August 2019

Activation 7/8/19: Assist vessel drifting near Hook Reef

Why is it always when I am just about to go to bed!? It was exactly 2201hrs and I (Fin) was in the middle of a yawn when the phone rang. It was Bill Harrison, our long-standing and much appreciated 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder who quickly outlined the task.

Apparently we had been contacted by Water Police (via Whitsunday VTS) to assist a vessel drifting near Hook Reef with 2 people on board. They were experiencing a problem with water ingress at engine start. Bill had contacted Michel, Tony, Shayne and Paul who were all happy to give up some sleep but a Skipper was needed to get the whole show on the road. So….Righty-O!


We all converged at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and after the pre-checks, left at 2245 hrs with Tony at the helm. It was a beautiful clear night with no moon after 2300 hrs. Seas were less than half a metre with wind coming from SSE 5 to 10 knots. I had been looking forward to bed, but hey….this was a nice night to be out!

It was 0030 hrs when we arrived at the vessel, and with some quick and efficient work from the crew, we had the boat in tow by 0040 and proceeded back to their preferred destination of Port of Airlie. Paul was at the helm for a couple of hours with Shayne relieving him at approx. 0300hrs.

We brought them alongside outside the leads so we could do the paperwork, and then dropped them off at the public jetty at 0345 hrs. By 0430 hrs we were back in our pen in, washed down and refuelled. Whitsunday VTS were advised of our progress during the entire activation (and they tracked us all the way).

I yelled “Thanks! Get some sleep!” to the crew as they headed off to try and grab a few winks of shut-eye before the sun rose, knowing that some of them had to get up and go to work. Thanks heaps guys….that’s what you call dedication.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Tony McNeil, Shayne Gosselink and Paul Martin.
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 10/8/19 (1): 25 ft Vessel requiring tow from Hook Reef

I was at the back of the garden when I (Geoff S) heard the phone ringing at 09.00. After a quick sprint I was speaking to Alan Corney in the Radio Room, who told me that a member on a 28 tonne, 50+ ft. boat had broken down in Turtle Bay with 2 people on board, and needed a tow to Muddy Bay. (Yes, that’s not the title of this activation but read on as all will become clear).

Anyway, my wife Celia was in the shower so there was a short delay as I needed her to give me a lift to Coral Sea Marina, but she obliged by hurrying and we were soon on our way. Didn’t get too far down the road though, when Alan called again. Apparently flares had been sighted 3 miles NW of Bait Reef and the police had organised a chopper to check it out…could we head out there as well?

Hmm, 2 activations?! 🙄 By the time I got to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 the crew had everything under control and we departed at 09.40. The yachts for Airlie Race week were organising themselves for a start and the conditions were perfect for a reef trip.

We had just started out when…yes…Alan called again. This time it was a 25 ft. boat which was being towed to a safe anchorage north of Hook Reef but needed a tow to Coral Sea Marina.

Hmmmm!! 3 activations??! 😨

But no, as Alan got back to the phones and was able to clarify that the flares and the tow were the same activation. Whew! This was starting to get ridiculous!

As we were approaching Hook Island, Alan called again. Whaaat!!!. Hayman Island had a medivac; a person with a badly infected foot. I was starting to lose count of the activations by this time but asked Alan if we could get him on the way back.

By this time the GPS position for our target boat was close and we had no problems finding them at 11.35. The breeze had picked up now and there was a bit of a chop so
the new heaving line was used to get the towline across then we quickly settled into the long tow back.

In the meantime, Alan (bless him) had been able to convince Queensland Ambulance
Service that us going all the way back to Coral Sea Marina to pick up a Paramedic … then back to Hayman … then back to Coral Sea Marina to drop off the patient… then off again to our friends in Turtle Bay … was not viable and that the patient could travel un-attended so we could pick him up on the way past. Whoopee. Sense prevails.

As we approached Hayman we spoke to the nurse who agreed to transfer the
patient out to us by RIB when we arrived, so that we didn’t have to try getting into the Marina with another vessel in tow. Another positive.

The water was nice and flat with little wind so the patient transfer was straightforward and we were on our way by 14.00. The tow was alongside us outside Coral Sea Marina at 15.00 then dropped off on the ramp jetty. But of course we weren’t finished yet!

Hope you’re keeping up here. 😃 At this point we still had a 28 tonne boat patiently waiting for a tow out in Turtle Bay so we did some shuffling around of crew. Alan had organised for Ray Lewis to take over as Skipper but Ryan and Terry opted to stay on for the next trip.

Thanks to a great crew and all the friendly and helpful people, particularly Alan in the Radio Room, who helped us get through our part of the day.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Terry Brown, Shane Gosselink
Skipper: Geoff Smith

Part 2 of this saga below…..


Activation 10/8/19 (2): Member broken down in Turtle Bay

It was mid-morning when I (Ray) received a call from Alan in the the Radio Room stating that Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was on it way to Hardy Reef for an activation but they also had a 59 foot – 29 tonne cruiser broken down at Turtle Bay to get back to. (At this stage I didn’t know about the Medivac to Hayman)

Alan asked…would I be available when VMR1 returned from the reef? Sure. It was 1430 when I received a call that our rescue vessel was passing Hayman Island to collect a patient, and would then be making their way back. That was my signal , so went to Coral Sea Marina at 1500 and prepared for the next activation.

Two of the crew (Ryan Cunningham and Terry Brown) who had been to the reef offered to come out on the next activation, so with Mitchell Edwards and myself we departed Coral Sea Marina at 1540 and made our way to Turtle Bay which is on the southern side of Whitsunday Island and just past Hamilton Island.

The conditions were about as perfect as you can get so we made good time and found the vessel at anchor exactly where we expected to see it. I deposited Mitchell on to it to complete the paperwork and attach a towline and then we started a long slow tow at 6 – 7 knots back to the Port of Airlie Marina where we slipped the tow line as the vessel was able to manoeuvre itself into its berth.

Picked up Mitchell and proceeded back to Coral Sea Marina to fuel up and wash down our vessel and were finished at 2040. What a day!

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Mitchell Edwards and Terry Brown
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 13/08/2019: Medivac from Paddle Bay

Paddle Bay

I was rugged up, warm and watching television when our 24/7 phone holder Bill called. He said that a (not so happy) camper at Paddle Bay on South Molle Island had scalded his leg and required medical attention. I threw on an extra jumper…plus a jacket…and picked up the car keys.

Arriving at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 I found Ron Roberts and Steve Norton chatting to a QAS officer while engaged in the pre-start checks, so we were quickly underway. Motored out of the marina at 2115 and headed over to Paddle Bay. Conditions were reasonable (but cold).

On arrival we launched the tender and Steve went ashore to retrieve the patient and bring him back to the boat. It was all fairly uneventful so after the QAS officer attended to the patient and made him comfortable, we returned to Coral Sea Marina to put VMR1 to bed. We were finished by 2240 and I for one couldn’t wait to get into my own warm bed.

Thanks to crew and QAS for their assistance.

Crew: Ron Roberts and Steve Norton
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 14/8/19: Medivac from Hayman

The call from Bill, our 24hr Emergency Phone Holder, came in at 12.20. A young male at Hayman Island has chest pains. I (Geoff S) got to the Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and all the work had been completed by our magic crew. Ryan was on board doing maintenance so he came along for the ride as did Don from Mackay VMR, in town for the races, and all the others!!

We were joined by 2 Paramedics then off we went to sunny Hayman at 12.50.
The tide was close to the bottom and it was gusting low 20’s so when we were clear of Pioneer Bay it got quite choppy. Murray got us to Hayman and alongside at 13.43. The patient arrived soon after and after a quick assessment, we set off at 14.03.
Approaching CSM we had to dodge a few race boats then slowly follow a stream of them into the Marina. Onto the fuel dock at 14.58 to offload our patient and Paramedics, then load 250 litres and off to our pen.

This was a little tricky as we had a race boat who berthed in front of us at the fuel dock and Apollo tightly moored astern of our berth. After we were alongside at 15.11, we helped Apollo move a little further up the dock to give us a bit more clearance.
Thanks to everyone for a professional job and making it look easy.

Crew: Murray , Shane, Terry, Paul and Ryan + Don, a guest from Mackay VMR
Skipper: Geoff S


Activation 17/8/19: 6.5m RIB had broken down in Dugong Inlet

It was 0850 and I (Geoff F) was having a cuppa & checking the scratchings for today’s races. I did have a plan that I would take my lady friend out for a counter lunch and then have a few bets, but Dave rang from the radio room to say that a 6.5m RIB had broken down in Dugong inlet. OK…change of plans.

By the time I rolled up to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 0930, the crew had completed most of the pre-start checks, so by 0940 we were heading out into a beautiful day with a 10-15 knot SE wind. Magic.
The coordinates I had been given seemed a little ‘suss’, so I rechecked them with the vessel. All good and we located the vessel, finding them to be in shallow waters. We launched our dinghy, & towed them out to VMR1.

It was a steady tow back to Coral Sea Marina at a cruisey 17knots. We dropped the tow at the ramp, refueled and were back to berth 1200. Big thanks to crew who let me run away while they completed shut down& clean up. I managed to make it in time for lunch, and backed a couple of winners!

Crew: Mitchel Edwards,Bill Hopton & Tony McNeill
Skipper: Geoff Fitzsimmons

Read about these activations soon after they happen….and see more photos taken from VMR1… PLUS read other people’s comments on the incident (or comment yourself).

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