How it all started

An Inspired Captains’ Lunch

A Captains’ Lunch with two student sailors

A Captains’ Lunch with two student sailors

While reminiscing over lunch in Mallorca, two semi-retired South African yacht-captains were reflecting upon what a wonderful and exciting life they had led. Old sea-stories were shared at the table and it became apparent that the career paths of these two mariners had been remarkably similar, and much adventure and good fortune had come their way on the high seas and in faraway harbours. It turned out that both had attended the same Maritime institution in Gordon’s Bay as sea-cadets, albeit under different circumstances and times.

As the lunch wore on these two ‘Skippers’ decided that their good fortune should be shared and made available to less fortunate and aspiring young sailors in South Africa. With an existing relationship already in place between Phil Wade’s General Botha Old Boys Bursary Fund and the Lawhill Maritime Centre in Simons Town, South Africa, what better place to start than offering some of the students at Lawhill the opportunity to travel overseas and experience first-hand the life of the sailor aboard cruising and racing pleasure yachts. Through such international exposure to this exciting nautical world, these sea-cadets would be able to return home and share their experiences with other cadets in South Africa, and thus potentially inspire other future careers at sea.

‘Marine Inspirations’ was thus born with the idea of sponsoring young, underprivileged South African students to fly overseas and to introduce them to the world of international sailing. The idea is to show them the many varied aspects of the industry and the potential available to them.

The Marine Inspirations steering team are currently working closely with Lawhill Maritime Centre (http://lawhillmaritimecentre.co.za/) and the S.A.T.S. General Botha Old Boys Association Bursary Fund (http://www.gbbursaryfund.co.za/) Both of these organisations are dedicated to promoting a rich and diverse grounding for young cadets during their advancement into the Maritime Industry – while at the same time completing their last three years of standard high-school education in South Africa. Students are typically aged between 15 and 17 years old.

At Lawhill they engage the standard secondary-school curriculum subjects at Simon’s Town High School, as well as studying Marine Economics and Nautical Science at the Lawhill Maritime Centre, which is situated on an adjacent campus in Simon’s Town. These additional specific maritime subjects count towards their school-leaving Matriculation Certificate and equip them for advanced education possibilities in Maritime studies.

General Botha Old Boys Association started a very successful Bursary Fund in 2011 and currently sponsor seven students from underprivileged backgrounds who are boarding and studying at the Lawhill Maritime Centre. The ‘Marine Inspirations’ mentoring project is now working closely with General Botha Old Boys Association and Brian Ingpen, the Head of Lawhill Maritime Centre, to show these students other inspiring opportunities that could await them on their career-paths.

The intent of ‘Marine Inspirations’ is to use opportunities available aboard sea-going vessels and private yachts to develop a youth mentoring programme. These opportunities are made available by donors who help finance basic expenses and travel for the students to the vessels and events on the international maritime calendar. It is all co-ordinated and organised by volunteers and is totally not for profit.

Marine Inspirations, in close collaboration with Lawhill Maritime Centre, and the General Botha Bursary Fund, will co-ordinate this unique international empowerment programme for selected students and provide them with unique and exciting opportunities to broaden their horizons and prepare them better for a dynamic career at sea. Most of the “Bothie Boys” (Members of the General Botha Old Boys Association, alumni of the Merchant Marine Training College of that name) clearly recognise the unique and diverse opportunities that their careers at sea and ashore have provided for them. This was mostly as a result of their “Bothie” education when at similar ages.

Sharing the vast experience and fulfilment that these two yacht-captains, as well as ex-“Bothie Boys” and many other South African mariners have had, will certainly inspire ambitious youngsters of today – those who would not normally get this opportunity.

We consider this initiative to be of huge importance and we are dedicated to increasing the number of young students and aspiring cadets that we can help on their way to a rewarding maritime career.

Anthony’s class photo -1982

Anthony’s class photo -1982

Anthony Just (That’s him in the top left hand corner!) graduated from Gordon’s Bay Naval Officers’ Training College in 1981 during his national service commitment as an 18 year old. This was the very same institution in Gordon’s Bay that had been transferred in the 70’s to S.A Naval Training Command after an initial period for many years as ‘General Botha Merchant Marine Nautical College’.

Phil Wade was a two year student at the General Botha Merchant Marine College in 1960/61 and completed his last two years of schooling at the college to obtain his school-leaving matriculation certificate.

Same College, albeit under different control and 20 years apart.

With a solid grounding from these strict military-style maritime academies, both of these youngsters found their journey to sea in different ways, and both ultimately received unique opportunities to embark upon exciting and adventurous voyages and accomplishments over the decades.

After completing naval service in South Africa, Anthony Just went as a tourist in Newport, Rhode Island in 1983 to visit family, His brother announced that his timing was perfect….the America’s Cup final races were underway. Anthony had never heard of the America’s Cup…! One week later he was signed-on aboard a beautiful wooden yawl and bound for Bermuda and the Caribbean. His days at the Academy had provided a solid and valuable grounding for an unexpected future career at sea. This good fortune continued during the meteoric rise of the Super-yacht industry and the international charter market during the following decades.

Phil - 1960

Phil – 1960

After 8 years in the Merchant Navy Phil Wade began his sailing career in 1970 following an invitation to join a yacht sailing from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, and after a fairly short time he was offered a paid sailing job to take a 123 foot Schooner built in 1906 from the Caribbean to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. Phil’s new career was launched, and he has since sailed as ‘Skipper’ for many interesting yacht owners on a wide variety of yachts and to many challenging and exotic locations in the world. He is a well-respected Superyacht captain and has crewed aboard many racing yachts.

Both Anthony and Phil agree unequivocally that their good fortune, experiences, and accumulated knowledge was in large part due to their disciplined education as teenagers at that very same Academy, and they therefore want to give other less-fortunate youngsters the opportunity to see and embrace career-corridors that they would perhaps never normally witness.

Anthony Just and OK Prosthetics

(Amputee Assistance and “Getting Sea-Legs”)

Anthony checking a prosthetic

Anthony checking a prosthetic

Guitarist-musician, yacht-captain, marine-leisure consultant turned Leg-man… The new millenium provided a new course and heading for this South African yachtsman. At sea since 1983, and participating with focus and energy as a charter-captain during the rise of the super-yacht industry in the 90’s, Anthony retired from sea at the end of the millennium-year to indulge in his music and writing passions after many miles, passport-stamps, and projects on the water.

Time, experience, and contacts in the fledgling marine industry soon caught up with him however, and he found himself consulting and advising on marine-leisure matters for many former clients and colleagues over the next years. One such fortuitous meeting was with the founder of – and inspiration behind – the Ossur hf company in Iceland, Ossur Kristinsson. Ossur was newly retired at that time, but he had since the 70’s built up the second largest prosthetics-and-orthotics company in the world, and had revolutionized the out-dated and cumbersome accepted old-fashioned methods of application of prosthetic limbs for amputees with his bold inventions.

During their many conversations over the years – ostensibly about marine and leisure issues – Anthony learned from Ossur of his disappointment that his key simple and effective techniques that he had pioneered and perfected for affordable and comfortable prosthetic limbs were not being embraced and applied in the very places where they were most needed: countries ravaged by war and poverty, with enumerable amputees unattended and neglected due to ‘lack of funding’, lack of interest and common will, and the core need for profiteering which is rife within the commercial prosthetics industry – as in many other ‘medical’ disciplines. The very people who most needed and deserved limbs, rehabilitation, and fresh opportunity, were being overlooked due to outdated thinking and accepted exploitation of a social need. How could this be?

Having served in the Navy at the same time as his peers and friends were planting land-mines on South Africa’s borders in Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and in Angola, Anthony was well aware of the urgent need to redress this dark truth and correct the natural results of this horrific reality. Here was an inventor bemused that so few practitioners and governments were interested in his simple, affordable, one-hour fitting solution for amputees anywhere in the world. Here was an experienced logistics manager and captain who clearly saw the way forward.

Anthony

Anthony

In 2005 OK Prosthetics was born, an organization set up to provide modern and comfortable prosthetic limbs to neglected amputees around the world on a not-for-profit basis. After a number of initial pilot-projects in Gaza, Pakistan and Mozambique, Anthony took the reins with land-based projects on the Namibia-Angola border and in the remote southern Angolan bush near Menongue, Cuito Canavalle, and Mavinga (an area ravaged by war for 36 years with proxy support and meddling from Anthony’s very own South Africa, the U.S.A, Moscow, and Cuba). Hundreds of amputees were swiftly fitted with Ossur’s comfortable, affordable, modern, and fast fitting technique.

In 2008 Anthony had drawn together a further natural partnership with his ‘Sea-Legs’ initiative, within which the materials-components and the technician fitting-teams are transported aboard private yachts to disaster zones and remote places where exist neglected amputees. The fitting-teams live aboard the yachts and travel ashore to the beach each day by dinghy, carrying the necessary components and tools to carry out up to 15 amputee fittings during their working hours. Materials and tools are light and portable, and no clinic-facility or machines – or even electricity for that matter – is required to fit amputees with a new limb in a one-hour process, This can be achieved in a remote village, on a beach, a river-bank, or on a mountain-top.

The ‘Sea-Legs’ initiative really showed its worth in 2010, with the tragic earthquake in Haiti, and with a 28m yacht donated for the duration of the project, the OK team carried hundreds of fittings-kits and a team of technicians to the more remote areas in Haiti that were not being visited by the NGOs and other aid organizations.

Anthony and his OK Prosthetics team continue to carry out amputee assistance projects both in large scale government or foundation sponsored projects, and also smaller community based rehabilitation projects that are individually supported by interested parties or individuals. Training and empowering of local technicians, nurses, and community leaders in the villages during the fitting projects is a major part of the OK approach, so that, not only do the neglected amputees receive immediate assistance, but their peers are trained at the same time so as to continue to support them once the OK team have moved on, and before they return for a follow-up assessment. This provides remarkable upliftment and empowerment within the entire community.

Anthony is pleased to be a part of the Marine Inspirations mentoring project, expanding the yacht-assisted ‘Sea-Legs’ philosophy and practically applying the possibilities to ‘give-back and empower’ that have proven so valuable in both the OK Prosthetics projects and in Anthony’s past career at sea. He and Phil see clearly that there are many yachtsmen, mariners, and yacht owners who too see this, and who would be keen to assist as and where they can.

OK Prosthetics is always pleased to welcome volunteer man-power assistance during projects on-the-ground, and like-wise project-funding support for new projects – large or small – wherever in the world a potential donor may identify a need for amputee assistance and community rehabilitation. Hands-on assistance and support in the field from donors is always welcome.
Web: www.okprosthetics.is Anthony Just – Email: anthony@okprosthetics.is

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