October 2019


President’s Report

Activations for the year to date, excluding training, sit at 92 compared to 77 for the same period last year, running at about a 15% increase. At the start of the month we did 4 in 4 days, but thankfully that did not continue. September has already seen 15 activations so far compared to 9 for the whole
month last year, so activation levels are continuing that upward spiral.

One of those this month was an almost 12.5 hour marathon to assist a sailing vessel out on the outer reef… a 140 mile round trip. We have done 34 medivacs so far this year compared to 32 for the whole of 2018 and only 17 in all of 2017.

We have purchased our secondary rescue vessel, a Naiad 6.7m RHIB powered by twin Yamaha 130 hp outboards. The boat has foam filled pontoons, samson posts fore and aft, and the same Furuno electronics as fitted to our primary vessel, Coral Sea Marina VMR1. VMR2

The boat is “bare bones” and we are seeking grants and funding to allow us to purchase or install the necessary add-ons – radar, AIS, a drive on dock, and a trailer. It will be delivered by the builders, Yamba Engineering and Welding, upon completion of the AMSA survey documentation. Video of sea trials HERE.

The AIS station on Hayman Island is up and running successfully, covering an area of almost 2,000 sq.km. after some initial teething problems. The station on Whitsunday Island experienced the same problems and we hope to be able to rectify that in the next week or so with a good weather window.

We continue to post our activations on Facebook, attracting between 5,000 and 16,000 views each post, depending on the activation. The broader public now has a really good idea of what we do and just how often we are out there, in all conditions, day or night!  You can follow us on Facebook HERE.

The Blue Water Review is proceeding, with the aim of forming a single Marine Rescue organisation in Queensland, and they hope to have that announced by December. We fully support the aims of the review.

The History project has been on hold while I was overseas, but that will be getting wound up again in coming weeks. Any further assistance that anyone may wish to offer would be most appreciated, so please contact me if you wish to take part in this interesting project.

VMR Whitsunday has locked in May 15,16 and 17 for the next Search and Rescue exercise (SAREX), to be hosted and held here in the Whitsundays next year. Squads from Burdekin, Bowen, Midge Point and Mackay are expected to join us that weekend, as well as Water Police, SES, MSQ, QAS and maybe RACQ CQ Rescue – it should be a great learning event fro everyone involved, and will be organised and coordinated by the Water Police.

The Crew Training Handbook review is almost complete and will be distributed to all active crew shortly, and we are working on the review of our Safety Management System for Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and the new SMS for VMR2.

The Annual General Meeting was held in August, and the new committee comprises nearly all of the members from the previous committee, giving us good continuity. We look forward to guiding VMR Whitsunday through another successful but busy year.

Mal Priday
President, VMR Whitsunday

AIS Capabilities upgraded in the Whitsundays

VMR Whitsunday is in the final process of commissioning two additional AIS receiving stations that will greatly enhance the coverage area, and give us a much better fix on all vessels equipped with AIS.

AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and is an automatic tracking system that uses transponders on both commercial ships and recreational vessels, and is used by vessel traffic services (VTS). VMR uses AIS to show the location of Coral Sea Marina VMR1, and the position of larger AIS equipped vessels in the vicinity. We can even track past movement of AIS equipped vessels, giving us a much better chance of locating you in an emergency.

Information provided by AIS equipment, such as unique identification, vessel name, position, course, and speed, can be displayed on a screen, and is intended to assist owners and allow maritime authorities to track and monitor vessel movements. AIS integrates a VHF transceiver with a positioning system such as a GPS receiver. Vessels fitted with AIS transceivers can be tracked by AIS base stations located along coast lines or, when out of range of land-based networks, through satellites for vessels that are fitted with special AIS.

Conveniently, the location of AIS equipped vessels can also be accessed via internet, and we are thankful for services provided by MarineTraffic.com. Check it out HERE.

In an emergency situation, Marine Rescue and search authorities will be able to plot the last known track of an AIS equipped vessel more accurately to give a better start point for a search. If you are venturing further out to sea such as the outer reef, you may wish to consider an AIS installation on your own vessel as a safety feature. Even if you only go around the islands, it is a worthwhile addition to your boat’s equipment.

Previously, AIS base stations have been installed in the Whitsundays at Abell Point Marina and Shute Harbour, providing a good but limited range on non-satellite AIS services – generally as far as Hayman Island, and on the mainland side of Whitsunday Island.

VMR Whitsunday is working in conjunction with MarineTraffic.com and Whitsunday Bareboat Owners Association (WBOA) and with base stations at 750 ft above sea level at Hayman Island and 1,300ft at Whitsunday Island, this will broaden access that is expected to be almost a blanket coverage from the Woodwark and Gloucester Coast, out to the near Reef areas to the north and east, and South beyond Cape Conway. It will be a great addition to our search and rescue capabilities, but only if your vessel is equipped with an AIS transceiver. It is a small investment for you to make for the safety of you and your passengers and family!

Thanks to Marine Traffic for providing all the equipment required for the two stations. Hayman is up and running with a coverage area of about 1800 sq. km., and with Mt Robison on Whitsunday Island coming on track in the next week or two the coverage from the 1300ft altitude site should be very, very good.

More about AIS on the AMSA website.

In Case You See Smoke……Upcoming Planned Burns

When the weather conditions are favourable, QPWS will be undertaking planned burns on Hook, Gloucester, St Bees, Tinsmith and Carlisle Islands.

Planned burns are an important technique used by QPWS and other land management agencies to reduce fuel loads, in order to decrease risk to life, property and assets maintain biodiversity, by burning areas of varying size at appropriate intervals help restore and regenerate disturbed ecosystems aid pest eradication and control.

QPWS has conducted planned burns on North Molle, Lindeman and Repulse Islands. Please be aware that smoke can decrease visibility on the water, so it is important that vessels operate safely to the conditions. The campground and track facilities on Lindeman and Hook Island and campgrounds on North Molle and South Repulse Island are closed during the burns. For more information please check the park alerts. https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/whitsunday-islands/

You are requested to remain clear of operations, observe all signs and directions provided by QPWS rangers.

Have you seen any whales recently?

It’s mating season for Humpback whales!  Whale migration season is underway and boaties are reminded to keep a safe distance between vessels and these marine animals.  Below is a diagram showing the rules…which are the same for whales and dolphins.

The Great Barrier Reef is a vitally important breeding ground for about 30 species of whales and dolphins (or ‘cetaceans’). One of the most commonly sighted whales are the massive humpbacks which make the trek to the Reef’s warmer waters from Antarctica between May to September to court, mate, give birth and rear their calves.

By following these responsible practices when you’re in the vicinity of whales and dolphins, you’re not only playing a big part in their conservation but you’re also providing a safe environment to watch them…and that’s a good thing. 😊 More information HERE.

Public Moorings in the Whitsundays

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Reef Protection Program expansion has been completed. Over three years, the program has spent more than $3 million to reduce anchoring impacts on the Reef and has doubled the number of public moorings and reef protection markers in the World Heritage Area.

The Whitsundays now has 151 public moorings available for use with additional reef protection markers planned for Cockatoo Point and Cairn Beach. To provide feedback please contact Nicole Hitchcock at GBR.

The video below provides valuable information to utilise the system of public moorings in the Great Barrier Reef and help protect delicate coral from anchor damage.

Email from a ‘Customer’…..We feel all warm and fuzzy! 

This email arrived in our In Box recently, and we would love to share it with you. Feels so wonderful to know that we make a difference to people’s lives. Yep…all those middle of the night wake-up calls are worth it.

“Hi my name is Dianne Wicks and I live in Gympie Qld. On the 23rd March along with family from Mackay we arrived on Hamilton Island for 3 glorious days in paradise. Unfortunately on the 24th around 3pm I had a bad fall whilst playing tennis and broke my right wrist requiring an op with plate and screws and broke my left shoulder in 2 places.

Lucky for me the VMR boat was already at the wharf to collect another patient. The thing is I never got to say “THANK YOU” to the crew on the boat or the doctor who helped me at the courts (I don’t even know his name) and the 2 female paramedics who transported me to Proserpine Hospital.

I hope my appreciation can be passed on as I have not stopped thinking about them since and I will be forever grateful to all. Once again THANKS! Without people like you I could have had a far different outcome. Sincerely Di Wicks.”

Ed’s Note: If you would like to refresh your memory of this activation you’ll find the record on the March Activation list.

Whisper Bay Boat Ramp is being Dredged

The Whisper Bay boat ramp area was badly affected by silting up in Cyclone Debbie and since then we have regularly seen boats and jetskis stuck in the main channel at low tide. Thankfully this situation is now coming to an end as Whitsunday Council will begin to conduct dredging of the channel next week.

Unfortunately disruption to the boat trailer car park and boat ramp cannot be avoided so please be patient. Council will be setting up on the Mirage side of the boat trailer car park. The dredged material will be contained in a geofabric “silt sock” and allowed to drain and dry out before removing the dry material and returning the boat trailer car park to normal. The whole process is expected to take 6 weeks or so.

If you have any questions please direct these to Whitsunday Regional Council on 1300 972 753 or by email at info@whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au

Petrol Fumes – an AMSA Safety Alert

Petrol vapours are denser than air so any petrol leaks or vapours can accumulate in a vessel’s bilge, or in low parts of a cabin if the area is not properly ventilated. When petrol vapours mix with air within a specific concentration range, the mixture becomes explosive.

There’s a full explanation regarding this important issue in an article from AMSA explaining how to prevent an explosion, as well as safe refuelling practices. An important read!

No more registration labels as of right now!

As of 1 October 2019, registration labels on your boat or PWC are no longer required. Now you won’t need a label for your vehicle, trailer or boat. However, you still need to make sure your boat is registered or you may face a fine.
For more information, visit the MSQ website

Float-free EPIRB announcement from AMSA

It will be mandatory to carry a float-free emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) on many vessels from 1 January 2021, including vessels less than 12 metres without level flotation operating in Offshore (B) or Restricted Offshore (C) waters.

When these changes were announced in July 2018, AMSA committed to exploring options for vessels less than 7.5 metres.

The small size of these vessels means that a float-free EPIRB may not be practical. There may not be anywhere suitable to mount the float-free bracket, and a small vessel with basic flotation or in very shallow waters may not submerge sufficiently to trigger the float-free mechanism (although manual activation is still possible).

If you own or operate a vessel less than 7.5 metres without level flotation and operate in Offshore (B) or Restricted Offshore (C) waters, you can choose to carry a GPS-equipped, manual or water-activated EPIRB in a manual bracket instead of carrying a float-free EPIRB where all persons on board are wearing lifejackets or Personal Flotation Devices (PDFs).

More information including requirements can be found HERE. or check the following short (2:30) video.

Mini Safety on the Water Expo – Nov 2nd 10-2pm

VMR Whitsundays is supporting an event being held by the Coral Sea Academy at Coral Sea Marina on November 2nd from 10am until 2pm.

Come on down to the marina foreshore (Meeting Point C in the south marina) and get your HOT safety on water tips, plus be in it to win a great giveaway prize.

Designed for people interested in boating, but perhaps a little nervous about the practical side of things – This mini expo is here to help give you peace of mind and the knowledge you need to get out on the water and enjoy yourself!

Stations providing information on the following will be set up:

  • Life Jackets – What to do?
  • Flares and how to use them
  • How to use an EPIRB
  • Tour through the VMR rescue vessel
  • Fire extinguishers and any other safety equipment on board – How to use it and keep it serviced
  • Expiration dates on equipment
  • General Water Safety Rules
  • Paddlesmart

This event is completely FREE and everyone is welcome! More information HERE.

Whitehaven Beach and Tongue Point Updates

We’ve been advisesd by QPWS that the new South Whitehaven Beach lookout and headland track is open to the public again.  This premier walk rewards you with panoramic views of Whitsunday Island before continuing around the headland for magical sights of Pentecost Island and pristine waters.

The 1.2km track includes close to 2,000 concrete steps leading to the new timber lookout. New interpretive and directional signage has also been installed. A beautiful double-sided park sign now allows you to choose the backdrop for your photo. 😎

Likewise, the Tongue Point walking track upgrade is also completed with a new terrace area, shelter and upper staging area scheduled to open to the public by end of September.

Marketing company masquerading as Coastguard volunteers ….Beware!

Recently, there have been tables set up at locations in Airlie Beach with people wearing Coastguard shirts and with Coastguard banners, selling “digital showbags” to raise money for Australian Coastguard.

We have a couple of problems with this:
1. They are employees of a marketing company, and not Coastguard volunteers, and are presumably being paid a commission to raise funds.
2. The nearest Coastguard operations are in Townsville and at Thirsty Sound, south of Mackay.
3. Funds donated to Coastguard do not stay in the Whitsundays, they may be distributed to Coastguard stations in Queensland or go to the Coastguard headquarters in Canberra. NOTE THAT THEIR HQ IS IN VICTORIA, not Canberra.
4. How much of the money raised actually goes to Coastguard after paying commissions to the marketing company is not known.
5. We are bending over backwards to raise funds to finish the fit-out of our new boat, funds that will be spent locally.

We encourage people to support their local rescue organisations, but feel very strongly that funds raised locally should be spent locally and stay within the local community.

If you would like to know how to donate directly to VMR and ensure that your donation stays here in the Whitsundays, see below…..

Donations to VMR Whitsundays 

There are a number of ways to help us.  You could volunteer your TIME – details HERE. You could also assist us by donation, for example:

  1. Throw a few coins into one of our donation tins when you see it on the counter of a local business
  2. Donate online via our website HERE.
  3. Come along to our next BUNNINGS SAUSAGE SIZZLE and buy a snag! Next one is this coming Saturday 5th October.

The coins in those tins definitely add up! Recently, collection tins from the two Night Owls produced $281.30, Whitsunday Pharmacy collection tin was $33.20 and the Whitsunday Fish Shop tin amounted to $150.15.  Thank you everyone!!

Notice to Mariners

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

  • Fitzalan Passage, Whitsundays—buoy temporarily withdrawn
  • Hook Island—prescribed burning

You’ll find the details for all of these at Whitsunday Notice to Mariners

Members Social Meeting on Monday

Get out your diary. October’s VMR Social Meeting will be on: Monday 7th October at 6:15pm.

The evening kicks off with an informal social meet including drinks around the bar (or outside watching the sunset) 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 let anyone know you’re coming…just turn up! Come and socialise with your VMR volunteers and do something different than you usually do on a Monday evening.  😋

Do you need any laminating done?

The Men’s Shed have just had a laminator donated to them. It is capable of laminating sheets up to 0.75M wide and any length within reason. Cost per sheet such as a chart will be $15.00.

The Men’s Shed is open Tuesday 8.30am to 2.00pm and Thursday 8.30am to midday.

Quiz about decomposing fishing line

In the last Newsletter we asked the question – how long it takes for fishing line to decompose in the water? Thanks to everyone for your response.  The answer is 600 years and 62.5% of you got it right.  Well done. [applause]

That’s it for this month’s Samson Post…unless you haven’t read the Activations yet in which case, click on the link or the image below to read about the action.


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