www.escape-bvi.com An Adventurers Guide To The British Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands Search And Rescue (VISAR)

Spirit, VISAR Tortola
"Spirit" VISAR Tortola

VISAR is the only search and rescue organization servicing the British Virgin Islands in the boating community and is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is comprised of three rotating crews who are on call via cell phone or beepers. The number of volunteers number around 43 active members in Road Town, Tortola and 12 members manning the station based out of Virgin Gorda, in Spanish Town.

I attended one of their weekly meetings and took a tour of the facility, finding a wide spectrum of sailors, emergency medical technicians and other volunteers that keep VISAR up and running as well as any search / rescue operation in the world. When a call comes into VISAR, either the red, blue, or white team responds depending on the weekly rotation, with four persons out on the "Spirit," with at least one of the crew being an EMT.

VISAR Responders
VISAR Responders

In the past most of the responders were basically sailors, with general CPR training. Today's crews with the EMT's, fill the position of "first responders," with most equipment to handle any situation that they come across.

The Spirit is a custom 22' fiberglass hull with pontoon sides made with a special fabric. The boats are purchased from the Royal navy search and rescue team, who puts the boats through the paces and then ships the boats to VISAR, where modifications are made by VISAR to fit the area that they service.

Closeup of VISAR Spirit on Tortola, BVI
Closeup of VISAR "Spirit"

An interesting setup with the hoisting and lowering of the "Spirit," is unique to the area, which is prone to power failures, so a manual hoist is used in conjunction with the electric winch system.

Both stations in Tortola and Virgin Gorda are funded by donations from BVI businesses, fund raisers held throughout the year, and the charter boat industry in the BVI and many others. The BVI government is not involved with VISAR but holds the all-volunteer sea rescue teams with the utmost esteem and respect their commitment to keep the waters of the BVI safe.

Gorda Peak, VISAR Virgin Gorda
"Gorda Peak" VISAR Virgin Gorda

Enough cannot be said for the men and women who risk their lives to save others, no matter what the sea conditions and hardships they have to endure to complete their mission. The BVI would not be where they are today, as the world's largest charter fleet, sailing the beautiful waters of the British Virgin Islands.

Hats off to VISAR and their many volunteers!

More information on VISAR, along with boating safety tips and guides, is available on their official Web site, http://www.visar.org.

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