December 2019


President’s Report

Activations for the year to date, excluding training, continue to ease and sit at 113 compared to 101 for the same period last year, running at about a 12% increase. November has produced 10 activations so far compared to 7 for the same period last year. The most notable was a night time response to an EPIRB activation at George Point at night where we evacuated a solo sailor off a grounded yacht.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 also spent over 12 hours by night and day assisting in the search for a vessel that had been reported as sinking in the Gloucester Island area before being stood down. We have done 39 medivacs so far this year compared to 27 for the same period last year.

Everyone at VMR Whitsunday can be very proud that we have been awarded a Gold Award at the recent Tourism Whitsundays Awards night, for an outstanding contribution by a volunteer organisation!

This is a fantastic recognition of the commitment and dedication of our band of volunteers. Well done to each of our active members that crew the boat, man the radio base and the 24/7 phone, and the rest who do all the other things that help keep us going.

Whale Song VMR2 is now operational, with all documentation completed and sent to all crew to read. We have just fitted new props to give it more low down pulling power. Perhaps surprisingly, we have found that fuel economy has improved as the engines are not working as hard, and low down punch has been improved a great deal. We will be doing towing tests to confirm the selection.

We have been successful in receiving grants from the Federal Government (thanks George Christensen) and the Whitsunday Regional Council (thanks to Mayor Andrew Wilcox and Councillor Jan Clifford) These grants will allow us to purchase a drive-on dock, a trailer, and upgrade the electronic systems on the boat to rescue standards.

The AIS station on Whitsunday Island is now fully functional and complementing our other two sites, at Shute Harbour and Hayman Island. The coverage from the Whitsunday Island site is immense, at over 5,000 sq. km. We will be conducting training sessions on Marine Traffic for any interested parties.

The History project has been on hold but that will be getting wound up again in coming weeks after we get VMR2 fully operational. Any further assistance that anyone may wish to offer would be most appreciated, so please contact me if you would like to take part in this interesting project.

On November 2nd we participated in the Safety on Water Expo at Coral Sea Marina and were pleased to officially name our new Naiad RHIB “Whale Song VMR2”.

Our naming rights sponsors, Emerald Sea Surveys, operate a 28 metre research vessel in Western Australia called Whale Song, so it was a natural fit to have Whale Song VMR2. The principals of that company, Curt and Michelline Jenner, were awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia medal this year for services to whale research and conservation, and we are delighted to have their support.

Mal Priday
President, VMR Whitsunday

Hawkes Boatyard shows fantastic support for VMR Whitsundays

VMR Whitsunday has had to call on Hawkes Boatyard much more than usual over the last few weeks, and we are blown away at the eagerness that they are showing to help us in any way they can. The dry-dock for Whale Song VMR2 will be installed later this week, and in the interim period since the boat arrived, Hawkes have taken her out of the water for a quick water blast to keep it clean a couple of times already, so we were able to avoid having to antifoul her which would have meant reduced speed and fuel economy.

When Coral Sea Marina VMR1 needed to have some anodes replaced, there was no hesitation in fitting in a lift for us so we could do anodes and a prop change. And at very short notice they lifted her out again for another prop change after a minor touch in shallow water on a night time search mission – she was only out of the water for about 1.5 hours after Hawkes and All Marine Services combined to do the prop change.

The new drive on dry-dock arrived, and Hawkes generously allowed us to unload what looks like a Lego set in their yard, and put it in the water for us when it is assembled.

Absolutely fabulous help and support from Chris Carter and the whole team at Hawkes Boatyard, helping us in any way they can to keep us operational so we can continue to maintain our marine safety net to the boating and island communities of the Whitsundays. We are grateful to have their support, and the support of our many other sponsors that help to keep us on the water.

Working with Set and Drift on a Nautical Chart

The video below shows you the process to follow to work with set and drift on a nautical chart. It looks at the difference between the groundtrack, watertrack and tidal vector and uses them to calculate a course to steer and speed required to reach a destination on time. Clear as mud? 😄 The video will help a lot.

Restricted access area declared at Tongue Point (Hill Inlet)

This is sad to report but a person or persons unknown have taken an axe or machete to work on many, many trees on Tongue Point in an apparent attempt to create an unofficial path.

Given the vegetation’s ongoing recovery from Cyclone Debbie, this is particularly disappointing. The area of concern is now a safety hazard and has been deemed unsafe. A restricted access area has been declared and will be in place until further notice. Signage has been erected and a camera installed.

Anyone with any information as to the identity of the offender or offenders should email

We get an (official) tick of approval for what we do 😊

This week we were pleased to receive the following email in relation to our activation to assist in the search for the possible sinking or sunk vessel in and around Gloucester Passage.

“I wish to take this moment to applaud VMR efforts with regard to quickly activating your crews to assist in this search.

I feel many times your excellence in operations as a volunteer rescue group go unrewarded and only hope my few words of congratulations and recognition makes your entire team feel appropriately appreciated from a MSQ position.”

Captain Jason Britton – Regional Harbour Master (Mackay Region)
MSQ Branch | Customer Services, Safety and Regulation Division

Australian Builders Plate Standard under review

A review of the Australian Builders Plate Standard for Recreational Boats is currently underway. To ensure nation-wide consistency between marine regulators, representatives from all states and territories are working together to review the standard.

A consultation phase is now open – more info HERE.

How is your knowledge of navigational markers?

Each mark in the buoyage system plays a part in guiding mariners safely or alerting them to dangers or special areas on the coastline and in enclosed waters.

There are six categories of marks, commonly called navigation marks or navigation beacons. They each have a unique colour or combination of colours, and may be fitted with a top mark or shape to identify them. If lit at night, they’ll have a unique light colour or flashing sequence.

Navigation marks are shown as symbols on charts and chartplotters, and may differ depending on the chart’s format. Typically, electronic chartplotters will show them in full colour, whereas on official paper charts they’re black with the top mark displayed and the colour described by a letter underneath the symbol.

Remember to always check a chart/chartplotter or have local knowledge of the waterway to be assured there is sufficient water depth for your boat, even when navigation marks indicate safe passage.

Full details, descriptions and images HERE.

It has all been happening at the Whisper Bay boat ramp!

You may have read the Council plan to improve security along the waterfront from Cannonvale beach to Coral Sea Resort.  In light of this plan, cameras have now been installed on the VMR building, with one camera covering the boat ramp and another covering the boat trailer car park.

The long awaited dredging of the Whisper Bay boat ramp channel has been done. The dredge is pictured “walking” down the ramp to start the job.

Also, some good news for those who use the boat ramp pontoon to hitch their dinghies – the time limit has been increased to 120 minutes (2 hours). However dinghies that are tied to the boat ramp side of the pontoon will be removed without notice.

Safe Disposal of EPIRBs (Distress beacons)

It is very important that you DO NOT throw your EPIRB in the bin. Beacons can inadvertently activate if they are not correctly disposed of, which often occurs when beacons are thrown in the rubbish and end up in tips.

In the local area, please note that the Cannonvale Transfer Station does NOT accept EPIRBs any more. Once deregistered and the battery removed, your expired EPIRB can be dropped off at AutoPro – 2/11 Shute Harbour Road, Cannonvale.  AutoPro charge $5.00 to dispose of them correctly.  When this is done, please also advise the Australia Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) by updating your online registration account or by phoning 1800 406 406.

VMR Meat Tray Raffles – Dingo Beach Hotel every Friday Night

Head out to Dingo Beach for a cold beer and a relaxing afternoon and evening and hang around for the AMAZING meat tray raffles! The word is out…these are awesome!

Meals are served between 5.00pm and 7.30pm so join the friendly locals and kick back with a quiet drink, good meals and have a good time. Remember, if you’re there on Friday night you can support VMR by buying a ticket for a meat tray. The 3 meat trays which were won recently brought in $845 for VMR…..which is soooo helpful as we are trying to fit out Whale Song VMR2 at the moment.

If you can help sell a few raffle tickets, please give Geoff a call on 0417 221 768.

AIS coverage has been greatly enhanced in the Whitsundays

VMR Whitsunday has been working this year to increase the coverage areas for vessels equipped with AIS transceivers. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System, and with our AIS receiving stations (the green funnels on this chart) now up and running at Shute Harbour at a height of 50 metres, Hayman Island (230 metres), and Mt Robison on Whitsunday Island (400 metres) each station relays position reports from vessels equipped with AIS transponders to the Marine Traffic website. The three stations cover areas of 1700, 1500, and a massive 3,000 sq. km respectively, obviously with some overlap.

Users and subscribers to Marine Traffic can see the latest reported position of all AIS vessels in the area, can search for specific AIS equipped vessels, and can even have a look at the vessel’s recent tracks – the diagram above shows the tracks created by Coral Sea Marina VMR1 on activations over the last couple of weeks.

In a full blown search, that information could be invaluable, and we encourage regular boaties to consider AIS as an option for their own vessel. We have AIS on our 6.7 metre Whale Song VMR2 as well as our bigger Coral Sea Marina VMR1, and many other boats in this area have done the same.

We were able to tap into the solar and wind power at our VHF radio repeaters at Hayman and Robison, but with access by helicopter only it has not been easy. Huge thanks to Des Davy and the team at Helibiz for their extremely generous assistance with that aspect, we would have been struggling without their willing support.

All equipment was supplied through Marine Traffic, and thanks must also go to Terry Kemp and Phil Pleydell for the initial installations, and to Greg Hammon from Dateline Computers for his expertise in resolving technical issues.


Is your boat ready for the Cyclone Season?

We are now at the beginning of the 2019/20 cyclone season. What is your Vessel Emergency Plan? What will you do if a warning is issued…or if the worst happens and a cyclone is imminent? Click this link to download an important checklist (Word Doc). No sense in taking chances…nobody wins against weather.

AMSA will discontinue its DGPS service on 1 July 2020.  AMSA is discontinuing this service, as it is no longer required to support safe navigation in Australian waters.
For the vast majority of maritime users, discontinuation of DGPS should not impact the accuracy of satellite positioning or the safety of navigation. There will be no impact on Stand-alone GNSS.

If your GPS receiver is older than or fitted before 2003, it might be time to upgrade your receiver.  It is unlikely that pre-2003 receivers will monitor the integrity of the information they receive. If integrity monitoring is important to you, then you may wish to replace your satellite navigation receiver with one that includes Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring (RAIM).

For higher accuracy, a multi-constellation GNSS receiver may provide better accuracy than a GPS-only receiver. Click HERE for more information.

Checking marine weather forecasts

On 1 November, 2019 Maritime Safety Queensland ceased its dial-up maritime weather service.  The Bureau of Meteorology provides Queensland Marine Warnings by dialling 1300 659 210. Check with your service provider for call costs. Higher rates apply for mobile phone and pay phones.

Services are also available on the Bureau of Meteorology Marine and Ocean page for the latest weather forecasting. Check out the MetEye forecast maps which are adjusted by meteorologists to better represent expected weather. It also allows you to better select the weather information you want for your boating area.

Weather information is regularly broadcast on VHF radio channel 67 by some volunteer marine organisations. Broadcast schedules vary from station to station. Channel 67 is also monitored by some volunteer organisations who can give individual forecasts on request.

Marine forecasts are accurate when predicting major weather events, such as cyclones, but are sometimes less accurate when predicting local severe weather, such as strong winds in storms. Be prepared for sudden unexpected weather changes.

Fire Bans in all national parks 

Due to the current fire situation, all Queensland’s national parks and forests (including the Whitsunday Islands) now have fire restrictions in place until conditions ease.

This means no open fires in any park, anywhere in the state, regardless of the local fire danger. Click HERE for the full list of national parks with restrictions.

QPWS has carried out a large number of controlled burns in recent months to reduce fuel loads, train staff and co-ordinate efforts across multiple agencies. If you see a suspicious fire, immediately call 000 for emergency assistance.

Deckee – a Community-based boating app

Interested in a free app to get boating-related information on your smart phone?

Deckee is a community powered boating app all about contributing to the “common good” out there on the water.

Live reports, weather conditions, vessel positions and safety alerts.  You can also see live updates from fellow boaters on hazards, fishing hotspots and boat ramp traffic.

Install it for free today – available on IOS and Android.

Nothing will go wrong….right?

While we might want every voyage to go smoothly, the reality is that a variety of nasty situations can develop very quickly on the water to challenge us. For instance, losing a person overboard, having a fire break out onboard, having your boat run aground, flood or capsize, losing engine power, suffering an injury to a person on board or having to abandon ship.

And what if something happens to you as the skipper? Are any of your passengers trained in the basics of how to safely get you back into your boat should you fall overboard, or how to operate your GPS, chart plotters and marine radio if, for any reason, you become incapacitated?

There is great merit in recreational boat skippers adapting the muster drill concept for their own circumstances. At the beginning of each voyage, make sure you take the time to run through your own safety briefing with your passengers. For example, you could provide a demonstration on where your safety and fire-fighting equipment is stored and how it is used.

The process can be made more interesting by asking family members or friends to take on specific roles, with allocated tasks to undertake in the event of an emergency. Consider conducting a quiz, with a reward for passing, but at the very least do a ‘run-through’ to train your ‘crew’ in their roles.

The bottom line is: have emergency contingency plans and practice them with your passengers before going out in your boat. Because the more practiced and proficient your crew become, the better they will be able to ‘fall back on their training’ if and when that emergency situation strikes.

What is a marine incident?

Speaking of emergencies, are you aware that all marine incidents involving Queensland regulated ships, which includes recreational ships, must be reported within the required time even if there are no injuries and the boat does not sustain any material damage. If you are not sure whether an incident is reportable, do it anyway using this form (downloadable PDF).

If you’re curious as to what kind of incidents occur, you might find it interesting to peruse the latest Monthly Incident Report.  There’s some really bad luck out there…don’t let it be you. 😎

Safety Expo goes off with a bang – literally!

Did you get to the Safety Expo at Coral Sea Marina on 2nd November? What a fabulous day! Sausages were sizzling, orange smoke was pouring out of flares (a demo) and we had a wonderful time showing the public through our two rescue vessels and explaining how it all worked.

And….most importantly…we christened our new vessel – Whale Song VMR2.

Turnover from our BBQ on the day was a fabulous $250 – it all adds up. Check out the rest of the photos HERE.

Donations to VMR Whitsundays 

Speaking of fundraising, recently we went out to collect a few of the tins scattered around town and again the experience of counting out the loose change was such a positive feeling. We can’t get over how generous everyone is with their support.

The BCF collection tin yielded $128.95, the Marine club collection tin contained $283.30 and the Fish D’Vine tin yielded $86.40.  Thank you all!!

Notice to Mariners

One new notice to mariners has been added to the Queensland Transport Website for our region since the last Samson Post. This is:

  • Mariners are advised that the beacon at the Beak, Shute Harbour with characteristics Fl.WR.4s 5M in position latitude 20° 16.7587′ S and longitude 148° 48.0690′ E has been reported as unlit.

You’ll find the details at Whitsunday Notice to Mariners.

Wrapping up a successful year of Sausage Sizzles

Last Saturday’s fundraising stall outside of Bunnings was again a huge success.  We are still counting the coins but the venture probably brought in about $700.

We’re doing our best to raise the necessary funds to finish fitting out Whale Song VMR2 and you’re all helping.  Thanks to everyone who came to buy a snag or two, the amazing Alan Corney who arranges it all, the volunteers who cook and serve…and to Master Butcher’s who very generously donate sausages.

We couldn’t do it without you all! Our next Bunnings sausage sizzle will be on Saturday, 1st February. Let’s see if we can beat our own record. 🙂

Members Social Meeting – taking a hiatus

The VMR Social Meetings are always a great opportunity to meet the faces behind the Activation reports…and have a chat and a laugh with VMR volunteers.

There won’t be a January meeting but put Monday, 3rd February 6:15pm into your diary.  Come along to enjoy a sausage sizzle, cheap drinks from the bar and a party atmosphere. We have a lot of fun and would love you to drop by.

Photo of the Month

Photo of the month was taken by yours truly [pats herself on the back]. 😋 Grabbed this lovely shot at the last VMR Social Meeting (see above), showing VMR Volunteers in relaxation mode enjoying a quiet drink and watching the sunset outside VMR Base. So…am I ready for a photographic career? 😁 😂 🤣

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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