas six to nine metres between Cape Columbine and Plettenberg Bay on Saturday into Sunday.

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said anyone launching any kind of craft on to water should let a responsible person know what time they were leaving, their exact route and estimated return time.

They should stick to the plans and have an emergency action plan in place with that responsible person if they fail to return as scheduled.

“Carry safety equipment readily at hand, and know how to use your safety equipment - red distress flares, a referee’s whistle, a signaling mirror or CD disc (to signal a searching helicopter using the sun), communications devices with batteries fully charged and kept in watertight sleeves, waterproof torch, correctly fitting life jackets worn at all times while on water and while under way in your craft and wear the correct apparel for the expected conditions.

“Have the correct Sea Rescue Emergency phone numbers pre-programmed into your phone - go to www.nsri.org.za to find your nearest Sea Rescue Emergency phone number and have the Government Health Emergency Medical Services (EMS) phone number - 10177 - programmed into your phone.”

Salvors have towed a barge carrying an oil rig into Saldanha Bay harbour as a precaution because big swells and gale-force winds are forecast for the weekend.

Dave Main, of Smit Amandla Marine, said on Thursday the barge had asked to hire a tow master familiar with Saldanha Bay.

The vessel is sailing from Trinidad to Malaysia.

“It’s a tug towing a barge with a rig on it. That’s the most effective way of moving these things around.

“The weather forecast for the weekend is not good, so they made the decision not to round the Cape. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just a precaution. They’re being prudent. You’ll often find that their contracts say they can’t sail unless the swell is below a certain metre and the wind is below a certain speed.”

Main said shipping salvors were always on stand-by, but were on “extra alert” because of the foul weather forecast. “Obviously when there are warnings like this we make extra provision.

“No one wants to see these disasters.”

* The South American ship Panos Earth, which put down anchor in False Bay in March with damaged engines, has been repaired and set sail for China 10 days ago. - Cape Times