From the President’s Desk
As most of our volunteers were busy with other things due to the visit from Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie, the April Samson Post was not published, so I would like to take this opportunity to catch you up with the last couple of months activity of VMRW with a combined report.
It is a month since Debbie hit and while some of our members escaped without or minimal damage, others experienced a frightening time, with severe damage to their homes and either lost or had damage to their boats. Fortunately, no one was injured.
VMR Whitsunday itself was very lucky in only receiving a low amount of damage, details of which are below in a separate cyclone report.
SAREX: The Water Police and the VMR squadrons from the Northern Zone carried out a very successful Search and Rescue Exercise in the Whitsundays on first weekend of March.
The Friday night exercise added a new dimension as some of the squadrons hardly ever do night activations, unlike the number that VMR Whitsunday experience, giving them an opportunity to try out their Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and EPIRB location systems.
Saturday saw us carry out search patterns exercises, followed by a social night, and on Sunday we had an excellent debriefing after breakfast, before the other squadrons headed home.
Thank you all who attended to make this such a successful event,
I would also like to offer everyone’s grateful thanks to the volunteers who helped with the catering, particularly the two ladies from VMR Burdekin who prepared the wonderful Saturday lunch buffet.
And a special thanks to Master Butchers Whitsundays who gave us a great discount on our meat purchases and then donated a further 2kg of quality steak.
Radio Repeaters Update: The failure of Channels 81 & 82 repeaters highlighted issues with the 16 & 67 repeaters on Hayman Island.
After a lot of testing and consultation with the MSQ contractors responsible for them, we stopped using the Hayman Is repeaters and had the Abbot Point repeater connected into our console until repairs could be carried out.
In the meantime, we were informed that a new transceiver for channel 81 and new solar panels and batteries for channel 82 had been installed by the bare- and charter boat associations to get these channels up and running.
However, all this good work was quickly undone by the damage caused by STC Debbie!
Marine Technical Services have had techs working in the area since the cyclone and have made some temporary repairs to get some of the radio channels operating. They continue to remain in the area to complete upgrades and repairs, and I have spent quite some time going to the radio room to carry out radio checks with them.
More details of Debbie’s damage below.
Maintenance: Aside from the repairs due to Debbie, VMR1 has had its 1200 hour service and the rubber bushing under the prop in the starboard engine was replaced.
Lance Robins (our new maintenance officer) and I replaced the O rings in the inspection ports and sealed some small cracks in the main hulls as we had noticed some rainwater had been finding its way into the bilges. This seems to have done the trick as the water we pumped out has not returned.
A recent activation brought up some issues with the pumps we use to help out stricken vessels, so one 12V pump has been replaced, one repaired and the plastic camlock fittings on our petrol driven pump hose replaced with aluminium ones.
Training, as always, is ongoing, and Geoff Fitzsimmons recently facilitated an MARN002 Part 1 “Seamanship Skills” training session for 8 crew members, and a First Aid course is to be held on Saturday, May 6.
New Vessel: Our new Noosacat has been launched, the flybridge has been fitted and most of the electronics and equipment installed.
Some initial sea trials have highlighted a few small issues which will need to be addressed before we can take possession of the vessel.
Regards, Ray Lewis
Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie
Whitsunday locals will know that STC Debbie was uncharacteristically slow moving and affected the Whitsunday area with high winds for 42 hours, and we were in the high damage zone for 10 hours. Then came the rain and lightning storm for 8 hours on the day following the cyclone!
Local weather data recorded winds over 250 kph on the mainland and a 263 kph gust was recorded on Hamilton Island. Airlie Beach does not have an official government weather station, but in the 7 days (including heavy rain as the cyclone approached) Airlie recorded rainfall of approximately 1,200 mm (47 inches on the old scale). This is about as much as Brisbane and Sydney receive in a year.
Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie,
If you have a building 20 metres from the seawall , a rescue boat in a marina and VHF radio repeaters on the highest points of the Whitsunday Islands, there was going to be damage.
The Mackay Harbourmaster (who controls the Airlie Beach area) closed all shipping on Saturday March 25th at 6.00 pm thus limiting VMR’s ability to respond. On Saturday, before the closure, we conducted two activations to get stricken vessels into sheltered areas. On Tuesday we had a Mayday from a boat on the rocks at Cid Harbour but were unable to help – the 4 metre waves in Whitsunday Passage would have put our own 10 metre vessel at risk and the first rule in the rescue business is to ensure that the Rescue vessel and its crew are not placed at risk (or else we are of no use to anyone).
Throughout the cyclone we were in lockdown and when winds returned to gale force, we ventured to assess the damage.
Hayman Island had taken STC Debbie on the nose and everything on the island was severely damaged, including our VHF channel 82 repeater, which has been irrepairably damaged. The solar panels and batteries had only been replaced a few weeks earlier.
We are unable to insure this remote location and have applied for a National Disaster Recovery Assistance Grant. We understand that nearby Hayman Island One & Only resort was evacuated and will be closed for repairs until mid – 2018
Our Rescue Vessel VMR1 has inevitably suffered damage at its berth in Abell Point Marina. With the storm surge we suffered minor hull damage and one of our outboard engines struck the pontoon, damaging the Port engine housing skeg. All sunscreens, our bimini, parts of our flybridge spray guard and several antennae were shredded or blown away by the winds.
Immediately the winds subsided, antennae were replaced and temporary repairs made in readiness for the next emergency call-out. Luckily, local boaties were wary to venture out, allowing us time to make running repairs, but middle-of-the-night Water Police EPIRB and Mayday activations this week have operated without the wave and weather protection normally available, making it difficult for our crews. Unfortunately, we have a high excess policy for insurance on our rescue vessel.
You can imagine that our VMR Marine Club building would have problems. Being situated just 20 metres from the sea, the 250+kmh winds pushed surface sea water and rain under the sliding doors and we had ankle deep water in the building.
Unsurprisingly, the gutters were blown off and water entered the Radio Base, affecting walls and doors. By the weekend, the radio room was operating but the devastation affected all VHF radio facilities, including the Government Channel 16 emergency channels.
The good news is that the carpet has been replaced and the Whitsunday Marine Club in the VMR building is back in business. Wedding functions have been held, as was our normal monthly members meeting on Monday 1st May, and VMR MUSIC SUNDAYS will be back in action on Sunday May 7th, with music commencing at 2.00 pm. Come along and support VMR Whitsunday.
Again, we are not fully covered for by insurance for all aspects of the VMR building and have applied for a Disaster Recovery grant to replace our stairs and access deck to the Radio and Training rooms which are beyond insuring. They are old and were showing their age before STC Debbie, but are now in urgent need of replacement, following damage during its duration.
Unexpected Financial Help
The saying is that “every cloud has a silver lining” and we are grateful for recognition of our plight from unexpected quarters.
The Zonta Club of Whitsundays was scheduled to run their sausage sizzle at Bunnings on the weekend following STC Debbie, and Bunnings responded by paying for the food and suggesting that Cyclone Debbie donations received should be allocated to a local charitable organization of Zonta’s choice.
Their Committee shortlisted several worthy organisations and to our pleasant surprise, voted overwhelmingly that the proceeds be donated to VMR Whitsunday!
Whitsunday residents were extremely generous and Zonta has presented us with a cheque for an amazing $2,823.55.
Thank you Zonta – please support Zonta in their worthy work in the Whitsunday community
Then we had another wonderful surprise – the nation-wide Old School Haines Hunters Facebook Group made an unannounced donation of $1211.33 through our website portal.
Admin Officer Sean Bidder commented “Our members of the group are into all things Haines whether it be boating or fishing. Following the recent TC Debbie we started a fundraiser to get some money together for VMR Whitsundays and also for the SES division that were most involved with Debbie.
So the donation was from our members who are based all over Australia and just wanted to show their support for you guys. Hopefully the donation helps and we just wanted to say keep up the good work and your work doesn’t go unnoticed by our boating community Australia wide!”
Sincere thanks to Zonta, Bunnings and Old School Haines Hunters Facebook Group – their donations will ease the financial pain as we re-establish the only dedicated Marine Rescue unit in the Whitsundays.
Remember, tax time is coming and all donations to VMR Whitsundays are tax deductible. You can pay by credit card via www.vmrwhitsundays/donate, or send a cheque to PO Box 298, Cannonvale, Qld, 4802.
It has been a while since we thanked all the businesses who help us out by having one of our collection tins on their counter.
In that time, we have picked up tins from Cannonvale Pharmacy, Whitsunday Seafood Bar, IGA Jubilee Pocket, Dingo Beach Pub and Shop and McDonalds, for total of $715, plus a few foreign coins. (Any Krugerrands among them?? 🙂
The money collected in these tins is most welcome, especially at this time after Debbie gave us unexpected expenses, so many thanks again to these businesses and the Whitsunday community who help to fill these tins.
And let’s not forget those organisations that help with sausages, bread rolls and prizes for the VMR Music Days.
VMR MUSIC SUNDAY
After a short hiatus due to Cyclone Debbie, the ever popular VMR Music Sunday is on again this Sunday, 7th May, from 2.00pm to 6.00pm.
Jenni will have a great line up of fantastic bands again, so come along, have a few drinks, enjoy the BBQ and the wonderful view over Whisper Bay.
No Parking problems and free entry at VMR MUSIC SUNDAYS
Like the Facebook page VMR Music Sundays
Notices to mariners
Unsurprisingly, there are seven new notices to mariners for our region, due to the damage caused by STC Debbie.
There is a general caution notice, some about sunken vessels in Shute Harbour, some about navigation aids which are missing, and one about the repair work being done in Abell Point Marina.
Details of all notices are available at the Qld Govt Transport website
MARINE SAFETY QUEENSLAND – new safety videos
MSQ has released a new boating safety video on Preventing Collisions At Sea and we recommend that all boat operators take the time to watch it.
This short video explains the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) in simple terms. Please feel free to have a look if you haven’t already.
If you would like to download this video, or any of the other Maritime Minutes that have been made, please visit this Link.