November 2018

Activation 3/11/18: Assist vessel with engine problems at Whitehaven

It was a balmy Saturday evening and I (Fin) was expecting a relaxing night in front of the TV. Well, the thought got as far along as 1715 hours which was the time the phone rang. It was Dewi Hughes who was taking the shift in the radio room. Our task was to assist a 7.2m vessel with engine problems, situated at the south end of Whitehaven beach.

There were 4 people on board, night was falling and they were waiting for us. So…..I turned the TV off and hurried to the marina.

I met up with Michel, Bill and Steve on Abell Point Marina VMR1, and we motored out at 17:45hrs, heading for Whitsunday Island. It was a beautiful night!

The weather was clear, the wind 10-20 knots ESE and seas were moderate. Took a couple of photos of the sun setting….it’s a lovely time of night to be out on the water, especially here.

As we approached Whitehaven we could see our target against the darkening sky, aided by the torch they were using to light up the vicinity.

Everything went like clockwork as we took them in tow, setting off by 1900hrs towards Shute Harbour which was their requested drop off. After depositing them at 20:15hrs, we had only to put VMR1 to bed back at Abell Point Marina, and go home ourselves…which we did at 2100hrs. Not a lot of TV left to watch, but then there’s not much on a Saturday night anyway. 😋

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Bill Hopton and Steve Norton
Skipper: Fin Forbes

PS: I would like to make special mention -and thanks – regarding VMRW’s wonderful volunteers. In this activation it involved:

  • Dewi Hughes – he had done his 5 hour shift at the radio room,but stayed on an extra hour to ensure the boat crew were kept fully informed.
  • The Crew – Michel is always a major asset to VMRW, but ALL the crew gave up their Saturday late afternoon / evening to help someone they didn’t know. This involves giving up any idea of a normal evening meal (and socialising) with family and friends. The guys today were all good guys, who showed professional competence and skills acquired over time (and honed at training in their own time) so that this activation went efficiently and smoothly.
  • Bill Harrison – our 24/7 emergency phone holder. The ‘phone’ is constantly part of the phone holders life 24 hours, 7 days a week They are always on duty!

Activation 12/11/18: Assist 5.8m vessel off shore after anchor dragged

This activation all began the previous day when Betty Wilson was in the radio room. She had received call from a 50 ft motor vessel that had tried to pull the 5.8 metre half cabin off the beach on Mid Molle Island, at Unsafe Passage. The attempt was unsuccessful as the tide had already been dropping for an hour or so, and it broke the tow rope.

Unfortunately for the stranded vessel, the next tide in the middle of the night was a lot lower and the boat would have still been above the high tide level, so the decision was made to take Abell Point Marina VMR1 to the site at 1230 the next day, an hour before the next high tide.

VMR1 departed at 1200 and was on site at 1230. Steve and Ryan took our tow line in by dinghy as it was too shallow to get VMR1 any closer than about 50 metres, and they shackled the towline to the tow point on the bow of the vessel, which was just at the point of water starting to lap around the hull, while VMR1 maintained position in the gusty wind and current.

The owner of the other boat had thoughtfully offloaded his spare fuel containers (about 5, nice to see!) to lighten his boat, and VMR1 took up the slack just after the wake from a passing ferry had rocked the other boat, nicely breaking it free of the sand. VMR1 was able to turn the boat to seaward quite easily before towing it out to deeper water. The whole process was over in less than half an hour and still just before the top of the tide.

After recovering our towline and our dinghy, we transferred the fuel containers that Steve and Ryan had recovered to the other vessel, and they were soon on their way. Meanwhile, we made our way back to Abell Point Marina to clean and secure the boat ready for the next activation. Nice work by all the crew in gusty conditions.

As an aside, the people on the other boat said they had a good night’s sleep as the boat was not rocking at all on the sand! 🙂

Crew: Ray Lewis, Steve Norton, Ryan Cunningham
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 17/11/18 (1): Assist disabled boat in Funnel Bay

At 11.30 am I (Ray) was on radio duty when I received a call from a member who had just rejoined the day before, so I explained about the 24 hour rule. He was broken down at the north end of Funnel Bay and needed a rescue.

As luck would have it, Tom Manning turned up for a chat right at that time so as the only other skipper available would have had to come from Shute Harbour, Tom kindly offered to mind the base until the 12pm shift change. That meant I was able to organise a crew and head down to Abell Point Marina VMR1 to skipper the boat myself. Sometimes things just work out serendipitously. 🙂

We departed the marina with perfect conditions, and were soon tied alongside the vessel which had a family of 7 on board. Didn’t take long to get the paper work completed so all that was left to do was tow them back to the APM boat ramp….we were finished in an hour. My thanks to the crew for an efficient activation.

Crew: Michel del Aguila and Ryan Cunningham
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 17/11/18 (2): Assist a vessel out of fuel in the Whitsunday Passage, 5 pob

It was the ”witching hour”, when boaties suddenly realise that they can’t get back to base after a day out. Sure enough, phone holder Bill Harrison called me after 1700 with details of a vessel out of fuel in the Whitsunday Passage.

The crew assembled on Abell Point Marina VMR1 and we departed at 1740, having been given the reported latitude and longitude of the vessel in distress, which showed it to be about 1.5 miles off the northern end of North Molle Island. As VMR1 arrived at the position there was nothing to be seen, so contact was made with the vessel, who gave us an update in almost the same position. A third try got the actual position, about 3 miles away! The earlier positions were cursor position (sometimes referred to by us as the “curser position”. 😉

They were finally located at 1815 and taken in tow back to Port of Airlie ramp at a comfortable 20 knots.

The crew assembled on Abell Point Marina VMR1 and we departed at 1740, having been given the reported latitude and longitude of the vessel in distress, which showed it to be about 1.5 miles off the northern end of North Molle Island. As VMR1 arrived at the position there was nothing to be seen, so contact was made with the vessel, who gave us an update in almost the same position. A third try got the actual position, about 3 miles away! The earlier positions were cursor position (sometimes referred to by us as the “curser position”. 😉

They were finally located at 1815 and taken in tow back to Port of Airlie ramp at a comfortable 20 knots.

In the channel to Port of Airlie they were again taken alongside, and deposited on the ramp pontoon at around 1910 before VMR1 returned to Abell Point Marina to refuel, get a hose down and be secured, finishing at 1945 and heading off for a late dinner appointment . Nice work by the crew, good teamwork.

Two important lessons from this activation:

  1. Always carry spare fuel, and always allow at least a 25% reserve – conditions can change quickly out there, so make sure you have more than enough fuel on board.
  2. If you are going to give out a GPS position with latitude and longitude, make sure it is the vessel position and not the position of the cursor – there can be many miles difference. Make sure you know how to use your plotter!

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Ryan Cunningham, Chris Williamson
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 19-20/11/18: Medivac from Hamilton Island

It was 22.45 when I (Geoff) got a call from 24/7 phone holder Bill Harrison….could I please meet the Paramedic and Police at 23.00 on Abell Point Marina VMR1? Sure…why not….I was only going to go to bed anyway. 😋

Crew members Bill and Steve had the checks done and dusted by the time I arrived, but we had to wait until 23.45 for the Police and Paramedics to get to us because the ‘Schoolies’ were occupying a lot of Airlie personnel resources.  We departed into a beautiful night with calm seas and a lovely moon….perfect conditions.

On the way we were updated on our task, although it appeared that there was a lot of confusion. The Paramedics thought we were picking up a male in his late teens, and the Police thought we were picking up a man in his 70’s.  Hmmm….not even similar! 😃 The confusion was sorted when we arrived at 00.45, as we found the Police were correct.

The Police and Paramedics all left to ‘do their thing’ so while we were waiting, we fired up the generator and made ourselves a coffee.  In the wee small hours of the morning, we were grateful to Tom Manning who had pushed to get ‘luxuries’ such as coffee facilities on board VMR1. We certainly needed it then as we were all yawning and looking forward to our comfy beds back home.

Everyone returned at 01.15 and we were able to leave at 01.30, pulling in alongside the fuel dock at 02.30. All the passengers departed leaving us to fuel up and return to the pen by 02.50.  It was probably going to start getting light in an hour or so but we headed off to grab some shut-eye anyway.

A 4-hour medivac is unusual and I have to thank our fine crew who were out in the middle of the night, helping a complete stranger. The skills and extraordinary patience  of the Police and Paramedics was again very evident.  The VMR enjoys a solid relationship with emergency services and between us, locals and visitors to Airlie Beach can feel assured that they are looked after by a professional team of people.

Crew: Steve Norton and Bill Hopton
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation: 20/11/18: Assist catamaran with steering problems

It is always interesting when VMR phones me (Ron). I had spent the day excavating and laying drainage pipes on a hot, dusty, steep hillside and couldn’t think of anything better to do than to have a shower and put my feet up.  But….no time for a shower now! (Probably best that the Skipper is up the top and away from most of the crew 😂)  I don’t think it is just the timing since there is no “good” time to be in trouble on the water.

Phone holder Bill rang at about 17.20, explaining that he’d had a call from a catamaran with steering issues just past Bluff Point. She was skippered by a VMR member from Mackay. Seeing as we’d have to locate the boat, I enquired about any distinguishing features of the vessel and was told that he’d said:

I’ll be the one going round in circles.” Gotta love a skipper with a sense of humour. 😀

With crew of Michel, Murray and Peter on board we left our berth at Abell Point Marina at 17.40 for a short trip and quick search. The assisted vessel was actually at anchor, but easy to find in the afternoon light. Rafting up beside was a bit messy in the short seas but was made much easier and safer by the abundance of very useful cleats on her decks. Really very helpful.

With the paper work done we took the weight while their anchor was raised, then pulled forward onto our prepared towing line. We had discussed some possible scenarios on the way to the assist, one of them being a helm hard-over tow. The skipper didn’t know what the rudder angle was but thought it might be midships.

As we slowly powered up it became very apparent that the rudders were hard to port. Okay, if we go too fast the towed vessel overtakes us on our port side and being a lightweight low drag hull form, she did this quite quickly. We already had our Gob-rope in place to reduce the dangers this created, but we were now limited to a towing speed of about 4 knots and the towed vessel at about our 8 o’clock position. Not ideal but we can work with it.

Our intent was to bring the vessel close in to the shallows just off Edge’s Boatyard where he could anchor and go in for repairs in daylight. All good with some dodge work among the moorings in the dark and a fair breeze from the North-East we had him safely anchored for the night by 19.00.

With the crew doing a great job all round, we were home and hosed in our berth at Abell Point Marina by 19.30 and I left to finally have that shower before the crew hosed me off too. 😆

Thanks again to the crew.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Murray Story and Peter Beaumont
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 21/11/18: 8.5m Ferry out of fuel in the Mole Passage

Bill, the Emergency Phone Holder called at 16.00. A small ferry that carries
workers to and from Daydream had run out of fuel and was drifting in the
Mole Channel. Hmmm…..a North Wester gusting 22 at Hammo, with 10 people on board…. and drifting. I thought to myself “Gee, we may need to get a move on!”

We departed on Abell Point Marina VMR1 in a bit of a rush at 16.20 and checked details with the target on the way . The news came back that they were in between Daydream and the mainland, and all was OK it was just that they were slowly drifting south.

We arrived at 16.40 to find that the skipper had been able to transfer his
passengers to another vessel…which was very fortunate for everyone.  The next bit was the easy part as we got the towline and bridle passed across, and got underway to Muddy Bay. Well, that was the original destination but it changed to Abell Point Marina en-route as the fuel dock in Muddy Bay was having problems.

We shortened the tow outside APM before heading inside to get the ferry alongside us.
We had them alongside the fuel dock at 17.30 to do the paperwork then into the pen for 17.45. It was great dealing with an experienced skipper and having a good crew.
It certainly makes a job relatively uncomplicated.

NB. It was the Skipper’s second day on the boat and he had been told that full fuel
tanks would last at least 2 days!! His parting comment was “I won’t trust
anyone but myself from now on.” We think that’s a good idea. 😉

Crew: Steve Norton, Terry Clark, Chris Williamson
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 27/11/18: Medivac on commercial vessel in Mackerel Bay, Hook Island

I (Mal) had been in the radio room doing paperwork for a few hours, and just before 1330 I heard a call from a commercial vessel, calling VMR on channel 16. The radio base is manned on weekends, at other times emergency channels are monitored by VMR Mackay and Whitsunday VTS, but I responded to the call – just in case. A 59 year old man was experiencing breathing difficulties at Mackerel Bay. A doctor who happened to be on the next boat nearby had assisted the crew, and reported a high respiration rate and very high pulse rate, and the patient was being given oxygen. She had recommended a medivac.

After taking down all details I called QAS on 000, who agreed to the medivac and arranged for paramedics to meet us on Abell Point Marina VMR1 as soon as possible. Next call was to 24/7 phone holder Bill Harrison to ask him to put together a crew while I made my way to VMR1 to do pre-start checks in preparation for a quick departure. Mitchell, Ryan and Peter (who is a local doctor, so that was a bonus) helped me complete the pre-starts.   When paramedics Brian and Carol arrived (after a quick trip from Proserpine) and were given a safety briefing by Mitchell, we were ready to go.

We departed at 1400 into a 15-20 knot northerly and it was flat out across the Whitsunday Passage.  Just before we got to Hook Passage we received a radio message that the breathing and heart rate of the patient had stabilised, but could we please keep coming. No problem, and we were alongside the boat in Mackerel Bay about 1445.

The patient was able to come across into the air-conditioned saloon on VMR1 – it was a very hot day – before being wired up and checked fully by the paramedics.  After 20 minutes of tests he was pronounced okay and had decided to remain on the commercial boat to finish his trip, so we commenced our return journey at a more sedate pace.

As we crossed the Whitsunday Passage we were greeted by an unusual sight – what looked like a thick fog bank (it was actually a very low, thick cloud) was rolling in from the north, and covered most of the horizon from north to south. We could barely make out the northern tip of North Molle Island, even at a reasonably close range.

VMR1 was back at the fuel dock at 1610 where we also offloaded Brian and Carol, then moved back to our own berth for shutdown and a clean before securing her for the evening, ready for the next activation. Luckily, the medivac scaled back from a very serious start as the patient stabilised, and finished well. Thanks to the crew for a prompt response to what could have had a very different ending.

Crew: Mitchell Edwards, Ryan Cunningham, Peter Beaumont
Skipper: Mal Priday


That’s it for this month’s activations! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Have you browsed the Newsletter yet? Lot’s more of interest there…CLICK HERE

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