April 2018


From the President’s Desk

Hi everyone,
Activations in March are sitting at 9 in total, with 1 search and tow for Police, 1 medivacs for QAS, and 6 training runs. In addition there was another search for the Police for jet skiers missing near Long Island, but we were stood down after the Police located the persons involved. The long run of bad weather has kept most people on shore, but that just means they will go for it when the weather turns and our activities will ramp up again. For the year to the end of February, our training hours increased from 76 hours to over 226 hours, an increase of nearly 300%, which is fantastic and helps to ensure that we are better prepared now than we were a year ago. Many thanks to all concerned, great job!  

Works on the stairs and access area to our base have been completed. Storage cupboards will be installed in the training room after quotations are received.

As detailed below, VMR Whitsunday will be hosting a Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) on April 7 and 8 for the Northern Zone, and squads from Burdekin, Bowen, Midge Point and Mackay will be invited to attend, along with SES. Our radio base will be the coordination centre for the exercises, which will include both daytime and night time activities. Geoff Smith is pulling a list together of those that have indicated they wish to participate, so if you have not done so already please let Geoff know as soon as possible so we can sort out our roster for the weekend. The exercise is a great testing ground for when we may have to do it for real, so the more involved the better.

We have also agreed to once again support the Superboat Races in Bowen, on April 28 and 29, and will be asking for expressions of interest from those who may wish to participate. Ray and I will be setting out crewing details, so if you wish to be involved keep an eye out for our email asking for details of those that wish to be part of this high profile event.

Our updated stability book for Abell Point Marina VMR1 has arrived, allowing us to tow any vessel as long as we can maintain a minimum tow speed of 3 knots, and increasing our 2D passenger limits to 14 persons in partially smooth waters. Special thanks to Ken Spruce from Whitsunday Moorings and Marine Constructions for the use of his load meter to allow us to check the bollard pull on VMR1. Thanks Ken!

We are always on the lookout for suitable and keen volunteers to help us in all aspects of running VMR Whitsundays, and to put something back into the community – not just boat skippers and crew, but radio base operators, emergency phone holders, help with fundraising, administration, sausage sizzles, etc. See our website for more information.

Regards, Mal

Tips on Using your VHF Radio

Have you listened to your VHF radio and heard a lot of interference?  The first thing you should do is adjust the “squelch” control until the hissing and crackling stops, but ensure that you maintain sufficient volume so you can hear incoming calls.

Remembering that VHF radio works on a line-of-sight principle and at sea level the horizon is where your radio signal will taper off.  At the tip of a small boat’s aerial (which is only a few metres above water level, say 10 metres), the horizon is about 6.5 nautical miles away.

This is why there are channel 16 VHF radio repeater stations on the highest points of Hayman, Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands.  Their elevation helps to overcome the curvature of the earth and considerably extends the range of radio contact.

Here are a few handy hints

For all emergencies please use the universal distress channel 16. This is an international channel and supported by repeater stations around Australia

When trying to make contact with a vessel or shore party WITHIN line of sight

  • Wherever possible please use a local channel to make contact, such as channels 72, 73 or 77
  • You can make contact on channel 16, 81 or 82 and request the person being called to switch to 72, 73, or 77
  • This reduces traffic and power drain on repeater channels

When trying to make contact with a vessel or mainland that is NOT within line of sight or is out of range

  • You should leave your radio on channel 16 to be ready to receive or send in an emergency
  • Whenever possible you should avoid “chatting” on 16 as it must be kept clear for true emergencies – make your call, then request the person being called to switch to the appropriate channel (81 or 82 repeaters  in the Whitsundays) – or 72, 73 or 77 if in line of sight.
  • If you want to make contact with another vessel or call a shore station (e.g. to a Bareboat HQ, VMR, marina or port), you should use channels 81, or 82 (depending on your position (or 86 to a Bareboat HQ)
  • The channel 81 repeater is located on Whitsunday Island and should be used if you are in the central or southern areas of the Whitsundays
  • The channel 82 repeater is located on Hayman Island and should be used if you are in northern areas of the Whitsundays, on the Great Barrier Reef, or mainland shoreline North of Airlie Beach.

VMR1 Rescue Vessel Electronic Aids

VHF Radio direction finder
In the preceding article we suggested that you adjust the “squelch” control until the hissing and crackling stops, but maintain sufficient volume so you can hear incoming calls. This is not always the problem and there are a variety of reasons why radio communications could be weak or distorted – the vessel using the radio may have a faulty radio or aerial or could be in the radio “shadow” of an island, or simply out of range.

On our Abell Point Marina VMR1 rescue vessel we are equipped with a Radio Direction Finder (RDF).


More often than you might think, vessels in need of help do not have an accurate idea of where they are.  We are regularly advised of GPS co-ordinates that are wrong.  The most common problem is that, when asked, the person on the vessel in need of assistance looks at their chart plotter or fish finder and reads back their GPS co-ordinates.  The problem is that in many cases the GPS is advising the position where the cursor is pointing.    For example, if you are in Nara Inlet and your cursor is on the shipping channel North of Hayman Island, the cursor co-ordinates are for the shipping channel, not where you actually are!!

Thus the first step before advising your GPS position is to move your cursor to your current position.

When Abell Point Marina VMR1 is getting near where you told us that you are, if we cannot see you we will contact you by VHF radio.  Hopefully you will have your radio switched on and tuned to channel 16 – or to a prearranged other channel. Sometimes you can hear us, but all we can hear is a crackle or hiss (and the problem is not our Squelch level).  We then turn to our RDF and when you try to contact us it indicates the direction of your radio signal.

The Communications officer will then advise the Skipper of the course to take.  For example, if the RDF signal is 33 degrees to Starboard, we turn 33 degrees to Starboard and then follow the signal.  As you can imagine, this is extremely useful at night and is a very helpful addition to our radar capabilities.

Reminder for all Active Members about setting your Availability

Remember to input your availability for activations on the MyEmergencyCrew site.  It’s a good idea to do this once a week as a habit…a routine.  If you keep forgetting, put a reminder into your phone…or ask your spouse to remind you.  😉  If something unexpected comes up you don’t need to change your times.  Just tap the large, black ‘N/A’ button at the top.  This will over-ride whatever you had originally set, and show you as Unavailable until midnight, when whatever times you had for the following day will kick-in. Please call me (Marlene) if you have any problems at all or email webadmin@vmrwhitsundays.com.au

Meet a VMR Active Member

This is a new segment to help you get to know the people behind the names at the bottom of the Activation Reports.

So, introducing…Ron Roberts, from Cannonvale. Ron is a regular Skipper for our boat and originally joined 7 years ago because he “…likes being useful.” When asked what he gets out of being an Active Member, he quickly comes back with “Apart from learning something new from the other members every activation, I also get to pass on some of the ideas I have gained over the years.” Just quietly, I think Ron also really enjoys driving the boat! 😁   I asked Ron a few random questions…

Q: What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
A: I would love to learn to fly a drone. Someone else’s because I keep crashing mine.

Q: What can you not get right, no matter how many times you try?
A: Anything electrical dislikes me, computers, watches, phones, frustrating sometimes.

Q: What takes up too much of your time? What are you addicted to?
A: If sailing is an addiction, then I’m hooked. It costs me too much, takes up most of my time, can be quite frustrating, cold, wet, mind-numbing…but I love it. ⛵

Q: What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
A: Two main things, the birth of my daughter, and my near death experience. Both gave me good reason to cherish life, not fear death and to make the best of the time in between.

Search and Rescue Exercise, Whitsundays, April 7 and 8

VMR Whitsunday will be hosting a major Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) on the above dates in conjunction with the Whitsunday Water Police. VMR squadrons from Burdekin, Bowen, Midge Point and Mackay will be participating, as well as VMR Whitsunday and SES.

The exercise will be held from mid-morning on Saturday April 7 through to lunchtime on
Sunday April 8, and will include night time exercises on the Saturday evening. Areas that may be covered as part of the exercise include the Molle Channel from North Molle to the southern end of Long Island and possibly parts of the Whitsunday Passage on the eastern side of those islands, as well as parts of Pioneer Bay and Funnel Bay. All boaties are urged to exercise caution in those areas.

The VMR Whitsunday Radio Base will be the coordination centre for the Sarex, and at times there may be a lot of radio traffic on VHF channels 81 and 16. Your assistance in minimising the use of those channels during the above periods would be appreciated, and if your radio schedules could be moved to another channel from mid-day Saturday until mid-day Sunday it would be appreciated. As usual, VHF calls from ships to shore parties should be made using line of sight channels and not the repeater channels on 81 and 82.

If you have any questions about the exercise, please feel free to contact us.


Sailing Club logoIn a small regional town like Airlie Beach it is important for various community services to work together. With the Southern Hemisphere’s largest bareboat fleet and plethora of
crewed marine activities and services, it is important to ensure that sufficient trained and qualified personnel are available. In Marine qualification training, the Cannonvale TAFE has discontinued its Marine Studies program, but Whitsunday Maritime Training Centre at Whitsunday Sailing Club continues to provide a wide range of marine training courses. This requires access to current technology on- water equipment complete with a Volunteer VMR skipper on Abell Point Marina VMR1, provided by VMR Whitsunday .
Thank you, Sailing Club for your donation of $500.


Other donations: Our thanks again for the regular donations made by Julie Roberts at Bookkeeping & Taxation Solutions and Adrian Studt.

Thanks also to everyone who supports us with counter top collection tins. This month we collected a huge $186 at the Dingo Beach Pub, $61 at Whitsundays Pharmacy and $73 at Airlie Beach Live Life Pharmacy.

Q: When is a boat not a boat?  A: When it’s a Personal Watercraft

For one of our Activations this month, we were called out to assist Police locate three people who had been out on a jet-ski, got into trouble and managed to swim to land. The problem was….they didn’t know where they were, and it was coming into night. Luckily they were found but it could have ended badly!

Many people don’t consider a jet-ski to be a ‘vessel’, but according to MSQ (Marine Safety Queensland) a jet-ski is definitely a vessel – it is defined as a ‘personal watercraft’ and has a number of legal obligations attached to it.

Once you are more than 0.5 nautical miles from land (less than a kilometre) you are in ‘partially smooth waters’ in the Whitsunday Island area (download map) and as such, even on a jet-ski, are required to have:

  • lifejacket (for each person)
  • signalling device (eg torch)
  • V sheet
  • flares

Full details about jet-ski requirements on the MSQ website.  Also, it’s not compulsory but a very good idea to be a member of the VMR. 😄

When you’re out on the water, who gives way to who?

Of course you know….and watching this short video will prove that you are right. 😁

Can you help? Can you sew?

We are always looking for volunteers, but maybe this is a first! 😁  We have a stock of Hi-Vis shirts which are essential wear on our boat….but they are all long-sleeved.  Not that good in our hot and humid environment.  Many new trainees can organise to get the sleeves shortened by a family/friend (or do it themselves) but not all have access to a ‘sewer’.  Is there anyone in the community who would be happy to chop off the sleeves and sew a simple hem for any of our active members? Email info@vmrwhitsundays.com.au if you are able to help.

Notices to Mariners

Two new notices to mariners have been added to the Queensland Transport Website for our region since the last Samson Post.  These relate to:

  • Pioneer Bay—re-establishment of the anchorage area, and
  • Hamilton Island – new anchorages established

You’ll find the details on the Qld Government Transport website.  You can also download a guide to Whitsunday Anchorages from here.

Alert for Whitsunday Island

Queensland’s Department of National Parks has issued an alert regarding major construction work  which will be happening at South Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island.  This work will commence from early April 2018 and will continue for a duration of 14 months. More information on their website.

Members Social Meeting (and Sausage Sizzle)

Ever wondered what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ of the VMR? Or maybe you’d just like to share a beer (or wine, or a Coke) with other VMR members. The next Social Meeting will be on 2nd April at 6:15pm.  And yes….we know that is Easter Monday but if you’re staying in town for Easter, why not come along and eat something other than chocolate? 🤣

The evening kicks off with an informal social meet including drinks and grilled sausages on the BBQ with salad ($3 ea), followed by a short meeting to talk about ‘what’s going on’. You don’t need to book or anything…just turn up!

Lost Tender

A 3metre Noble Rigid Inflatable with 8hp Yamaha has been missing since Thursday, 22nd March from Whitsunday Sailing Club. Believed to have drifted north past Grimstone Point.  Marked with TT: WN437Q on inside hull.

If you have any information please call Cameron on 0423 353 049 or alternatively VMR Whitsundays / Bowen.  Reward offered for return or information on whereabouts.

Boat Activities for the Kids

It’s always nice to be out on the boat, but sometimes weather decrees a day at home with the kids.  If you’re looking for activity ideas, here’s a set of boat drawings that the kids can colour in.  Not the same I know….but at least it’s in theme. 😃

That’s it for this edition! Click below for the last month’s activations. Not as many as the previous month but the weather is keeping everyone off the water.  That’ll change. 😀