August 2022


Activation 03/08/2022: Tow 33 foot Catamaran with broken steering system.

I was trying to get some repairs done on my roof when the 24/7 emergency phone rang around 11am. A call from Whitsunday VTS, a 33 foot Catamaran had broken their steering system and were drifting near Pinnacle point Hook Island. I called a crew to get Coral Sea Marina VMR1 organised while I tidied up at home.

At 1130 we departed Coral Sea marina with 16 knots of wind and a moderate sea. As we headed around Pinnacle point there was not a vessel to be seen so we tried calling the vessel but no answer. A call to VTS gave us another position about half way down the eastern side of Hook Island and when we got there it was the same story. This time we managed to contact the vessel to get some visual sightings and finally caught up with them out from Hook Passage….with their outboard motor running and heading south ??? Some people really know how to make our job difficult.

As conditions were a little rough we threw a heaving line with the tow rope attached. Then towed them through Hook Passage into sheltered water where we tied up beside the vessel to fill out the paperwork and find out where to tow them to. A slow tow back to Pioneer bay where we rafted up beside them and anchored them just outside the Whitsunday Sailing Club, then returned to Coral Sea Marina to fuel up and berth our vessel.

Thanks to the crew.
Crew: Debbie Simpson, Laura Oates and Dick Filewood.
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 03/08/2022: Assist a member broken down west of Shaw Island followed immediately by an urgent medivac from Daydream Island.

I received a call from a member in an outboard vessel about 6 m, broken down 2km west of Shaw Island, about 33 miles from the marina. They said they were happy to remain on anchor overnight, but we decided to go now because we did not know what might come between now and morning.

James, Donna and Dick met me at the boat, and with James at the helm Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 1830 on a dropping tide and with a SE wind of 15-20 k. We had received a GPS coordinate but it was in decimal degrees, so James headed south while I looked for a site to convert the figures in to degrees and minutes – and found a very good one called that made the process easy. With the coordinates now plotted, James had a target.

We were with our target by 2000, but it was too rough to go alongside so Dick passed the hook and tow line across when we got close enough. We then took the strain while they raised their anchor, which took a few minutes as they were in about 30 metres of water. We got the tow underway by 2007, but after a few minutes decided to let out more tow line to better suit the conditions, and then maintained a steady and comfortable 15 knots all the way back to Coral Sea Marina.

Literally just as we were coming alongside to take them into the marina, the “Help” ringtone went off as 24/7 phone holder Ray called to see how long we were going to be as QAS had asked us if we were available for an urgent medivac from Daydream Island for an 8 month old baby with breathing difficulties. I said to give us 10 and we would be done, and he confirmed that the paramedics would be with us shortly. By 2220 we had put the vessel on the boat ramp jetty, and backed round in to the fuel dock just as out two paramedics arrived. They stepped on, Dick stepped off (it was his second long one for the day) and we were on our way 3 minutes later with a request to get to Daydream ASAP!

Full bore at over 29 knots to Daydream, tying up just 20 minutes later. Just after 2300 we were on our way back at not quite full noise with Dad and bub on board and being looked after by the paramedics, and we unloaded our grateful passengers by 2330 before refuelling and going back to our own berth for a washdown, paperwork and securing VMR1 ready for its next job.

These two were the 3rd and 4th activations within 24 hours! Nice work by James, Donna and Dick, and I think it was 3 out of 4 for James and 2 for Dick – great commitment.

Crew: James Roberts, Donna Deegan, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 04/08/2022: Medivac Hamilton Island

There we were, having a very relaxing night on our vessel “Code Zero”. I (Ken) was “night duty skipper”. 12:55 My emergency phone was ringing. Then it stopped, was this a pocket call? Surely not, at this time of night! I eventually managed to contact the emergency phone holder, Ray. It was a medivac from Hamilton Island, surprise, surprise.

01:00 with Ray, James and a paramedic on board Coral Sea Marina VMR1,we set off for Hamilton Island. Conditions were relatively flat and very black which made all the lights stand out beautifully. As we approached Pioneer Rocks, I asked James if he would like to take the helm. James took over and continued to our berth on Hamilton Island. Our usual berth was not available and the only place was a little tight. With the assistance of good deck-crew – Ray and I, James laid VMR1 alongside with ease, at 02:00.

The patient was ushered on board and we departed for Coral Sea Marina at 02:10. James had the helm for the return trip, docking at 03:10.

While James was assisting the paramedic with the patient and all the medical equipment, Ray and I proceeded to the fuel dock. At 03:45 after completing all the paperwork, we were heading home. My second home “Code Zero” via a short ride in the dinghy.

Nice work by everyone.

Crew: Ray Lewis, James Roberts.
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 05/08/2022: Fantastic weather with dozens of boats on the water and a member with 28 footer requiring a tow.

I was busy installing the emergency generator and cage at the Marine club. Ray had come down to lend me his far superior hammer drill. Then there was the emergency phone ringing in Ray’s pocket. Perfect I had one hole to drill, pack up my equipment and I am ready for an activation.

The stricken vessel was at bait reef. Wonderful I was thinking. Unfortunately being a non member, the cost was going to be substantial. He declined to be towed as he could not afford it. Should have thought of this and paid $100 to be a member ($80 per year plus an initial $20.00 new member joining fee).

Okay so I packed up my tools and headed home. The image I saw when I looked in the mirror at home was not what I expected. My face was covered in cement dust. Into the shower and my emergency phone was ringing. It was Ray again. We have a member requiring a tow. He is near the causeway. It is a 28 footer. He had given Ray a LAT/ Long which was on top of Whitsunday island. We ignored that.

With Bill and Dick onboard Coral Sea Marina VMR1, we departed at 14:05 In what could only be described as Absolutely magnificent weather. We had our target in site at 14:20. We rafted along side, Dick connected the large Tom’s hook and we were ready to commence the tow, While Bill completed all the paperwork. Our target vessel did not have an operational VHF radio. 14:40 we were on our way at 15 knots in flat conditions.

15:25 we arrived outside the lateral marks to raft the target next to us before proceeding to the public wharf. With towing flag billowing in the breeze as we rafted other vessels passed by creating a huge wash which was nearly overpowering our generous supply of fenders. Dick made a “Say Cure e tay” call as we entered. We had a yacht ahead, Hayman Ferry to our stern. As we entered the pond there were other vessels milling around. It was like a circus. Hayman Ferry stood back to allow us to moor the stricken vessel. Thankyou.

The other vessels had no direction, it appeared as if they were just stationary at all sorts of angles. I reversed VMR1 through the vessels to near Hawkes lift, then proceeded back to our pen. I was watching the Hayman ferry spin and negotiate the traffic. Did the other vessels give room. Not a hope in hell.

Thankyou to my crew on this fabulous day.

Senior Crew: Bill Hopton, Comms Crew: Dick Filewood
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 05/08/2022: VMR2 to the rescue. Never underestimate your fuel consumption.

Another beautiful afternoon, sun is shining, a gentle zephyr whispers through the trees, I’m enjoying a siesta, the sound of brass trumpets filtered through my head. It was Ray, our 24/7 phone holder, “have a vessel out of fuel in the passage, will send details to your phone, I’ll get a crew for you.” Enough said, swapping my T-shirt for high vis, thongs for shoes, donning a hat and grabbing my sunnies, I’m off to Coral Sea marina. The only challenge I faced was finding a parking spot, the marina was jam packed! As luck would have it; a large ute was just pulling out, MINE! Making my way to Whale Song VMR2 a familiar face greets me, young Terry Clarke.

We quickly make ready and launch VMR2 to a set of coordinates, South south west of Hook Island. VMR2 was in a happy place as the seas were slight and we were heading almost due north to rendezvous with the target vessel; as we approached the coordinates we spotted a likely vessel a few hundred metres east of the location, you little beauty, it was our target.

The poor fellow asked if we had any spare fuel, No. We are not permitted to carry spare fuel for unlucky seafarers, so, a tow it was to be the solution. Paperwork done, the owner was a member of VMR, therefore his tow was free. Very few people realise that with membership you actually get a “get out of jail free card”, nah, joking, we will tow you for 4 hours, once each year. It pays to belong! We commenced the tow, hopes of a good, swift tow back to Coral Sea marina vanished within moments, our best speed was 7 knots, fortunately our journey was a mere 10 nautical miles.

We arrived and rafted the vessel alongside for entry to the marina, made our way to the public jetty and said farewell to our charges. We proceeded to refuel, then putting VMR2 back on the floating dock, a quick wash down and completion of paperwork. All done, time to go home.

Skippers, please remember to plan your trip giving emphasis to fuel; there is nothing worse or more embarrassing than running out of fuel just 10 nautical miles short of your destination.

My thanks to Ray Lewis for the latitude and longitude and telephone number of our quarry, and to Terry Clarke for his safe and steady approach to the towing operation and crewing.

Crew: Terry Clarke
Skipper: Paul Martin


Activation 06/08/2022: Medivac from Hayman Island

It was 20:30, when Roger our 24 hour emergency phone holder, called to say, “we have a medivac from Hayman Island”. James and I (Ken) arrived to find Bill had most of the prestart procedures completed. The paramedic arrived shortly after. We had a child with breathing difficulties to assist.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 21:00 in absolute perfect conditions. Bill had completed all the lower deck duties and was now on the bridge, so I asked if he would like to helm. With James and Bill on the bridge, I took a moment to get an update from the paramedic.

21:55 we were docked at Hayman Island. The young patient and family were brought on board. The paramedic took control and I was advised that we could head for home, 22:05 With James on the helm, we departed Hayman Island. We were just appreciating these conditions and reminiscing about the number of times when the conditions were extremely rough.

23:05 at CSM, another paramedic had arrived to assist with a rapid transition of the young patient. Now to refuel ready for our next activation. This night, may well have more instore for us. So its off to bed to get some sleep.

Thankyou to all involved.

Senior crew: Bill Hopton and James Roberts
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation07/08/2022: Assisting a breakdown, investigating fires and a spot of whale watching – all in an afternoon.

I received a call from Sandra at the radio room. A member was broken down at the southern end of Stonehaven Bay on Hook Island and required a tow back to Coral Sea Marina.

A crew was organised and Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 1300. We had 13 knots of wind, a moderate sea and a beautiful day as we headed for Baird point. Halfway across the passage we received a message from Sandra that the that Water police had requested us to investigate a fire at Armit Island that someone at Earlando’s resort could see. A sharp turn to port had us heading there.

Along the way we noticed a couple of whales spouting. Getting closer to Armit island we could see a small bush fire burning so we pulled into the anchorage. We spoke to people on a boat there, who said that the fire had been burning all morning and they had gone ashore but could not do anything about it. As no persons or vessels were in danger we reported back to base and departed for Baird Point. As we rounded Armit Island we saw an adult whale and a calf ahead, who was continuously breaching so we stopped to let them pass before continuing on.

At Baird point we rafted up beside the vessel, completed the paperwork then started the tow back to CSM where we disconnected our towline, and he was able to use his Minn Kota electric motor to get to the boat ramp.

We refuelled, drove back to our berth to wash down etc at 1620, thanks to James on the helm and Ross and Delton as crew.

Crew: James Roberts, Ross Vlismas and Delton Keepa
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 10/08/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

I received a call from QAS around 1700 requesting a medivac from Hamilton Island at 1900. I contacted a crew and we all managed to have dinner and be at the marina to have Coral Sea Marina VMR1 prepped before the QAS officer arrived. At 1915 we departed Coral Sea Marina for Hamilton Island with Barry on the helm, Barry is doing his Coxswain’s Certificate so I gave him some instructions through the manoeuvring and night navigation for the trip.

A little rough on the way over so we slowed to 16 knots, otherwise it was a an uneventful round trip. After picking up the patient and his wife we returned to CSM to disembark our passengers, refuel VMR1 and return to our berth to wash down and complete the paperwork about 2020.

Thanks to Barry and deck hand Dick for a smooth activation.

Crew: Barry Lake, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 14/08/2022: Conduct a search at the request of the Police for 3 youths reported as overdue.

I received a call from the Police Search Coordinator in Mackay just after 2100, asking for VMRW to conduct a search for 3 lads reported overdue from a fishing trip in the Whitsundays. It was good to hear that they had told one of the mothers where they were going to go, fishing around Olden, Armit and Double Cone Islands, but had not returned, and she reported them as overdue to the Police, and they had requested our assistance. By 2140 Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was on its way with a crew of Ray, Michel and James, and myself as skipper.

The weather was beautiful, a light E/SE wind of about 5 knots and a full moon, it was lovely as we made our way to go around Double Cone, then Armit, then Gumbrell using searchlights and FLIR, but without any sign of the youths or their 4.3m boat. We were setting course to check Olden when the Police called to say that we could stand down, the lads’ boat had been left high and dry on a very low tide and had finally floated free on the rising tide and they had moved back into phone range and called to say they were on their way back to Airlie Beach.

That was good news on a couple of counts, one was that they were safe, the other was it meant we could head home to bed without having to get up again at dawn to resume the search! With James at the helm, we returned to the marina to refuel before we returned to our own berth, secured and cleaned VMR1, and headed home about 0030 after nearly 3 hours on the search. Thanks crew, great job as usual.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Michel del Aguila and James Roberts
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 16/08/2022: Medivac from Hayman Island.

At 1127 I received a call from QAS advising that we were required for a Medivac at Hayman Island. I was at Woolies doing some shopping and looking forward to lunch, but duty calls…so I organised a crew with instructions to have Coral Sea Marina VMR1 prepped for when I got there. When I arrived at the marina berth VMR1 was ready to go and we had a QAS officer plus a trainee on board so we departed Coral Sea Marina at 1207 into a beautiful sunny day with light winds and a flat sea and not far out we had to go around the bottom of a group of yachts competing in Airlie Race Week.

On the way over with Donna on the helm we sighted some whales in the distance but nothing close. I took VMR1 into the Hayman Island marina where we picked up our patient and partner and returned to CSM to off load our passengers, refuel and berth VMR1 at 1435.

Thanks to Donna on the helm and crew of Michel and Dick for a smooth activation.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Donna Deegan, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Ray Lewis.


Activation 18/08/2022: Very early trip to Hamilton Island for a medivac.

An early morning boat trip was heralded by my phone calling out my emergency ringtone at 02.45

A quick trip to Hamilton Island for a medivac, count me in.

With my crew of Ray, also our 24hour emergency phone holder, and Barry as well as a paramedic we departed Coral Sea Marina at 03.25 into a crisp but clear morning with a light E/S/E and flat seas, just beautiful.

Barry drove as training for his coxswains certificate and within an hour we were berthing in a very full Hamilton Harbour. Our patient was soon comfortable so we set out on our return journey in once again ideal conditions.

With an easy patient assist ashore, refuel and return to our berth for washdown, paperwork and shutdown, we were on our way home for breakfast by 06.15

Thanks again to the crew.

Crew: Ray Lewis and Barry Lake.
Skipper: Ron Roberts.


Activation 18/08/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

The best laid plans by mice and men…actually I really had nothing planned for the evening other than relaxation! Ray, our 24/7 emergency phone holder called, a Medivac from Hamilton Island. Ok, a quick trip home to change and back to Coral Sea marina to get Coral Sea VMR1 ready for a delightful starry night’s jaunt to Hamilton Island. The crew of Michel, Donna and Brie soon arrived, all preparations were complete, we awaited the arrival of our assigned paramedic.

While the yacht racing event, Airlie Beach Race Week had finished and participants celebrated their good fortune or otherwise. The generally roomy mooring fields were jam packed with vessels of all description, essentially extending the required 6 knot speed limit some hundreds of metres past the end of the leads, no short cuts to the Marina tonight!

Our transit to Hamilton Island was thankfully uneventful, with whales and calves in the local environs, our lookouts were on high alert, no-one wants to wake a sleeping whale, let alone hit one! Our arrival at Hamilton Island marina witnessed another first for this skipper, our normal dock was fully occupied so our dock was to be at the ferry terminal, no problem docking, but one heck of a big step down to the deck of VMR1! The paramedics and patient were awaiting our arrival, the patient was quickly escorted to the saloon and made comfortable while the assembled paramedics discussed treatment, the handoff was lengthy.

Once more we ventured into the darkness, no whales, no calves, no weather, no problems, a delightful journey. The crew did an outstanding job, Michel overseeing the crew, Donna on communications and Brie as deck crew performed admirably, no upsets, no worries; a well trained and efficient group of volunteers working as a team.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, Donna Deegan, Brie Sherow
Skipper: Paul Martin


Activation 18/08/2022: Medivac from vessel at Beach 25

It was 16:00, I (Ken) was on my way to training when Ray called me, to advise that we had a medivac. Well, that was a problem as we had 17 people coming to this training session. This was a case of the early bird catches the worm. So, some early arrivals had the opportunity to join us on this medivac.

With the paramedic and 5 crew on board we departed at 16:45. I had advised most of the crew that training was cancelled. After a quick call to Marlene for assistance, everyone now was informed re training status.

17:33, we were at Beach 25, calling our target as there were 7 vessels on anchor there. The paramedic boarded the other vessel to check on the patient. The patient and partner were then transferred to Coral Sea Marina VMR1.

17:50, we were on our way to Coral Sea Marina. The sea conditions were near perfect. 18:40 we docked, Barry assisted with all the ambulance equipment, while we moved to the fuel dock to refuel and we were now ready for the next activation.

Thankyou to all the crew, some with specific tasks and others filling the gaps, well done. Training on the job, you cannot get any better.

Crew: Ray Lewis (Senior Crew), Dick Filewood (Comms), James Roberts, Barry Lake and Sandy Gowland
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 19/08/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island for man with severe pains

It was such a beautiful day here in paradise, and I was in the middle of getting rid of some weeds (well, spraying them) when I got the call from phone holder Ray about 10am – “QAS had asked us to do a medivac, was I available?” Did not have to think about it much and I was soon on my way to meet Bill, Barry and Dick, and the paramedics had just boarded before me. By 1025 Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was on its way in about 5 knots of breeze and blue skies with Bill on the helm, and he was kept busy dodging the many yachts heading over to Hamilton for Race Week.

By 1120 we had squeezed our way into a vacant berth beside the large power boat that our patient lived on, and after the paramedics had him on board we were on our way back to Coral Sea – and he used to be my neighbour, small place Australia! We had to dodge a few more yachts on the way back, and were able to disembark the patient and the paramedics by 1225. Then it was refuel and back to our own berth for a cleanup and paperwork, before heading home to a late lunch at 1300.

We were able to treat the paramedics to a bit of a whale show on the way over but did not have time to stop – mum and calf breaching, tail slaps and fin slaps – awesome, but too far away for a decent photo. Oh, and it was nice to see Hamilton by day for a change – most medivacs are in the middle of the night.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Barry Lake, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 19/08/2022: Break down tow on a dark night

It was Friday night, I (Ken) was turning off a shocker of a movie, when my emergency phone was ringing. Fantastic, it was Ray one of our dedicated 24 hour phone holders. We have a rescue! Yes, I am on my way. James called to pick me up. 20:20 we were onboard Coral Sea Marina VMR1. I had extra crew as Paul also bored, decided to join us for some excitement.

We had a Latitude and Longitude of our target vessel a 6 metre runabout drifting North East of Hayman island. When given these positions I always ask myself will they really be there? VMR1 is very well equipped for dark night search and rescue.

20:30 we departed Coral Sea Marina, the sea conditions were fantastic. We hadn’t gone far when I decided that this was a night for James, a budding Coxswain, to be on the helm. I could then sit back and study the equipment on this rather black night.

21:30 there was our target, very close to where they said they were. James manoeuvred VMR1 along side while the crew, led by Paul, organised the mooring lines and tow-line. First, there is the paper work. They were members, so that was going to save them money. Their batteries were flat, one was 8 volts. Now, that is something that just does not instantly occur. Guys you need to do some maintenance before you head out to fish.

21:50 with the tow-line attached, James was powering up and heading for Port of Airlie. The tide was dropping, so it was going to be a little shallow near the boat ramp when we arrive. 22:55 James was carefully laying out target vessel on the dock. The crew were ready on the lines. Paul was doing circus tricks on the bow retrieving the paper work.

Now, to refuel. A wash down, all paperwork complete, ready for home 24:00.

Thankyou to all. Another great rescue.

Crew: James Roberts (Senior), Paul Martin (Assistant Skipper), Donna Deegan (Comms), Brie Sherow (Trainee)
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 21/08/2022: Double header medivac to Hamilton Island in daylight hours on a beautiful sunny day, witnessing the amazing spectacle of VMR1 being surrounded by sailing vessels.

Sunday morning at 08:45, I (Ken) received a call from Alan at our radio base. We have a medical emergency on Hamilton island. “Okay, I am on my way”. While Alan gathered the crew I headed to Coral Sea Marina VMR1.

On arrival, there on board was Ray and James. Ray was conducting a Colregs briefing with James. I suggested that they join us and conduct the briefing on the way.

09:00 with the paramedic and the rescue crew on board we departed Coral Sea Marina heading for Hamilton island. The wind was around 20 knots and we were heading into it. The sea conditions were pretty good a little lumpy as we crossed the passage. It was race day for Hamilton Island so I expected to be surrounded by yachts.

As we approached the harbour, the passage between Hamilton Island and Dent Island was packed with jostling yachts. Fortunately most of them were not sailing. So “The Road Rules” apply to everyone, as a power driven vessel.
Well, that is how it should be according to the Colregs. However, all mariners have to be prepared for the unexpected at all times. We had two medical emergencies awaiting the paramedics attention, so on we went.

There was a slight standstill in the very crowded harbour, when I had to conduct traffic by pointing where I wanted some vessels to go. Fortunately, everyone moved accordingly and we had a very simple berthing operation.

Once we were stopped, I looked around. I have never seen Hamilton Island almost devoid of vessels. Every dock was littered with baggage and unwanted ballast that the racers had left behind.

The paramedic had his hands full with two patients as we departed at 11:00

The timing of our exit from the harbour was perfect. The sailing fleet had been split in to two, leaving a gap in the middle for VMR 1 to slip into. What an amazing sight, with all the vessels ahead of us with their spinnakers up and those behind raising their spinnakers. I think every one of my crew were taking pictures.

As VMR1 negotiated her way past the hundred sailing vessels, we were thinking, how lucky are we as Volunteers. Normally we would be tearing along on a pitch black night, carrying out these medivacs. Here we were, on a beautiful sunny day, witnessing this amazing spectacle.

12:00 we docked in Coral Sea Marina. Another ambulance and paramedic were waiting. The carers and paramedics thanked us for our prompt attention.

Refuel and back to our berth. 12:50 ready for home.

Thankyou to all on board, we appreciate your commitment.

Crew: Barry Lake, Mike Doney, Avi Fridman, James Roberts and Ray Lewis (as ever filling in the gaps).
Skipper: Ken Bryce.


Activation 22/08/2022: Triple medivac from Hamilton Island

Here’s one for efficiency!

13.09 when my emergency ring tone blasted stridently through the house. Ray informed me we had a triple medivac from Hamilton Island. Three separate incidents each had patients and carers to be transported back to Airlie beach. This is going to busy in the cabin on the return journey, but then that is what Coral Sea Marina VMR1 is built for.

As a bonus, this was in the middle of Hamilton Island raceweek as an avid yacht racer I knew it would be spectacular as we approached the Islands.

13.45 we departed Coral Sea Marina with Barry in control and Ray, Dick and our Paramedic in the cabin below. As we rounded Roma Point and began our journey across Whitsunday Passage the scene was amazing. Horizon to horizon yachts, racing hard in all directions and at different speeds. Some with colourful spinnakers flying, all beautiful, but posing a multi dimensional maze we needed to safely pass through, at speed. Here we go. Actually getting into Hamilton Harbour close to the race finish line and amongst dozens of yachts, some finished and dropping sails, some still fighting for their best finish and some trying to get back into the marina and then manouvre into their berths was just awesome. Busy, busy, busy but incident free, just.

Picking up our 3 patients was a bit anticlimactic after that, but once achieved it was back into the slightly reduced fray for our journey home.

The excitement wasn’t over yet though. During our crossing of Whitsunday Passage we noted a sailing catamaran drifting close by South Molle Island for quite some time with no sails up and no-one visible on deck. A brief detour gave us the best answer. 3 people on the transom steps with a large freshly caught fish flapping around their feet. A smile and a wave and we completed or journey back to drop off patients, refuel, washdown and prep for our next activation. We were finished by 16.40.

Quite an afternoon on the water. Many thanks to the crew, once again.

Until next time, your skipper, Ron.
Remember, good seamanship is a lot about being polite, in salt water.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Barry Lake, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 23/08/2022: Assist QAS with a medivac from Hamilton Island that turned into 2 medivacs with 1½ trips to Hamilton in the early hours.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 had just returned from about a 4 hour tow from Turtle Bay, with Ray as skipper. He called me as 24/7 phone holder just before midnight which woke me and could only mean a callout, probably for a medivac. And it was.

I was soon on my way in to meet Ray and Michel, and after Ray assisted the paramedics down to the boat we also took on board two boys in blue to assist the paramedic as requested by QAS, if required. By 1230 Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was on its way again, the night was very black (inside of a cow job, with its tail down) with little or no wind, so it was around South Molle and straight to the marina at Hamilton, berthed by 0125.

5 or 6 minutes later and we were on our way back, and were about to line up for Unsafe Passage when things changed – at 0200 Ray advised that QAS had requested we return to Hamilton for an additional patient, maybe 2, so it was reverse course and back to Hamilton, tying up again at 0230. Still not even a hint of a moon.

This time the patient was helped down to the boat by the paramedics and the boys in blue, who confirmed that there would not be a third patient, and we were underway again by 0240, following our initial course back around South Molle. There was a bit more breeze as we rounded Pioneer Point, a very cold Sou’wester that also brought a bit of fog with it, and we tied up at the marina at 0335 to discharge our 5 passengers, refuel and return to the berth to shutdown, secure and clean VMR1 for its next job.

VMR1 had been on the water for about 8 hours or so virtually non-stop, and it should be noted that Ray was on the water all of that time. Great job by Ray and Michel, and we headed for home and some well-earned sleep, particularly for Ray, at 0400.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Michel del Aguila
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 23/08/2022: Catamaran hit reef in Turtle Bay and taking in water.

A late afternoon emergency call, 16.09, started a rush to VMR1. A sailing catamaran had hit the reef in Turtle Bay and was taking in water faster than the pumps could handle. I was already in my ute and only 5 minutes away.

This was a rush job, it is much easier to prevent a sinking than to lift a boat up from the bottom. Reports were that there were no injuries, so it would be prepare the pumps while we made best speed to their position, knowing it would be 90 minutes at normal travel speed to get there.

Smooth seas and calm conditions helped as crew member James helmed Coral Sea Marina VMR1 out of our berth and made good speed to the stated position of the sinking vessel. We got there in 60 minutes.

We got there in time!

A rapid rafting up and transfer of our big de-watering pump was gratefully received by the crew on the holed yacht, and after a quick assessment by myself and Mike, we had things set up and pumping overboard from the engine compartment where the major ingress was.

Then came the nervous wait to see if we were gaining and pumping out faster than the sea was coming in….Yes, we were winning. So far so good.

Our next effort was to see if we could tow them without making things worse. YES. 5 to 6 knots was achievable safely in the smooth conditions. We had stationed Mike on board her to monitor water levels and control the pumps for the return journey and established radio communication protocols for emergency.

Also organized was a shore team to be ready and waiting at an empty double berth back at Coral Sea Marina, they would also spend the night onboard to monitor until the catamaran could be emergency lifted out by Hawkes Boatyard at the high tide in the morning.

James remained on the helm for the 3 hour tow and then performed a faultless docking maneuver to turn and reverse the two vessels tied side by side into a space with less than 1 metre clearance either side. Excellent vessel control, well done.

After that it was back to the routine of refuel, return to our normal berth, wash down, including the pump, paperwork and prepare VMR1 for her next activation.

A superb effort by the crew with the best possible outcome. Thank you gentlemen for your time and expertise.

Until next time, your skipper, Ron.

Crew: James Roberts, Ray Lewis and Mike Doney.
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 25/08/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

Another cold snap gripped the Whitsundays, the temperature dropped like a proverbial stone with the setting of the sun. We had completed our weekly training, congratulating one and all for yet another session successfully completed. The conversation soon turned to the prospect of a night activation; the wind was southeasterly at approximately 10 knots, no moon to be seen, falling tide. Yep, time for bed and hope in our hearts that all is well, sleep a welcome friend. Not a chance! Ray our devoted 24/7 phone holder was calling, a medical evacuation from Hamilton Island was our prize tonight.

Preparations for departure were soon well underway, Donna was busy with instrumentation, vessel log and communications, Shane soon arrived and addressed the engines and completed the log entries for the pre departure checks. Our Paramedic was soon on the scene; all assembled, time to go.

Shane took the helm, setting course for Unsafe Passage. We anticipated a less than a comfortable transit through Whitsunday Passage, wind against tide always makes for a lively helm. This time of year poses a new and sometimes exciting challenge, don’t hit a whale! The waning crescent moon phase was absolutely no help, my hope was that any dozing whale in our path would hear the throb of our engines and glide beneath the waves away from our intrusion.

Upon reaching our destination, we were directed to the ferry dock as the marina was full to overflowing with yachts participating in the annual race week. Paramedic, patient and carer were awaiting us. The transfer was quickly handled and our return journey to Coral Sea marina commenced. Coral Sea VMR1 was soon slicing the swell, wind with tide makes for a very smooth passage. We discharged our passengers, refuelled and washed the salt from our vessel, bidding a weary farewell at 0215 hours.

Many thanks to my crew who performed with efficiency and confidence; Shane did an outstanding job on the helm and made good, timely decisions, Donna kept VTS informed of our passage, and worked the deck, well done to both, making my job so much easier.

Crew: Shane Newell, Donna Deegan
Skipper: Paul Martin


Activation 26/08/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island for a person with heart attack symptoms

This was a medivac actually during daylight hours and not in the middle of the night! 24/7 Phone holder Ray set off the “Help” ringtone just after 1130, for a medivac from Hamilton Island with a person suffering a possible heart attack.

The crew of Shane, Michel and Barry had the boat ready to go pretty quickly, and with our paramedic and a paramedic trainee on board, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 set off at 1205 with newly qualified coxswain Shane Newell at the helm. Conditions initially were better than expected in 20-25 knots plus as we went along the Molle Channel and around the bottom of South Molle Island, but by the time we were in the middle of Whitsunday Passage the wave action had increased markedly and we were soon down to 11-12 knots. At that stage we bore away to aim at the northern end of Henning and were able to increase speed, and as we moved into the lee of Henning Shane had us up to normal cruise speed of 22-23 knots

We were pleased to see that most of the race fleet were still racing off in the distance as we approached Hamilton and moved to what we are starting to refer to as “our berth” near the travel lift by 1305. After boarding the patient and his carer we were under way again 15 minutes later for what we expected to be a better ride with the wind and waves, and we adjusted our speed to make it as comfortable as possible. We were treated to a mother and calf humpback having a play near Dent as we entered the Passage.

1420 saw us alongside at the marina, and after waiting for the paramedics to get the stretcher from their ambulance, transferring the patient and assisting them up the ramp (quite steep at the bottom of the tide) with the patient and their gear, we were able to move to refuel before heading back to our usual berth for the necessary clean up and paperwork. All done by 1515 and on the way home.

Thanks to Shane, Michel and Barry, a nice professional job again for about our 94th medivac for the year.

Crew: Shane Newell, Michel del Aguila, Barry Lake
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 28/08/2022: Medivac for solo sailor who had fallen down into his yacht and had seriously injured his leg.

I received a call from Diane at the radio base that we were required for a medivac outside of Coral Sea Marina. Ken our boat maintenance person was outside doing a test run on our tender when he received a call from a friend that a solo sailor had fallen down into his yacht and had seriously injured his leg. Ken advised the person to call 000 and organise QAS and VMR Whitsunday to send out a crew to assist while he went to the yacht to provide any immediate assistance.

With Shane on the helm of Coral Sea Marina VMR1 plus Barry and a QAS officer we headed out of the marina at 1342. We found the yacht out from the southern entrance to CSM. The QAS officer went on board to assess the patient and fit a pneumatic splint to the patient’s leg.

The next part was a long and difficult extraction of the patient which took over a half an hour. The person had to be lifted a fair way up through a narrow companionway and into a crowded cockpit, where the team slid him onto a backboard. After that Ken had to remove an arm from the spray dodger plus one of the wires from the safety rail before we could pass him over to VMR1 and then place him inside the cabin for the journey to the waiting ambulance.

Even thought it was blowing 20 knots in the passage, luckily we were sheltered for our return trip as the patient was in a lot of pain. We berthed inside CSM and transferred the patient on the backboard to a waiting QAS stretcher and ambulance.

We returned to our berth washed down and were finished at 1600, this medivac had it’s challenges and thanks to a very efficient crew plus the QAS officer it was completed successfully.

Crew: Shane Newell at the helm, Ken Bryce and Barry Lake assisting.
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 30/08/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island.

This time I was driving when my earpiece let me know VMRW was needed. Ray advised we had a medivac from Hamilton Island and I was even driving in the right direction. “I am on the way.”

With our paramedic and crew of Michel, Dick and Mike aboard we headed out into 30 knot winds and a counter tide. This was going to bumpy, so I asked Mike if he would like to increase his skill base and drive us to our destination. On the job training with me by his side as mentor, he handled it well. Yes it was lumpy and at times we were down to 14 knots boat-speed instead of our usual 24.

We found our usual berth although Hamilton Harbour was still busy after their recent race week.

The trip home should be much gentler with the tide now still and the wind behind us

We soon had our patient aboard and comfortable, so headed back to Coral Sea Marina to discharge patient and paramedic and we then went into our regular return routine. Refuel, return to berth, wash-down, paperwork and put the boat to bed ready for our next activation.

Mike drove the return journey as well, and Michel and Dick looked after our guests and the rest of the boat. Thanks for a great job guys. All up 10.00 until 13.00.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Dick Filewood, Mike Doney
Skipper: Ron Roberts.


Activation 31/08/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island.

Yes, I had just finished an early dinner after a long day on the water delivering a 50 foot racing yacht, and yes that was the VMR emergency ring tone in my ear.

Yes, Ray, I’m happy to do a medivac from Hamilton Island at 19.30 on a dark and blowy night. So as Ray was organizing crew I changed into the uniform and headed to Coral Sea Marina.

James had got there first and was going through prestart checks, soon to be Joined by Brie and Mike. Once our paramedic was on board we headed out into a bouncy sea on a dark night and the knowledge of multiple pods of whales and calves in the area. There was strong focus on radar and FLIR as James steered us on a course to avoid the worst of the seas.

Docking and accepting our patient aboard was standard procedure, then it was back into slightly better condition for the return trip as the wind was now mostly behind us. Time for some night steering training for Brie. Learning the intricacies of night steering by instruments can be daunting, but she handled it well.

Our arrival back at Coral Sea Marina was also a normal event, and with patient and paramedic ashore, we did the usual refuel, return to our berth, wash-down, clean up, paperwork and prep for the next activation.

Thanks again to the crew for volunteering another 3 hour slice of their lives to the service of someone they didn’t know but who just needed some help.

Crew: James Roberts, Brie Sherow, Mike Doney
Skipper: Ron Roberts.