June 2018

ActivationsPresident’s Report

The Minister for Emergency Services visited and we had the pleasure of showing him Abell Point Marina VMR1.  He came away impressed and with some good  feedback from us on what is needed for Marine Rescue organisations now and in the future.

Activations for May numbered 10 in total. There was 1 medivac from Daydream Island for a workplace injury for QAS, 3 training runs, 1 trip to Hayman with radio repeater parts for the new installation, 1 trip to have the compasses swung to
get corrected deviations cards as required for survey (a black art if ever there was one!), and 4 breakdowns.

One of the latter was for a 40 tonne vessel that had broken down in Hook Passage, and VMR1 was able to tow it comfortably at 5.5 knots using just 20 litres of fuel per hour… pretty impressive numbers. At 7.5 knots, fuel went up to 55 litres per hour. (More detail about activations here).

Technicians have been helicoptered up to Hayman this week to finish the installation and upgrade of the repeater, but we have hit a slight snag in that the solar panels that we thought we would be able to use ex MSQ are not compatible. Fortunately we have a bit of breathing space with the grants available and we should be able to cover the shortfall. The new aerial and wind generator are now in place, and the repeater is functioning at a higher output of 25 watts which should give enhanced coverage for channel 82.

Abell Point VMR1 was present as part of the rescue vessel fleet for the Superboat Races in Bowen, on April 28 and 29, along with rescue vessels from Burdekin, Bowen, Midge Point and Mackay.

Emergency engine battery isolators have been fitted to VMR1. In the unlikely case of an engine room fire, the last thing you should do is open the hatches to turn off the batteries, so extra isolators have been fitted in the same compartments as the aft fire flaps, on each side. They are for emergency use only at the direction of the skipper, so there is no change to current startup checks and procedures. A new risk register update and a new SOP will be issued shortly.

Roger has been successful in securing grants from Lions and Wilmar Sugar to purchase and install Forward Looking Sonar, but that will have to wait until later in the year when the boat is hauled out for anti-foul and inspection. Worth looking forward to, though. (Sorry about the pun).😋

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. Go here for more information.

Regards, Mal

Review of Activation Fees

The last time we increased our activation fees was in July 2016 and we have been watching steadily increasing fuel prices.  Our cost of diesel fuel has increased by over 20% this financial year. Whilst our new rescue vessel Abell Point Marina VMR1 is very economical, our average cost per hour on an activation has increased by $30.00. We are hesitant to pass on a Fee increase of this size, but as a Volunteer organization with very little government funding we need to recover the cost.

To keep this in context, we decided to keep our charge-out fee the same at $325.00 per hour and add a fuel surcharge of $30.00 per hour.  We will review the surcharge quarterly and adjust it accordingly.

You will be kept advised of changes in The Sampson Post. Thus the charge-out rate from 1st July will be $355.00 per hour and members who have used their free tow or exceeded the 6 hour limit will pay $177.00 per hour.

To demonstrate the savings of being a member, an average assistance tow takes 2.5 hours in total including the time to activate, locate the vessel, tow back to a safe location, refuel and return our boat to its berth. At $355 an hour, this would cost you $887 for a simple breakdown for just running out of fuel.

Review of Membership Fees

The last time we increased our membership fees was also in July 2016 and we have now reviewed our costs of operation, especially being aware of the cost of fuel. At the same time we concentrated on our fee structure and methods of payment. The changes are:

  • We have had many requests for payment direct to our bank account by Internet Banking (Electronic Funds Transfer) and this will be available for renewals. Please ensure that you quote your member number or else we will not know who made the payment.
  • Credit card charges have been under scrutiny by the Reserve bank, so we have scrapped them.  If you pay through our website portal there is no credit card fee.
  • We have traditionally charged a fee if you own more than one boat and to simplify our fee structure, “second boat” fees have also been scrapped.  However, you must let us know the details of each of your boats if you wish to be covered.

Our membership structure has not been changed.  You can only list your own boats and for example not on your mates’ boat that you go on.  Your membership is for yourself ONLY and your nominated boat/s ONLY. If a non-member takes your nominated boat out without you, any assistance is not covered by your membership. This includes family members. Family members or friends who are financial members can nominate the same (non commercial) boat. Further information is available on our website.

Membership Fees 2018-2019 (GST included)

We are pleased to have limited our subscription fee to only a $5.00 increase for standard membership and no increase to Pensioner fees.

Ordinary member:                     $80.00
Pensioner member:                   $40.00
Registered Active Volunteer:     $10.00

Members receive one free tow (up to 6 hours) per membership year and subsequent activations are at half price, within the Whitsunday zone. Membership renewal notices will be sent out soon.

We have ‘Forward Looking Sonar’..Thanks to the Community

So what is a ‘Forward Looking Sonar’?  Sonar, (short for Sound Navigation and Ranging), is well known from submarine movies but in the Whitsundays it is helpful for detecting underwater hazards to navigation, such as mud banks, fringing reefs and bommies. Most commercial vessels and many recreational vessels are fitted with sonar transducers which emit an acoustic signal or pulse of sound into the water.

If an object is in the path of the sound pulse, the sound bounces off the object and returns an “echo” to the sonar transducer. The transducer receives signals and measures the strength of the signal. By determining the time between the emission of the sound pulse and its reception, the transducer can determine the range and orientation of the object.

Many vessels are fitted with conventional Sonar units (like as a fish finder), where the transducer is located at the back of the vessel and receive images of the seafloor at the rear of the vessel. However whilst these images are useful, on most vessels they record where you have been – not where you are going. In the Whitsundays there are literally thousands of coral and rock outcrops and many of our activations require careful manoeuvering close to reefs or in shallow water.

We need a Forward Looking Sonar (FLS), but technology like this is expensive. When Abell Point Marina VMR1 was being built, we considered an FLS, but it was taken off the list when costs kept escalating.

Then opportunity knocked when Wilmar Sugar indicated that they were willing to contribute.  Wilmar Sugar operates 8 sugar mills in northern and central Queensland, including the Proserpine Mill, the lifeblood of the Whitsundays agricultural economy. A number of VMR members are employed by them. Wilmar Sugar runs a wide-ranging Community Support Program across North and Central Queensland and has made previous donations to other items on our new vessel.

Whitsunday Lions President, Lynda Baxter presents a cheque for $6,000
to VMR Whitsunday (and Lions) stalwart, Bill Harrison and Secretary, Roger Wodson

However we were still a long way short of the funding required. Then we were delighted to be told by Whitsunday Lions Club that they would donate our shortfall – what a generous surprise. Whitsunday Lions, who run the Saturday and Cruise Ship markets and Camp Kanga were reinvesting their local fundraising back into the Whitsundays, again.

Unfortunately it will be a while before we instal the FLS because we need to take Abell Point Marina VMR1 out of the water to fit the underwater sensor. That’s not something we like to do with the only deep water rescue vessel in the Whitsundays, both in terms of risk of an emergency and the cost and inconvenience of putting on the hard stand. We will wait until our next out-of-water service requirement.

Thank you sincerely, Whitsunday Lions and Wilmar, for serving our community again.

Meet a VMR Committee Member – Trevor James

I (Marlene) caught up with Trevor at a meeting, and while he had some initial reluctance 😊 he agreed to answer my questions. September this year will mark Trevor’s second year with VMR, and he joined as he was keen to be part of the local rescue organisation. When I asked him what he gets out of it, he said “I get a sense of satisfaction plus I enjoy the a different perspective I see of the Whitsundays… especially during night activations.”

As is my way, a few random questions encouraged Trevor to talk a little about himself….

Q: Do you have any irrational fears?
A: Heights…which is nuts because I fly helicopters without any fear.

Q: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
A: Listen to your mother! 🤣

Q: What website would you visit most often?
A: I’m on Pinterest a fair bit (he didn’t say why)

Q: What do people ask you that you find annoying?
A: “Are you in a bad mood?”  No…I’m always this way. 🙂

Please Don’t Waste Our Time

Whitsunday Regional Council have reminded everyone that throwing your old EPIRB or flares into the bin is risky and ultimately can be time-wasting for emergency services.  Mayor Andrew Wilcox said “Four EPIRBs were activated at Council’s Kelsey Creek Landfill earlier this week. These had been discarded by their owners and had activated whilst being buried at the landfill site. Distress flares also present problems as they can cause a fire which is dangerous and costly to extinguish. 

Do you have a 406 MHz EPIRB which you are replacing? Or do you have an older 121.5 MHz EPIRB which you don’t know how to dispose of? Simply present any unwanted equipment to staff at the landfills and transfer stations and they will ensure that it is disposed of safely.  Please do the right thing.

Generous Donations…Thanks!

Aside from the amazing donations already mentioned above,  VMR Whitsundays was chosen to receive a $500 donation from the LiveLife Pharmacies nation-wide Community Support Program!

Our thanks also for the regular donations made by Julie Roberts at Bookkeeping Taxation Solutions and Adrian Studt. Much appreciated.

Australian Search & Rescue Awards

This award is open to any individual or organisation and may relate to a particular event or a sustained contribution to search and rescue over a period of time. Any person or organisation can nominate candidates for the SAR Award -. all details and nomination form (only a short one) available from the AMSA website.

Notices to Mariners

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

  • Gloucester & Whitsunday Islands National Park – prescribed burning
  • Shute Harbour – removal of mooring blocks
  • Whitsundays Pilotage Area – changes to radio channel
  • Shute Harbour – beacon re-established
  • Shute Island, Shute Harbour – beacon re-established
  • Lagoon Rock – beacon maintenance

You’ll find the details on the Qld Government Transport website. 

Bunnings Sausage Sizzle

We’ll be back out the front of the local Bunnings store again on Friday, June 8th. Why don’t you come along and have a chat to us about membership….or volunteering…or anything! And pick up a freshly cooked sausage while you’re there.  🌭🌭🌭


BBQMembers Social Meeting (and Sausage Sizzle)

Get out your diary. Next month’s VMR Whitsundays Social Meeting will be on:
Monday 2nd July at 6:15pm.

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!

Ever Wanted to Live on a Boat?

Ready to live on a boat year-round? With rental properties hard to find and the housing market fluctuating, living on a boat might seem the answer, but you might be surprised to know that there are several steps to moving onto a boat, the last of which is actually buying a live-aboard boat! .

This article provides some insight into a few of the important aspects, and the Case Studies at the end are a valuable list of ‘real life’ stories from some experience people.

And Finally…..3 Minutes of Maritime Fun! 😋 😎

Check out staff and volunteers of the Australian National Maritime Museum as they bring their collection to life! Come aboard the tall ships, below deck of the submarine HMAS Onslow, conga through the outdoor Containers exhibition…and tap your feet!

That’s it for this edition! Click below for last month’s activations.