Be a sea Rescuer for a Day

“One of the most exciting weekends of my life”

Frauke Wengerowski from Hamburg signed on with the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS)as a “Sea rescuer for a day”

Frauke Wengerowski has an incredibly exciting weekend behind her: first the very strenuous Survival at Sea training course, followed by an exciting 24 hours on board the rescue cruiser BERLIN, and finally a call-out to help a yacht. The 39-year old from Hamburg was together with people whose selfless dedication to saving the lives of others has fascinated her for many years since growing up on the coast. As winner of the online competition Be a sea Rescuer for a Day, organised by the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS), Frauke Wengerowski was able to experience hands-on the work of the search and rescuers on 26/27 August 2017.

To get her best prepared for her tasks on board the BERLIN, Frauke Wengerowski first completed a demanding sea survival course. This took place in the modern training centre in Enge-Sande lent to the sea rescuers by OffTEC for the day. With waves over two metres high, storm and darkness, she floated in the water in a survival suit alongside experienced search and rescuers, learnt how to cope with lifejackets and had to climb aboard a rescue raft.

The mother of two experienced first hand what sea rescuers have to do in extreme situations: “I first realised just how strenuous the training is when I’d got back out of the water. When you’re in the water you are concentrating fully on the others. Without teamwork out at sea you would be in a fix. Sea rescue only works if you’re a team”, said Frauke Wengerowski, adding: “I exited the life raft and ‘saved’ a life. That is a totally good feeling, even if I wasn’t exactly a pro in the first training exercise.”

A few hours later the personnel-marketing adviser reported for duty at the DGzRS lifeboat station in Laboe. Foreman Holger Budig and his crew welcomed their visitor from Hamburger, whose strenuous and adventurous training lessons were clearly written in her face: “I have been stretched to my physical and psychological limits”, admitted Frauke Wengerowski, and was very pleased to see her cabin on board BERLIN.

Courageous leap into the Kiel Fjord

“I’ve has a wonderful sleep”, reported Frauke Wengerowski the following morning. As is normal for sea rescuers, the radio receiver was also on in her cabin all night. In the very busy Kiel Fjord things are never quiet for long on the internationally uniform emergency and call Channel 16. “I was woken up by radio messages twice in the night, but being so happy and exhausted I immediately dropped off again.”

After rising at around 6.30 the all-male crew soon got the 39-year old lady involved in the ship’s: making breakfast and cleaning the ship were first on the list before the BERLIN left port to patrol the Baltic Sea. Once again the Hamburg volunteer donned her survival suit for a person in the water exercise. Shortly afterwards she courageously leapt into the 18-degree cold water. “Now I have an idea what shipwrecked people must feel like. Even though I knew the lifeboat crew were nearby, I had this tingling sensation all over my body”, she said once back on board the BERLIN.

Her respect for the sea rescuers’ work increased by the minute, especially as she was able to experience an rescue operation first hand: “Everyone was suddenly fully concentrated and knew exactly what they had to do without many words”, describes Frauke Wengerowski the situation on board. A yacht’s engine had broken down and she required the sea rescuers’ help. This was routine for the BERLIN’s crew but for Frauke Wengerowski it was a pure adrenalin rush. She was allowed to throw the line for the owing rope over to the stranded boat: “I got it across at the first attempt and am so pleased I could help someone in distress”, she added proudly.

“The weekend more than exceeded my expectations – it was one of the most exciting weekends of my life.” She will have to spend the next days and weeks sorting out all the things she experienced. But one thing is already certain: “My fascination with the work of the sea rescuers has increased yet again because I have seen for myself how much knowledge, dedication, skill and lifeblood each and every one displays on a daily basis.”

Colleagues are the key to success

Between mid-may and the beginning of August around 300 men and women took part in the “Be a Sea Rescuer for a Day” competition to win a place on board the BERLIN. They mobilised friends and acquaintances to collect votes. Frauke Wengerowski filled friends, relatives and acquaintances with enthusiasm for her dream. She activated her Facebook contacts and wrote messages to WhatsApp groups. And she spoke with many of her colleagues. In the end they proved to be the key to getting a place in the top ten: “We’ve been out getting votes for you”, read Frauke Wengerowski on her smart phone during a lunch break. Her colleagues had just published an article on the company intranet about her participation in the competition.

“A whole load of colleagues voted for me – also many with whom I don’t work that closely, simply because they think DGzRS is a really great organisation and of course because they wanted to help me win.” In the end, 445 people voted for the communications graduate.

About the sea rescuers

The DGzRS is responsible for the maritime search and rescue service in the German areas of the North and Baltic Seas. To fulfil their mission they have around 60 sea rescue cruisers ready for action at 54 stations between Borkum in the west and Usedom in the east – round the clock and in all weathers. 180 professional and 800 voluntary sea rescuers carry out over 2,000 missions every year. All the independent work the sea rescuers do is financed exclusively from voluntary donations, without a penny of taxpayers’ money. Since the DGzRS was founded in 1865 its crews have saved over 84,000 people in distress at sea or rescued them from imminent danger. The country’s Federal President is patron of the sea rescue service.

More information at

Photos: DGzRS – Die Seenotretter

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