April 2019

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Activation 2/4/19 – Assist charter boat with engine problems in Nara Inlet

I (Fin) received a call from 24/7 phone holder Ronnie at the respectable hour (for a change) of 1512. A charter boat with 5 adults and 2 young children on board was having motor problems in Nara Inlet. Conditions at the time – almost low tide and rising, with rain, seas up to 1.5m and confused. Wind was 20 -25 knots ESE, and visibility was only about 3 nm.

First slight hiccup – we couldn’t get through the gate to L arm for 20 minutes or so – none of our access cards would work, apparently due to a power outage. Even Abell Point Marine office staff could not get it to work. We had to get someone from ‘inside’ to open from there. (This was rectified by the time we got back).

Abell Point Marina VMR1 left at 1555 hrs, with Senior Crew Ken on the helm until we got to Nara at 1640 hrs.

A representative from the charter yacht company was on board their vessel, and he wished to move it to a better anchorage, and when there, transfer the people and all their luggage to VMR1. He wanted the charter vessel to be left there and they would deal with it tomorrow instead of us towing it back while returning.

With the charter boat now safely anchored and all passengers now transferred to VMR1, we were heading back towards Abell Point by 1710 hrs with Rick at the helm, and we were unloaded, refuelled, and washed down and in our pen by 1810 hrs. Ron and Whitsunday VTS were notified of our safe return.  Thanks to the crew for their capable assistance.

Crew: Ken, Rick, Leigh P, John W.
Skipper: Fin


Activation 4/4/19: Assist a 40 ft vessel with engine problems near Funnel Bay

Around 1030 24/7 phone holder Ronnie called – a 40 ft carvel cruiser had lost its engine and was anchored off Funnel Bay, and had requested assistance to tow it to Shute Harbour. As conditions at the time were SE winds gusting up to 38 knots, that did not seem such a good idea, and Ronnie advised the boat’s skipper that we would make an assessment of the best course of action when we arrived on site.

I (Mal) got to Abell Point Marina VMR1 around 11, and after getting all details from Ronnie who had come down as well (I think he was sorry he was not going out himself, but he has the 24/7 phone duty) we left Abell Point Marina at 11:15 and made our way towards Funnel Bay. When we got past Funnel Bay and Pioneer Point and almost to Almora Islet we found – nothing! Rick managed to get our target vessel on the phone and duly got a GPS position, and there he was, over a mile away towards Unsafe Passage.

Conditions were very gusty with a short, sharp chop that said that conditions were less than ideal to make a reasonable tow to Shute Harbour, and the target skipper agreed that somewhere in front of Airlie was the better option. Going alongside was also not an option in those conditions, so our crew threw a light line across and used that to transfer the tow line – but tow points on the front of the target were conspicuous by their absence, so they were instructed to put the towing eye over their anchor winch while we took the strain so they could raise their anchor, which was holding them in over 30 metres of water. After what seemed like a very long time holding VMR1 head to wind (there was lots) and maintaining position and pressure on the tow to allow them to raise their anchor, it was finally up and we set course for Pioneer Point with the wind and sea behind us.

Speed was pretty slow as we were not 100% confident in the attachment point on their boat, but we were soon around Pioneer Point and heading for Whisper Bay, off the Marine Club and VMR Base. Crossing funnel bay we had to bear away more cross wind to stop their boat nosing into the wind swell and putting any more pressure on the tow attachment, and an outbound Cruise Whitsunday Ferry was gracious enough to reduce his wake as he passed our port side – thanks Kingfish.

Off Abell Point Marina we took the vessel alongside to transit to Whisper Bay mooring area and threaded the needle between the moored boats before our target dropped his anchor, which set very well with the weight of our boat on it as well as theirs, and we headed back to Abell Point to our own berth to wash down the boat, complete the paperwork and secure VMR1 for the next activation, stepping off the boat at 1330.

Nice job from the crew, made it look easier than it was.

Crew: Steve, Chris, Terry, Rick
Skipper: Mal


Activation 11/04/2019: At the owners request, board and inspect vessel taking on water off Abell Point Marina

It started out to be a usual Thursday afternoon training session but quickly escalated into a full blown recovery job. We had departed Abell Point Marina at 1630 for a routine training session on anchoring and launching and retrieving the tender, and had just done a launch when Ronnie (24/7 phone holder) came on deck at 1655 and said “we have a situation!” That got everyone’s attention, and he explained that the Victorian based owner of a 50 ft yacht moored off the marina had requested us to look at his boat which had been reported as taking water and sinking. Okay! A quick recovery of the tender and Abell Point Marina VMR1 was on its way.

Even from over half a mile away I could see which boat we were aiming for – apart from being the one with a lot of white bird netting on it, she was down by the bow – not the worst we have seen, but it could easily have developed into something worse. By 1700 we were tied alongside, and having been told by the owner where the key was our crew were soon below, to be confronted by a lot of water and floating floorboards. The crew soon had our electric pump on board the vessel, but that was not deemed enough, so the bigger volume petrol powered pump was transferred across and primed, and that started to move a lot more of the water out. It was decided that the best option was to call Chris at Hawke’s Boatyard to arrange for an urgent after hours lift – only problem was that he was in Brisbane! Soon resolved though, and he had two of his workers on the way to get the travel lift going while we moved the vessel as far forward alongside VMR1 as we could to make entry onto the travel lift easier – make that not as hard. And the tide was dropping so we did not have a lot of time to play with.

In the interim all the bird netting had to be removed so our crew had full access around the decks to take lines from the travel lift and could fend off if necessary, but after some delicate manoeuvering we had the vessel going in the right direction, and threaded the needle. As its bow entered the travel lift area we cast off lines as it was caught in the slings, safely, around 1800.

While some of the crew stayed on the vessel to help with the lift (they did not have much choice anyway until it was lifted up so they could get off over the bow), VMR1 returned to its berth, was cleaned and secured, and the necessary paperwork was all done by 1825.

A great job by the crew, with a bit of improvisation required, but all worked well together and what in fact was a very difficult situation was very well handled. It was certainly a more thorough training exercise than planned, but I am sure all benefited from the experience.

Crew: Ray, Ronnie, Ryan, Kenny, Murray, Dewi, Kym, Peter
Skipper: Mal


Activation 14/4/19: Medivac from Hamilton Island in the very small hours

We got the initial call from QAS a little after 2:00 am – a person on Hamilton Island had a bad case of pneumonia – is VMR available to assist? The answer, as usual, was yes! Conditions – SE wind of 20-25 knots and with the wind pushing an outgoing tide for the 34 mile or so round trip.

Abell Point Marina VMR1 departed with Paramedic Tayla on board at 0240 and tied up at Hamilton at 0345. 15 minutes later we were underway again with our patient safely on board, tying up at Abell Point at 0500 to offload Tayla and our patient before refuelling, cleaning and securing VMR1 by 0530 ready for the next activation.

Thanks to the crew who are now getting quite used to medivacs in the wee hours.

Crew: Michel, Ray and Bill
Skipper : Ronnie


Activation 15/4/19: Assist a vessel with starting problems at Tongue Bay

I (Ray) received a call from Mal, the 24/7 emergency phone holder that, he had received information that a commercial vessel had starting problems at Tongue bay. That location is a black spot for radio and telephone reception and it was hard to contact them, so I went to the radio room to see if we or VMR Mackay could get more information. Fortunately the vessel got a message out to the owners by another vessel (thanks Providence) and the owners then requested our assistance.

I proceeded to our rescue vessel VMR1 to start preparation before the crew arrived and Abell Point Marina VMR1 departed at 1600 with Michel, Bill and Chris on board. We had 20 knots SE wind and a flat sea so we made good time getting to the scene where another vessel had just brought some batteries across to assist, but unfortunately this did not solve the problem so a slow tow back to Abell Point Marina was our last option, starting at 1740.

We arrived back at the marina at 2115 and placed the vessel into its allotted berth, then refuelled, washed down and secured VMR1 by 2130. Total trip distance was about 47 miles.Thanks to the crew for a long activation of 5.5 hours.

Crew: Michel, Bill, Chris
Skipper: Ray


Activation 16/04/19: Assist yacht with electrical issues

24/7 phone holder Mal received a call from Catherine at Abell Point Marina advising that a yacht that was sailing towards Airlie was experiencing electrical problems and would require our assistance to get into the marina later in the day.

The yacht was contacted and we were given an approximate eta, and at 1320 I (Ray) received the call to activate, and with a crew of Michel, Ryan and Bill, Abell Point Martina VMR1 departed at 1340 to rendezvous with the 12 metre vessel which had sailed back and picked up a temporary mooring. This made it easy for us to tie up beside them and complete the paper work before we assisted them into their allotted berth.

We then returned to our own berth and were finished and secured by 1440. Thanks to the crew for a quick and efficient job.

Crew: Michel, Ryan and Bill
Skipper: Ray


Activation 17/4/19: Assist a 38 ft sailing vessel with a prop wrap

24/7 phone holder Ronnie called me (Fin) about 1315 – a sailing vessel was adrift off Grimston Point with a prop wrap, and required assistance to get back to Airlie. When I got to VMR1 we were advised that another vessel had towed our target vessel into Woodwark Bay, and it was now at anchor. Abell Point Marina VMR1 left the marina at 1330 with a SE wind of 15.

We arrived alongside our target vessel at 1400, completed the necessary paperwork there and helped them raise their anchor (by hand). We had them in tow by 1420 at a comfortable 9 knots. VMR1 manoeuvred them into their berth at Port of Airlie at 1540 hrs on a very low tide with minimal clearance under us as we came through the leads near the rock wall of the new beach.

We were back in our pen in Abell Point Marina, washed down and signed off with Ron and Whitsunday VTS by 1600 hrs. Another great job done by the crew (some hadn’t even had their lunch) – professional, calm, skillful, efficient, helpful and courteous – Well done.

Crew : Ray, Ryan and Leigh P.
Skipper : Fin

Ed note: That was our 38th activation so far this year, compared to 23 for the same period last year. 😱


Activation 18/4/19: Assist vessel with engine problems near North Molle Island

Ronnie’s (24/7 phone holder) timing was perfect. 😉 It was about 1210 and I (Mal) had not even had a chance to have a bite of the lunch just put in front of me. A 28 ft motor sailer had engine problems, was reported to be near South Molle Island, and had requested assistance to get into Abell Point Marina. He said he had put up a staysail but could not make progress to weather. By the time I got to Abell Point Marina VMR1 (okay, I wolfed down lunch) the crew had it pretty well ready to go, and after getting all details from Ronnie we departed at 1245 in a strong E/SE wind gusting up to 35 knots at Hamilton, and with very heavy rain showers racing through.

We headed to their last reported position (well north of North Molle Island) while we got an updated GPS position from them that had them over a mile west of their original GPS spot. En route we spotted and recovered a life ring – returned to its grateful owner after contacting Police – lucky it was not another emergency. Allowing for drift we reached within a mile of that position with nothing in sight and nothing showing on radar apart from very heavy rain – it was persisting down. As the rain eased we spotted a shape well west of that position, and soon closed with them 2.5 miles west of their original position. We also found why they were a moving target – they were still sailing west and away from us when the much better option would have been to leave the head-sail sheeted on and tack the boat, to heave to.

The crew used our heaving line to get the towline across and we started back at about 4 knots on an angle across the waves while the other boat put extra lines on their cleat to spread the load. We were able to get them up to 7 knots as the water smoothed out. The owners original plan was for us to get them into the marina and to use his electric trolling motor to get to their berth. A prolonged squall of over 30 knots accompanied by very heavy rain prompted us to suggest that it may be better if we were to take them in, and that idea was accepted.

Approaching the berth in somewhat more sheltered water, he engaged the trolling motor and we cast him off. We soon noticed that he was still having difficulties so launched our tender so we could help him into his berth, which was completed just before 1500. By the time we got back to our own berth, retrieved the tender, washed down, refuelled and secured the boat it was 1515.

Nice job by the crew in somewhat tricky and very wet conditions.

Crew: Michel, Terry, Ken, Chris
Skipper: Mal


Activation 19/4/19: Assist a 43ft power boat aground (Part 1)

Our 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder Ronnie called me (Fin) about 1410 to go to Hook Passage to assist a motor vessel reportedly aground near the Hook Observatory with 3 persons on board. Conditions at the time were mostly clear skies with occasional showers, and the wind from the ESE at 15 to 20 knots and seas less than a metre, The tide would be almost low tide when got there.

Abell Point Marina VMR1 left the marina at 1440 hrs, arriving at the vessel at 1525. As we assessed the situation, they were high and dry – nothing we could do there. They said there was no damage to the hull but the props and steering damaged. Our crew took their anchor to deeper water (easier said than done, it involved the owner carrying it to our tender and the tender crew rowing and using the motor to carry it as far out as possible – in pouring rain and difficult wind and current conditions).

The idea was for the boat to wait for the incoming tide and when afloat use their anchor winch to pull themselves to deeper water – when we could come back and get them and tow them back to Abell Point. There was no point waiting there until the tide was right – it wasn’t as if we were out at the reef where coming back and then going out again later would not have been an option.

We left them at 1625 and returned to our berth at the marina by 1725. We didn’t wash down or refuel as we would be going out again in an hour or two. We did keep Whitsunday VTS and Ron up to date with what was going on.

We decided that we should go out again at approx. 2030 (after a shower and a feed) to get there at approx. 2130 – just after mid tide and on a rising tide (good conditions).

Ed Note: Special mention must be made about our brilliant crew – they went way beyond the call of duty showing skill and professionalism under trying conditions. The photo of VMR1 in the passage was provided by the crew on Providence V, who said it looked very impressive! 😄

Crew : Bill, Rick, and Wendy
Skipper : Fin


Activation 19/4/19: Assist a 43ft power boat aground (Part 2)

As Bill could not go on the second part of this activation, Ron organised another 2 crewmen (Ron M and and Ryan) to be ready to go at approx. 2030 hrs. The other two crew (Rick and Wendy) indicated earlier they could (and would) go out again.

Ron phone at 1910 to say that the people on the vessel had made contact and that they had executed the plan of pulling themselves to deeper water once they were afloat (using their winch and anchor we positioned earlier) – Perfect !

Abell Point Marina VMR1 left for Hook Passage again at 1940. Conditions were similar to part 1 – except it was dark and less rain. We arrived back at the vessel at 2025 and found that another concerned and helpful ‘boatie’ (Jack) was alongside their now floating vessel, rendering whatever assistance and support he could. Thanks Jack.

With much manoeuvering we managed to position the damaged vessel to lift his anchor and get him under tow by 2045. The tow back was slow (7 ½ to 8 knots) getting them outside the marina around 2240 hrs. We rafted them alongside to take them into the marina and do the necessary paperwork. As we had him at a berth (beside our own), Abell Point Marina Security came down to provide any assistance they could (Thanks)– they must have seen the multitude of lights etc as we came in.

The crew again need special mention. They were supportive and very helpful to the people on the other vessel – and their efficient, calm professionalism made the task appear ‘easier’ than it was – superb. We were washed down and refuelled and in our pen by 2325 hrs. – and Ron (Phone Holder) and Whitsunday VTS were made aware of our return.

Crew : Rick, Wendy, Ron M & Ryan
Skipper : Fin