January 2019

Activation 3/1/19: Assist a member with electrical problems

I (Geoff S) got the call from Roger, our Emergency Phone Holder at 16.30. Apparently a member anchored in Palm Bay off Long Island couldn’t get his engine going, and he had four adults, a small child and a baby on board.

By the time I got to the boat all the checks were done and we got under way at 17.00 in very nice conditions. As we rounded Pioneer Point, the tide had started to stir things up and the wind was gusting 25’s at Hammo so by the time we were passing Shute we had a nice lumpy wind against tide….always fun. 😒

We got to Palm Bay and close in it was delightfully quiet. Our target was just off the beach so we entered the channel. The tide was about 1.5 above LAT and the lowest we saw in the channel was 3.0 so even a 0 tide gives us 1.5 under the keel. We are happiest when there is water under the keel. 😀

Bill got the heaving line onto the vessel and in no time we had the tow line hooked up. There isn’t much room inside the reef so we reversed out of the lagoon and up the channel with the tow off the bow. Once we were in deep water, we transferred 3 adults and the kids across to us, sorted the tow to the correct end of VMR1 and did the paperwork.

We had a straightforward tow home with Ryan at the wheel. Even the seas were easier with the wind behind us and we had them back by 18.55. Thanks to a very well co-ordinated crew and the cheerful passengers for a top afternoon and the first activation for 2019.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Kym Jolly and Bill Hopton
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 4/1/19: Respond to an EPIRB activation and radio call from vessel at Armit Island

I (Mal) was on the way home when the Beatles came on with the HELP ringtone – 24/7 phone holder Roger Wodson had been asked by the police to investigate an EPIRB activation near Armit Island, and had also received a phone call from radio operator Elet at Hamilton Island Marina as she had received a request for assistance from a vessel over the Hamilton channel 68. Not likely to be the same vessel as Hamilton is at the other end of the Whitsunday Passage and radio coverage to Armit would be most unlikely, but you never know…..

When I arrived at Abell Point Marina VMR1 I was pleased to see Ray Lewis was already on board giving an induction to new trainee John, and that the engines were already on – Ray and John decided to join the other crew and after completing our checks we departed at 1050. In the meantime I had called Elet who confirmed that it was the same vessel, so that was good news. All we had to do then was get to them as it sounded like they were drifting near shore. VMR1 was cruising comfortably at 27-28 knots in the 25+ knot south-easterly and moderate seas, with an outgoing tide.

Next problem – after getting to their first reported position we found – nothing!! Another call to Elet and Marty at Hamilton and they got an updated GPS position while we searched for what we thought could have been persons in the water by that time, but that position was nearly 8 miles away! Another call to Hamilton Marina got us the third set of coordinates, and there they were anchored in the lee of Armit, at 1125, 2 pob and 2 dogs. They were able to come out to us using an electric trolling motor, and after taking them alongside and moving to more shelter we had the paperwork completed and were under way at 1140 – in the opposite direction from Abell Point, towards Dingo Beach.

Arriving at Jonah’s Bay at 1210, their friends came out to meet them in another boat and towed them to shore while we started back to Abell Point, making 20-22 knots against the sea and the tide and arriving at the fuel berth at 1320 for a refuel, then back to our own berth for a washdown and cleanup before shutting down at 1350. Nice job by all the crew and a baptism of fire for John. Thank you also to Elet and Marty at Hamilton Island Marina for their assistance and relaying messages, it was much appreciated.

NOTE: Activation of an EPIRB for a simple breakdown is clearly frowned upon, as it engaged resources from AMSA in Canberra, local police, water police as well as VMR Whitsunday. At least they had one, but this activation also stresses the need to give your vessel location (NOT the cursor position), and to know how to use your VHF and what channels you should be monitoring. It may also have been a case of having the VHF on USA channel settings and not International – they are nearly all different frequencies.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Michel del Aguila, Bill Hopton, Jim Dunn, Peter Beaumont and John Walton
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation  10/01/19: Medivac for QAS from Hamilton Island – ‘Possible’ Shark attack patient

It was 1049 hrs when I (Fin) received a call from Roger Wodson who was acting as 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder. (He’s been looking after the phone during the entire Christmas/New Year period and deserves a medal!)

The crew were engaged in the pre-checks when I got to Abell Point Marina VMR1, and then we only had to wait for our Paramedic (Tayla).  We were underway by 1115 hrs.  The conditions were great to be out on the water, with only 5 – 10 knots of breeze and seas less than ½ metre.

Just after noon we pulled into the Hamilton Island Marina.  Paramedic Tayla brought the  patient down to VMR1 and loaded her aboard, together with her mother as a carer.  We started our return trip at 1225 hrs and it was an easy run back to the mainland.

We were instructed to unload the patient and carer (and Paramedic) at one of the Water Police berths in Abell Point Marina to avoid media intrusion. We duly complied and were back in our berth at 1345 hrs.

As per usual the crew were superb – Thanks heaps.

Crew: Kym Jolly, Ryan Cunningham
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation (1) 13/01/19: Medivac from Hamilton Island

At about 10 am while doing my morning shopping at Woolies I (Ray) received a call that we had a Medivac at Hamilton island so I asked the radio base operator to organise a crew and to have Abell Point Marina VMR1 ready for when I arrived.  I all happened as I decreed (LOL) so with the vessel ready and the QAS officers on board we departed the Marina at 10.47am.

We had 20/25 knots of wind against tide so it was a little rough on the way over.  The flybridge is always the preferred position for operating the vessel as it enables a better view, but the rain was so bad we actually abandoned the flybridge and headed down the ladder to run things from the main cabin helm. We picked up our patient and had a good trip home running with the wind.

As we approached the Marina we received a call the we were required by the water police as an EPIRB had been set off at Crab reef. Back inside and with the patient unloaded, we refuelled and were ready for the next activation by 13.10pm

Crew: Ron McCall, Andrew Gray and Mitchell Edwards
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation (2) 13/1/18: Assist Police to investigate EPIRB activation

Ray called me (Mal) at 1300 to advise that we had been asked by the Whitsunday Water Police to investigate an emergency beacon activation at Crab Reef, in the middle of the outer reef and 67.5 miles from Airlie Beach. Ray and the crew were just finishing another medivac from Hamilton Island and would refuel Abell Point Marina VMR1 while I drove in to join them for what could have been a very long and arduous trip and search. We prudently decided on two Skippers for this one.

The weather was strong SE winds around 25 knots, with rain, and a rough sea, so it was not going to be a Sunday afternoon walk in the park. We departed the marina at 1330, and passed through the Hook Passage into rough conditions on the other side of the islands, with speed reduced from our initial 26 knots from Airlie to 18-22 knots as we moved across the shipping channel.

Reef VTS called us on channel 16 just after 1430 to advise us that a fixed wing search aircraft had located the source of the EPIRB, and that we had been stood down. I must say that none of the crew were particularly upset at having to turn around, and we ran with the seas for a more comfortable run around the top of Hook Island for the 30 mile return journey. The cause of the activation may have been a dory from a fishing vessel and the situation had been satisfactorily resolved without our need to attend.

We returned to Abell Point, refuelled for the second time that day, and were all finished with VMR1 cleaned and secured by 1640.

Many thanks to the rest of the crew for doubling up on what could have been a very long activation, well done fellas.

Crew: Ron McCall, Mitch Edwards, Andrew Gray
Skippers: Ray Lewis, Mal Priday

Activation 15/1/19: Shoreline search after flares seen

Sometimes you just have to make assumptions! The call came in around 21.00 from Roger, the 24 hour phone holder. A Police activation for a shoreline search in our local area.

The brief from Police was …”two groups of several white parachute flares have been seen around the Bluff Point area, and we need you to search the coastline from Bluff point to Grimston Point.” Okey dokey!

The first assumption was that a white parachute flare is usually only carried on major ocean going offshore vessels. They are difficult to get and expensive to buy. Typical manufacturing specifications give a burst and hang height of 300meters or about 1000 feet and they burn incredibly brightly(75,000 candella or more) for about 30 seconds at that altitude. Quite a signal! (Video explanation and demo below)

The second assumption was that with an uninterrupted line of sight view from sea-level you should be able to see these things from Bowen!

So with most lights and eyes trained shore-wards, but one crew member watching out to sea we began a sweep. The 20 knots of breeze onto a lee-shore with short choppy waves in the shallows made the visual search a bit slow, and the sea-spray in the air was diffusing the spotlights quite badly.

Here is where the tech gear comes in. The FLIR unit was clear as a bell and with great range so we were confident we were doing a good job. Our nav gear also told us there were some vessels with AIS anchored around Grimston Point in Woodwark Bay.

With nothing seen during our search we motored close to these 3 and made enquiries, but to no avail. Nobody had seen anything from there. We passed this information back to base and were stood down at 22.36hrs so headed back to Abell Point Marina. By 23.20 we were hosed down, tidied up and ready to go again.

Good work by the crew.  Even though we felt we hadn’t actually achieved much, the exercise was a valuable training session, particularly for a new member on board who got to learn the ropes in real-time.

Thanks to Michel, Ryan, Terry and John for once again giving of their time and energy. Terry did mention that he had seen a Facebook post just prior to our activation which may have prompted the Police request for the search.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Ryan Houston, Terry Clarke and John Walton
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 23/1/19: Worker evacuated from Hayman Island

I was all ready to go out for a morning walk, but that plan was interrupted when Celia (24/7 emergency phone holder) called to inform me that we had a medivac to attend as a construction worker on Hayman Island had suspected appendicitis!  Not good and obviously quite urgent so I got down to Abell Point Marina VMR1 as soon as I could.  The morning walk would need to be postponed. 😉

With crew members Marty Davy, Kenny Bryce, Peter Beaumont, we boarded VMR1 with QAS officer Stephen, and departed the marina at 0820hrs.  It was a moderate sea as we headed across the passage, and we got to Hayman as quickly as possible.

Upon arriving at Hayman Island we had to wait to get the patient on board and for Stephen to attend to him before pushing off and setting course for Abell Point Marina and the waiting ambulance.

QAS Officer Steven was unloaded with his patient, and then we refuelled, washed down VMR1 and were finished at 1030.  Thanks to the crew for a job well done.

Unfortunately it was too hot to go for that early morning walk….but there’s always tomorrow. 🙂

Crew: Marty Davy, Kenny Bryce and Peter Beaumont
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 27/1/19 (1):  Assisting a vessel with flat battery

There was no laying in on Sunday morning as Tom from the Radio Room called me (Ray) at 0750 to report that a visitor camping on the causeway at South Molle Island was stranded.  Apparently his 4.5 metre half cabin had a flat battery.

So, at 0822 with a crew of Ryan Cunningham, Bill Hopton and Leigh Anderson we departed on Abell Point Marina VMR1 and headed towards South Molle.  The seas were moderate and there were some showers around, but not too bad at that time.

We found our stranded vessel easily enough, so rafted up beside it gently so we could connect it up and jump start it.  No problem, and the motor sprang into action once more.  We completed the paperwork and set off back to Airlie. We were back at the marina by 0930.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Bill Hopton and Leigh Anderson
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 27/1/19 (2): Medivac from Hayman Island

Tom was on Radio Room duty, and he called me (Geoff S) just after 10:00 regarding a woman with suspected appendicitis out on Hayman Island.  Obviously she needed to get to Prossie Hospital urgently…..and we were the chosen ones to help get her there. 🙂

Tom rounded up the crew who ended up being the same crew who went out
with Ray first thing to get a boat with a flat battery going. Two activations in
one day!  Well done fellas. 🙂

Ryan already had the checks done on Abell Point Marina VMR1 by the time Bill, Doug from QAS and myself arrived …all at the same time.  We got away at 10.40 into a very dull and overcast day with plenty of showers, occasional heavy rain, and the wind gusting low 30’s from the East.  Not a lot of fun.

The sea had chopped up considerably since the earlier activation leaving plenty
of potholes to fall into.  Ryan and Bill kept telling me that Ray was a much
smoother driver than I was. 😀

We had to slow down several times but got to Hayman at 11.40. Our male patient (yes..a man, not a woman (!)) arrived quickly and after a quick assessment, we were able to depart at 11.50. We had the wind behind us now flattening the seas so we were alongside APM at 12.40.

Our patient and paramedic Doug promptly disembarked which allowed us to fuel up and be into the pen by13.00. VTS and the Radio Room (with Dewi now on duty) were notified of our safe return and the heavens washed the boat down for us. Thanks to a very tolerant, wet, yet cheerful crew for a good trip.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham and Bill Hopton
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 29/1/19:  Medivac from Hayman Island

It was 1300hrs, raining hard and blowing 15 knots…and yes that was the sound of the VMR emergency phone ringing. I answered it. “Yes Celia, of course I will skipper a medivac from Hayman Island, probably only need 2 other crew with the Paramedics on board and I will be at VMR1 within 15 minutes. All good.”
The crew are pretty switched on as I wasn’t late but they already had most of the pre-start checks done and it was only a short wait for our Paramedics to load and out we went into short steep chop and heading directly into the breeze. A bit bouncy but no drama.
Apparently our patient was a fairly large man with a serious knee injury, so the crew set up for stretcher and easy access on the trip across Whitsunday Passage. Our arrival at Hayman Island was accompanied by a rain and wind squall as we approached the channel markers, but we could still recognize that repairs were ongoing at their private marina berths so we elected to dodge their super-ferry and tie up directly to the main commercial pontoon.
The squall passed as the ambulance arrived at the pontoon, escorted by 5 burly security fellows. Our patient was around the 160kg mark and wouldn’t be walking today, so the extra help was greatly appreciated.
With our passenger secured we returned to Abell Point Marina with a following sea and breeze so the trip was a little smoother. We also had the assistance of some of our volunteer Fire-fighters at our berth to help our patient on to the marina and the waiting Ambulance. This was quite a joint effort! ( Sorry about the pun) 🙂
With our passengers disembarked we moved back across to re-fuel, then back to our home berth and shut down by 16.40. We had Nicola and Andrew with us again as our Paramedics, I think they are getting used to us now, and great work by the crew of Ryan and Peter. Thanks for your efforts.
Crew: Ryan Cunningham and Peter Beaumont
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 31/01/19: Assist non-member out of fuel

The last thing I wanted to do in this crappy weather was to go to sea but at 1545 I received a call from Celia our 24/7 emergency phone holder that a person doing a boat delivery on a 55 foot, 20 tonne steel motor sailer travelling from Townsville to Gladstone had run out of fuel north of Burning Point/Shaw Island. He was drifting north and was very lucky to be in an open area clear of rocks and island as it takes 1.5 hours to get there….not including the time it takes to get a crew assembled and get underway.

We had a moderate sea with drizzling rain, low cloud and poor visibility. We picked the vessel up on the radar a nautical mile from the position given where it appeared about 200 metres from us, slowly emerging from the rain, cloud and mist like a ghost ship. ,

After a discussion with the skipper we towed the vessel to Hamilton Island and deposited it at the fuel jetty…and then with the pedal to the metal we returned to APM, refuelled and were finished at 2130 hours.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Michel del Aguila, Jim Dunn and new trainee Cam Stevenson on his first activation.
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Ed Note:: We received a message from the skipper… “Thanks for all your help yesterday. I’m full of fuel and underway again. Brampton island is abeam.”  We’re hoping he was still happy when he received the bill. 😉


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