Pieter Ras is hard to miss. If you ever frequent the Blue Shed Coffee Roastery—as Ras often does—you will have no trouble tracking down his towering figure. With an even tan and a set of sun-bleached whiskers that suggest a life spent in the surf, Ras has been a fixture on Mossel Bay’s shores for twenty-six years. His locally iconic moniker ‘PD’ has been around for about as long. As Ras amusingly remarked, “two cousins… started [it] long ago, like 2003,” and it “caught on ever since.”
Ras moved to Mossel Bay from his birthplace of Mpumalanga. Following career demands within PetroSA, PD’s father trekked to Mossel Bay with his young family in order to claim an opening in the refinery. At that point, Ras confessed, he failed to appreciate the bay’s magnificence. He noted that the “town was a lot smaller” then, but at “the age of eleven when I started going into the water a lot… then I was starting to realize, well I really love this place and this is where I would want to grow up.” As he reminisced about his childhood, his wistful gaze was detectable even behind his tortoise-shell shades. “I’m super blessed to have been able to have grown up here.”
At the moment, Ras works as an Remotely Operated Vehicle Pilot Technician, whose purpose is to maintain offshore PetroSA gas fields. “We basically provide the subsea… servicing,” Ras shared, adding that he is also tasked with “mak[ing] sure that the environment stays safe” in the extraction of what he described as “clean fuel… not crude oil.” His occupation has taken him all over the globe—from Nigeria to Indonesia to Singapore. However, in “see[ing] what the outside world was like,” Ras quickly came to recognize “how much more [he] love[d his] country.” Conveniently, his current assignment takes him no further than the bay itself. Great Ship Manisha, the most prominent vessel in Mossel Bay’s harbor, is in the midst of what Ras called a “pre-mobilization phase, and upon its completion, the Manisha will be prepared for dive work offshore.
PD is eager to begin his “next mission.” An avid surfer, Ras admitted that as much time as he has spent overseas, he has neglected “so much [of the] surf over here” that graces South Africa’s “vast, open coastline,” much of which remains “untouched.” And while many balk at the thought of sharing the seas with white sharks, Ras remains relatively unfazed. “At the end of the day, they’re there,” Ras affirmed. “There’s nothing you can do about it.” As for his take, Ras adds, “I respect those animals a lot… I am perfectly happy that they’re here, because they’re part of the cycle.”
In a real sense, Ras himself has become integral to the bay’s cycle. On occasion, his travels take him to distant lands, but ultimately, PD feels that home is here. “I’ve been away, and I’ve always wanted to come back.”