February 2020

Activation 4/2/20 (1): Assist stranded vessel near Bird Island

It was 1:30pm and I (Marti) was contemplating what I was going to do for the afternoon when the phone rang. Roger (current phone holder) was on the end of the line with a mission at hand. Well, no more contemplating….this was it.

The mission I was offered (should I choose to accept it) was a stranded 4.5m pleasure craft requiring a tow back to Port of Airlie. The vessel was located south of Hayman Island adjacent to Bird Island on the eastern side of the reef.

Kenny was already onboard Whale Song VMR2 carrying out the prestart checks when I arrived, and a few minutes later we were launched (off the pontoon) and steaming out of the marina. We called VTS Whitsunday informing them of our departure details and task at hand and also made a quick call to Roger to get the vessel owners mobile phone.

Well, Kenny didn’t muck around once we cleared the channel markers, and soon we were up at 4200 revs in seconds doing 24knots and heading for Hayman.

Kenny and I didn’t chat much while we were engaged in getting safely and quickly on our way, but once we cleared Pioneer Rocks I had to say something…

“Wow… isn’t this bloody beautiful!”

The water was flat and in some places glassed out. We both agreed there and then that this was going to be a pleasure ride today. People might wonder about the personal value of volunteering. Well….here it is, right here. 

At 2.34pm we arrived at the stricken vessel to find 2 jolly fellows who had engine problems and could not get it restarted. No messing around, we sorted the paperwork got hitched up and started the journey back with vessel and happy fellows in tow.

Our next port of call was Port of Airlie to drop off our clients at their place of launching, and then we headed back to Coral Sea Marina to refuel and put VMR2 back on the pontoon and give her a wash down with fresh water.

What a lovely day to do a rescue. Couldn’t asked for better conditions and VMR2 has proved herself in performing the 2.5 hour task with speed and incredible fuel economy.

It’s always a good feeling when everything goes to plan. 🙂

Crew: Ken Bryce
Skipper: Marti Davy


Activation 4/02/20: Assist QAS in a medivac from Hamilton Island

We left CSM at 2105 hrs with 2 Paramedics on board, arriving at Hamilton Marina at 2155 hrs. We helped load the patient (on a stretcher – swapping our stretcher with theirs) onto VMR1, and departed Hamilton Island at 2220 hrs. We were unloaded and refuelled and back in our pen by 2335 hrs. Whitsunday VTS and Roger were notified of our completed task.

Crew: Bill Harrison (Snr Crew and Comms Officer), Ron Roberts and Shane Newell
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 8/2/20: 6.1m, 1/2 cab, 1POB, out of fuel & south of Double Cone.

Our 24 hr Emergency Phone holder, Roger, rang me (Geoff S) at 19.00. A poor unfortunate had been chasing that last decent fish before he came in, when he ran out of fuel. He was apparently anchored a couple of k’s south of Double Cone.

The conditions were perfect for Whale Song VMR2 so when the checks were done, we set off at 19.40. No wind, no seas and a full moon…just beautiful. We chased the Lat & Long down that our target had given Roger but found an empty sea. A phone call to our lonely fisherman proved he had drifted over 2 miles south on the flooding tide towards Hanna Point (Nth Mole).

By 20.25 we were alongside and quickly sorted out the paperwork, dropping him off at Coral Sea Marina ramp at 21.00. A quick fuel up and we got away at 21.30.

Thanks to all for a very easy trip and Tony and Ron for doing all the paperwork (not easy, as there is nowhere on VMR2 to put anything) as my reading glasses had gone walkabout.

Crew: Ron Roberts, Tony McNiel,
Skipper: Geoff Smith.


Activation 15/2/20 (1): An (almost) simple tow from Pioneer Rocks

It was 0500 when I (Marti) got the call, so luckily I was already in my ‘light sleep’ phase and it wasn’t too hard to wake up properly. Our 24/7 phone holder reported that a vessel was stranded just north of Pioneer Rocks and needed to be towed back to Port of Airlie.

No worries! I headed down to Coral Sea Marina to meet up with Ken and Bill, and together we completed the pre-checks for Whale Song VMR2. We departed at 5:18am as the sky was beginning to get light.

This probably should have been a simple enough exercise however there was some confusion as to the description of our target vessel’s whereabouts initially. Got it sorted quickly though with some co-ordinates provided by the client, and these were spot on.

An efficient attachment of our tow line and we were off to Port of Airlie. We experienced a little bit ‘messing around’ at the boat ramp pontoon as it was busy, but before long our relieved boaties were safely home.

Got back to Coral Sea Marina 0637 and after a quick wash-down I got to go home for breakfast. 😉

Crew: Ken Bryce, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Marti Davy


Activation 15/2/20 (2): Power boat broken down in Hook Passage

Coincidentally the most recent training session we attended prepared us extremely well for this activation i.e. manoeuvering VMR2 with VMR1 strapped along side. A David and Goliath job indeed! At that training session, ‘David’ (portrayed well by VMR2) had demonstrated that after some practice, she could ably handle the ‘Goliath’ VMR1.

Whale Song VMR2 had only just come back from an early morning activation when I (Ken) got the call at 0700 to assist a 10 mt Black Watch power boat which had broken down in Hook passage. So… with full confidence in VMR 2’s capabilities, we headed out.

Seas were flat and beautiful at that time of the morning. Just perfect. Before long we could see our target vessel in the distance. Paul and Bill soon had the tow line attached and we were about to find out how the 6.7 m VMR2 would handle this task.

We towed at a speed of 7.8 to 8.2 knots, and considering the distance was 33.7nm we made good time and were all pleasantly surprised with the speed we were making. We headed to Port of Airlie to dock the power boat into their SeaPen, and it all went off without a hitch.

Thankyou to my very able crew as every step of the tow was executed very professionally.
We returned to our berth, fueled up and were outa there by 1045hrs

Crew: Paul Martin, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 15/2/20 (3): Assist a 6.5 metre vessel broken down near Rattray Island

What a day! Two previous activations and then this turned into Activation Horribilis! And a request for a medivac on top! And another activation to Hook Passage! Whoa!

It was a nice relaxing day at home in the aircon until I (Mal) received a call from Emmett in the radio room about 1445. Whale Song VMR2 had already done 2 activations so far today, surely not another one? Yep, it was. A vessel with 5 pob had broken down near Rattray Island and was requesting assistance to get back to Dingo Beach.

I asked Emmett to put a crew together while I drove in. On the way in to the boat I received a call from phone holder Roger – we had been asked by QAS to do a medivac for a walk on patient at Hayman Island! Okay, that gets priority as the boat near Rattray was at anchor, but the weather was taking a major turn for the worst, with storm cells and thunderstorms closing in. Emmett was asked to call his customer to advise that we may be a few hours as our primary rescue boat Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was temporarily out of service, and they would have to wait until we had completed the medivac

By the time I got off the phone and arrived at the Marina, Bill and Shane had VMR2 nearly ready to go, but they were looking at me sideways as I was on the phone again talking about a medivac they knew nothing about. After telling them the change of plans, we met the paramedic just as the first rain squall arrived. She got on the phone to QAS to confirm that they still wanted us to do the medivac in our smaller VMR2 as it would likely be a wet and not very comfortable trip.

In the end she was directed to go across to Hayman on the 1600 ferry and bring the patient back on the return trip. A good decision as it turned out. Emmett was asked to let the Rattray people know we were on our way.

Right, so now we got ready to go to Rattray and Whale Song VMR2 left at 1520 heading for a set of coordinates that was about 10 miles past Rattray – this might be a long one!Conditions had changed from about 10 knots easterly on a pretty flat sea to an initial 10-15 knots from the south on a choppy sea, but not too bad.

As we got near Rattray, conditions had worsened to a 15-20 knots south to south wester, with a building wind swell…not too bad as it was more or less with us. We contacted the boat to confirm their position. Yep, another 10 miles to go. We were alongside at 1640, took mum and 1 child onto VMR2, and started the tow back to Dingo. It was very choppy, and we tried a number of times to get the towed boat on the plane for a faster tow of the 13-14 miles back to Dingo, but without success as there was too much weight with a total of 8 people on the two boats, and a chop that was frustrating those attempts.

As we passed Gloucester Passage we could see another gnarly squall coming towards us, with a lot of rain. Wet weather coats were handed out, and soon we had gone from a 6.5 knots tow speed to 2-3 knots as we were hit by a steady 30 knots and very short, sharp seas that at times had waves going right over VMR2. It was awful, and took away any chance we had of getting our charges to the tricky Dingo ramp before nightfall.

After what seemed like an eternity, conditions began to ease, and finally we were approaching the ramp which is poorly marked and with reefs either side. With the towed vessel now alongside us, we edged our way in but I soon aborted the attempt – too dark and we could not see any obstructions until we were almost on top of them, so sanity prevailed and discretion is the better part of valour!

Okay, the only option we had to get them to shore in the vicinity in an area which is surrounded by a lot of reef, was to take them into the Passage and near to Monte’s resort, anchor their boat for recovery in the morning, and take them to shore to be picked up. This was finally completed at 2040, nearly 5 hours after we started the activation – and we still had to get back to Coral Sea Marina.

At that moment Roger rang again – another activation! Oh no! A vessel was out of fuel in Hook Passage. After some to-ing and fro-ing he said he was happy to wait until morning, so we headed back, arriving at the fuel berth about 2130.

By the time we refuelled, put the boat on the dry dock, did the soggy paperwork and washed and secured the boat, it was 2200, and well past knock off and dinner (and well-earned beer) time.

Great job by Bill and Shane in very arduous conditions.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Shane Newell
Skipper: Mal Priday

Editors Note: We have received a note from the boat’s skipper that we would like to share:
“What a massive day for you all! We are so grateful to Bill, Shane and Mal for your time and efforts to ensure our family arrived home safely yesterday after being stuck in a bad situation.


Activation 24/2/20: Medivac x 2 from Hayman

It was a smidgen after 15:00 and I (Ken) had just completed packing shopping into the car with my wife when my phone rang with that familiar tone that tells me somebody needs rescuing.

On the line was 24/7 phone holder Bill Harrison who said “We have a medivac from Hayman. I will organise a crew and the Ambulance Officers will be there in 15 minutes.” Well, better get my skates on! I immediately returned home where I left my wife unpacking the car while I donned my uniform and headed to Coral Sea Marina VMR1.

On arrival I met up with Bill Hopton who was the first of the crew to arrive. We commenced the start up procedures as Shane and Paul also arrived to assist. In a very short time we were set up ready for the Medivac, and looking for our Paramedics. We didn’t have to wait long when two officers arrived with the news that the situation had escalated and we now had two patients to pick up on Hayman. Okey dokey….better get over there!

It was 15:40 when we left the marina and turned our bow toward Hayman. The seas were slight and our progress was good. We arrived at 16:30 and our Ambulance officers headed off to assess and take charge of their patients.

By 17:00 we had both patients settled on VMR1, with medical equipment hanging off overhead hand rails and medical officers in attendance. We made a beeline for Coral Sea Marina as speed was important. The sea had settled a little though and VMR1 was revelling in the conditions. we arrived CSM. at 17:57. The Ambulance officers were soon dispatched with their patients.

As soon as we arrived the patients were hurried into the waiting ambulance, and the crew refueled and cleared the cabin for future rescues. By now it was 18:30 and the tummy was rumbling so it was definitely time for dinner.

A big thank you to all…everything went smoothly like a well oiled machine which shows that practice makes perfect. Thank you Shane for handling the paper work.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Paul Martin and Shane Gosselink
Skipper: Ken Bryce


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