January 2022


Activation 02/01/22: Medivac from Hamilton Island for an unusual reason, for our first medivac of the new year and only 116 to go to match the 2020 total.

My sleep was interrupted by the Help ringtone a bit after midnight, just as we moved into the second day of the new year. We had been tasked by QAS for a medivac for a male patient that had apparently broken his clavicle after falling over running after – wait for it – a kangaroo! Hoppy 1, visitor nil! Shane and Paul beat me to the boat by a nose. Paul went up to assist the paramedic down with her gear as Shane and I finished the prestart checks and dimming of the instrumentation, of which there is no shortage on Coral Sea Marina VMR1. By 0045 we were on our way on a mostly very flat sea in very light winds with only the stars to light our way, a very dark night with not even a hint of moon to help us as we pushed against an outgoing tide.

An hour later we were in our usual spot at Hamilton to pick up our patient, and five minutes later at 0150 we were on our way back, and helped along by the ebbing tide we shaved 10 minutes off the outward journey time, discharging the paramedic and patient at 0240 with Paul helping carry some of the gear to the ambulance.

After refuelling and making our way slowly back to our own berth – not much water to play with on a very low tide – we had cleaned VMR1, done the paperwork and secured the boat for the next activation, heading back to bed at 0330. Thanks to Paul and Shane for making themselves available in the middle of the night on what has become a pretty routine task after completing a record 117 medivacs in 2020.

Crew: Shane Newell, Paul Bloomfield
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 02/01/22: Hamilton Island Medivac.

The call came in just after 15.00 from Julie in the Radio Room. A lady had had a fall and possibly broken both ankles. Julie checked the Vaccination status of the patient and carer, also the arrival time of the Paramedic.

The crew arrived at much the same time and prepared Coral Sea Marina VMR1. Our Paramedic had a patient drop off before he could get to us, so we finally got away at 16.00. We had an uneventful trip to Hamilton Island.

As you can imagine, loading our patient took some time and ingenuity. The carer checked himself and the patient in with our QR code and we sighted the vaccination green ticks. When we got back to CSM we went to M2 for the drop off. Proximity to the Paramedic’s Stretcher and Ambulance dictated pragmatism. Another Paramedic arrived to help, so with only a little more fiddling, lifting, grunting and the occasional mutter, got the patient and carer ashore and up to the Ambulance.

A quick fuel up and back to the pen for a wash down and tidy at 19.05.
Thanks to a great crew for making it look easy especially Shane and Paul who were also on the medivac at midnight this morning.

Crew: Shane Newell, Paul Bloomfield, Tony Bell,
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 4/01/22: Tow Jetski, 1 pob, non-member with a flat battery at Whitehaven.

Our 24hr Emergency Phone Holder, Bill, called at 11.48. A Jetski had a flat battery and was under the Whitehaven Beach lookout and needed assistance. After re-organising our afternoon, I headed off to CSM and met the crew hard at it doing the boat checks.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at the top of the tide at 12.30 and after an uneventful trip arrived at Whitehaven at 13.50. We only had a vague position for our target, but luckily, he had a VHF radio so was able to talk us in to him. He was at the Northern end of Whitehaven Beach behind the shallow sand banks off Hill Inlet.

Several people had already stopped and offered assistance (thanks, whoever you are) to the target but the electrics needed a bit more attention than a jump start.

The target didn’t know about the potential engine back-flooding problems when towing Jetskis. This is mentioned in most Jetski Handbooks. If towing at over approx. 5 knots, water pressure builds in the exhaust system to the point water can get into the combustion chambers and hydraulic the motor. Check this link and, as well, see your service people who can explain your Jet ski’s systems to you.
It is a good idea to pull out the spark plugs as soon as practicable after your return to land and turn the motor over to make sure no water has migrated into the Combustion Chambers.

We transferred our rescued skipper to VMR1 and headed for CSM. It was a slow trip, 2 hrs, as the Jetski started yawing alarmingly over 15 knots (if we had returned at 5 knots it would have taken us about 5 hrs). We dropped the Target off at the CSM ramp finger at 16.10. Refuelled and into the pen at 16.20 for a wash and tidy. A 4hr trip.
Thanks to a great crew and it was good to see Roger on board again.

Crew: Laura Oats, Ray Lewis, Roger Wodson,
Skipper: Geoff Smith.


Activation 5/01/22: Broken down jetski, tow from Joe’s Beach to Shute Harbour.

Feeling a little “left out”, not having an activation since December 19th, my joy upon hearing the new emergency ring tone was perhaps a little over the top!

To business; Bill H, our phone holder, outlined the task, broken down jet ski needed to be towed to Shute Harbour from Joe’s Beach, 2 adults awaiting our arrival. OK, a quick glance at 100 Magic Miles directed me to page 190, hello Joe’s Beach! A simple transit through Unsafe Passage directly to the southern passage of Cid Island, even the wind and tide were playing nice!

Ray and Terry were busy preparing Coral Sea Marina VMR1 when I arrived. A lack of practice at quick changes and a longer drive were not to blame for my late arrival, Ray was working on the generator of VMR1 and Terry lives much closer to VMR1, so I had no chance of being first to the vessel… A perfect record no longer. I was aware of the shoals guarding the entrance to the passage and to the shallows close to the beach. Fortunately the tide was at its highest, nevertheless I approached with caution, monitoring the forward looking sonar and the depth under the keel closely and peering into the water ahead for any obstructions. To my great relief we were able to approach the beach, meeting the persons and their disabled craft with a full metre beneath our bow. Terry threw a line to the person aboard the jet ski and encouraged the other passenger to board the jet ski as we proceeded to bring the stricken craft along side. We gently made our way astern into deeper water, once there we took the people aboard VMR1 and secured the tow line.

Once the paperwork was completed and all were secure we headed to Shute Harbour. I was grateful for the prior reconnaissance of the new layout of the rebuilt facilities. The jet skiers had launched from the public ramp, as we approached the ramp it quickly became apparent we would not be able to safely proceed into the the ramp area; a strong northeasterly wind was blowing and would have further limited our manoeuvrability within an extremely limited space. A 6m tinny was at the ramp and saw our predicament and was able to take the jet ski and occupants to the ramp safely. Many thanks to that boater!

Our task complete, back to Coral Sea marina for our refuel, wash down and completion of paperwork. Many thanks to the crew who did a great job.

Crew: Ray Lewis (Senior crew) and Terry Clarke (Comms).
Skipper: Paul M


Activation 5/01/22: A “simple” jumpstart – or not.

A light, bright hot morning and Bill called on the VMR 24 hour Emergency phone at 07.23, can you do a jumpstart on a flat battery for a member at anchor off Whitehaven beach. Bill, it would be a pleasure, I will put on the shirt and head for the boat. This job on a perfect day like today is made for Whalesong VMR2, our 6.7 metre Naiad, and I will only need 2 extra crew. Michel and Shane both arrived at about the same time and we made short work of our prestart checks and launching from her floating dock and then Shane took the helm for some driving training out through Hook Passage then South down past the stunning Whitehaven Beach.

That was when things started to get a little interesting.

Our target vessel was high and dry on the beach. No problem there as a rising tide would have them afloat within an hour. We would just wait, it could be worse.

Oh, our campsite is actually over on the Eastern side of Hazlewood Island, we were just over here for a fish when our motor blew up.

Did you just say ‘blew up’?

Yes, she has seized solid, prop and all, and the steering has died as well, on hard Starboard turn.

Okay, let’s get 2 of you on board and go and find your camp, pack it up and bring it back here while 2 of you wait for the tide and float the boat out and anchor in deeper water. Just put your life-jackets on and we will get going. Perhaps you will need to get some new jackets before you venture out to sea again. 45 minutes later and we were back with tent, swags, BBQ, bottle and all to find the 5.8 metre nicely afloat.

Right-y-o then and where are we taking you? Shute Harbour ramp is where the trailer is, was the reply. Interesting choice, said I as this would be my first sally into this area since the much vaunted total rebuild, and we had all heard stories about the new ramp construction and I was eager to see it in reality while trying to maneuver a vessel in to the ramp in the strong currents that always flow across the area.

Getting under-way was our next task. The heavy fiberglass boat with 4 big lads on board as well as a full camp, diving and fishing gear was going to be quite a tow behind our 2x130hp outboards. We had stowed some of their heavier gear into the bow of Whalesong VMR2, but it still took the surface disturbance of 2 passing sets of bow-waves to get them up on the plane to conserve fuel and speed up the trip.

That was when it got really interesting, as we could not have their motor down into the water as a stabilizer since it was jammed on full turn. Their vessel began to slalom port to starboard and back again repeatedly and with increasing force.

We had expected this possibility in the circumstances and were ready to slow down at the first signs of this oscillation. It has been known to damage or sink both of the vessels involved if not controlled quickly.

Then began a period when we tried to find a workable set of conditions; lengthening our towing hawser, we also managed to fix their steering to the point where it would track within our wake pattern, motor down part or all the way. Lots of extra drag from the seized propellor. All this related via our hand-held VHF radio as their radio wasn’t working. Eventually we settled into a steady 6.5 knot non-planing speed and settled in for the long tow back through Fitzallan and Dent Passage to Shute Harbour.

Then, I thought I had misheard their next radio call. “Can you slow down, we have caught a fish and don’t want to lose it!” Please say again your last message.

Yes, but it is okay, we had the rod up in the roof holders so it didn’t look like we were fishing.

So, approaching the new ramp area at Shute Harbour was quite interesting. Once we had seen that we would have to bring our broken vessel along our port side, then negotiate a ‘z’ shaped obstacle course around a large and very close fishing pontoon full of casting anglers, then slide between a row of stainless-steel posts which were firmly attached to a submerged wharf and beside the concrete structures on the land side of a single lane boat ramp within the actions of a 4 knot cross current, we knew how easy the previous part of this rescue had actually been.

Some wonderful work from our crew made this all work perfectly and look easy for the watchers with fishing rods who were all jostling for the best viewing spots for the upcoming show while casting baits into the mix.. You did a great job men, thank you!

With our job done, now for the anti-climax. A 30 minute boat run around Pioneer Point and back in to refuel and wash down in Coral Sea Marina, then put Whalesong back on her pontoon.

From first call at 07.20 to 13.30 for a supposedly quick jump-start job. Volunteering can be full of surprises.

Once again amazing efforts from the crew of Shane N. and Michel D. and Whalesong VMR2 performed faultlessly.

Crew: Shane Newell and Michel del Aguila
Skipper: Ron Roberts.


Activation 5/01/22: Stormy evening led to a medivac from a catamaran at Chalkies Beach

There was quite a violent thunderstorm building in the South-West as I drove towards Proserpine on my way home from our long morning call out in VMR2, looking forward to some rain and cooling off.

The storm hit with a wallop and dumped 60mm of rain at my place in 40 minutes accompanied by some savage gusts from all directions as the storm raged and swirled around lit by almost constant lightening. What a show.
I’d best check the rain radar before the power cuts out, oops, too late. So, coffee on the gas stove while I wait for the probable call from Bill our 24 hour emergency phone holder. I was pretty sure someone would need assistance after this storm.

Yes, Bill called at 21.26. A yachtie had slipped and fallen on a slippery deck in the rain and needed a medivac from Chalkies Beach. The big catamaran was on a mooring and safe, but the patient was in a lot of pain. Certainly Bill, I’m already dressed and on my way down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1.

This is our go-to vessel for anything medical oriented with her stable platform, big deck and air-conditioned cabin with stretcher lock-down facilities.

On the boat and with all our pre-starts done now the storm was giving us problems as roads were blocked and our Paramedic was delayed a little, but we were soon on our way with haste on a remarkably calm but very dark and fresh night.

Paul sat with me up on the fly-bridge monitoring our Forward Looking Infra-Red while I drove and watched Radar and chart-plotter. Ray and Tim were on duty below monitoring comms and keeping an eye on the myriad other systems that make VMR1 such an effective tool.

Finding our target was not a problem, nor was the raft-up and getting our paramedic on board to assess and stabilize our patient for transfer and transport back to shore for hospital treatment. Tide and prevailing wind had changed so our journey back to Airlie Beach was a case of plotting a course which provided no bumps but good pace. This is what VMR1 is so good at, a pleasure to crew.

With our patient, carer and paramedic safely ashore and on the way to hospital, we could now re-fuel, wash down and complete paperwork so that VMR1 was ready to go out again by 01.30 Thursday Morning

To the crew of Ray, Paul and Tim Thank you gentlemen for volunteering your time and skills. Another good effort with a successful outcome.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Paul Bloomfield, Tim Pugh.
Skipper: Ron Roberts.


Activation 6/01/22: 2 for one. Medivac to Hayman Island then another at Hamilton Island.

The activation/s today were different from the normal ‘go out – come back’ variety.

First – Bill, our 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder rang at 10.22am advising he was organising a Medivac from Hayman Island for QAS – for a departure time of 11.45 am – as the Paramedics were too busy to get to the boat before then.

Second – was that Bill turned up to crew with us. Bill has been on call with the phone for probably 2500 hrs non-stop – including over the difficult festive season. The man needs a medal. All the reward he got from me is that I appointed him helmsman from leaving CSM at 11.55 am till we reached Hamilton Island at 2.00pm.

Third – This activation started off as a medivac from Hayman Island – and when we were half-way over the Whitsunday Passage coming back to CSM, the Paramedic on board asked us (at 1.15pm) to divert to Hamilton Island to pick up a patient with a jelly fish sting – ie 2 Medivacs in the one activation.

The crew were superb. Michel as Senior Crew, Bill and Debbie -acting as Comms while Bill was on the helm. Debbie was then given a turn on the helm on our return trip. Thanks heaps team– a job well done – again.

The activations took 3 ¾ hours from approx. noon till 3 .45 pm.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Bill Harrison and Debbie Simpson.
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 7/01/22: Medivac from Hamilton Island for suspected Irukandji sting.

I had just had a bite for lunch when phone holder Bill rang just before 1230 – we had been tasked to do a medivac from Hamilton Island for a victim of a possible Irukandji sting. Bill put a crew together while I made my way in to the boat. Shane, Laura and I did the prestarts and checked in the paramedic and as soon as Ron was aboard, we were under way at 1300 on Coral Sea Marina VMR1. Hamilton was reporting a SE wind of 4-6 knots but a northerly was just kicking in at about 10 knots and that was what we had for the whole trip, on a very hot day.

By 1410 we had nipped in to Hamilton and were underway again with our sedated patient and his carer, dropping them off at Coral Sea Marina at 1505 before refuelling and returning to our own berth to clean and secure the boat before stepping off at 1535.

Crew: Ron McCall, Shane Newell, Laura Oates
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 8/01/22: VMR2 tow vessel from near Double Cone.

Hiding indoors to escape the barely tolerable heat and humidity I was comforted by the steady hum of the air conditioner, bliss! My enjoyment was called to an end once Bill, our good phone holder, called and asked if I could respond to a vessel near Double Cone which had inexplicably run out of fuel! I was excited to be taking Whalesong VMR2 on a real activation; we had practiced towing during training, had the opportunity to tow other vessels under the supervision of qualified skippers, but this was my first occasion to undertake a live tow of a disabled vessel as a skipper!

Shane, the Senior crewman arrived shortly after my arrival at Coral Sea Marina. We completed the launch preparations; VMR2 spends her inactive time on a floating dock, pampered and ever ready to go. A 6.7m Niad, powered by 2 x 130 hp engines, does a remarkable job, punching well above her weight, the star of this particular production. We had a location of the vessel with 2 persons on board, a telephone contact number and a full tank of gas (vaguely reminiscent of that movie classic “The Blues Brothers”).

At 1610 hrs we departed the marina, headed due north to the last reported position of the target vessel, our journey slowed by a persistent northeasterly wind and a less than helpful choppy swell, both combined to hold us to a sedate 16 knots until we crossed the Whitsunday passage, once through we were able to cruise at a steady 22 knots.

We arrived to the last reported location of the target, no nothing to be sighted! Shane made a quick call to the skipper of the vessel we were seeking, he gave us a new latitude and longitude, Tally Ho! Within a few minutes we identified 2 small vessels on the radar, Shane correctly identified which of the two was our target. At 1700 hrs we were greeted by a very embarrassed skipper and his mate, they had been fishing on the reef. To break the ice I asked if they had any luck, last time I’ll ask such a question; it only furthered the skipper’s embarrassment as he did not do well, his mate was beaming, having landed a couple of good fish. At this point I promised not to reveal the skipper’s name! Paperwork completed we secured the tow line and were underway by 1715 hrs.

The vessel was a heavy 6.5m plate aluminium runabout, as we commenced the tow I was comforted by seeing our speed lift to 10 knots, not for long! Once we hit the passage tidal flow we were pulled back to reality, 6-7 knots only. My memory is of a scorching sun on my right side, hot enough to melt the sunscreen from my face only to deposit it on my shoes! A slow trip back to the marina! As we approached the leads to the marina we gathered the runabout to our starboard side, a standard procedure before entering the marina and headed for the public jetty, at 1815 hrs we released the vessel to the jetty.

We then refuelled, completed the paperwork and gave VMR2 a much deserved wash down, all completed by 1830 hrs.

My thanks to Shane, my Senior Crewman, good job!

Crew: Shane Newell
Skipper: Paul M.


Activation 8/01/22: Assist a 27ft motor cruiser with engine problems, near Chance Bay

I received the call from Ray at the radio base about 1420 – a 27ft motor cruiser was having engine problems near Chance Bay with 4 pob, and was requesting assistance back to Coral Sea Marina. After all prestart checks were completed, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed just before 1500 on another hot day with a 10 knot northerly and an almost full tide. There were a lot of boats out and a lot seemed to want the piece of water we were on, but we managed to sidestep them all, but some did not appear to have any real knowledge of the right of way rules.

By 1610 we had located our target after checking coordinates and a couple of VHF calls, and found them just west of Chance Bay in about 3 metres of water on a now falling tide, but with a number of bommies around them. Thankful for the extra visibility afforded by our flybridge, we were able to get them alongside and bring them out into deeper water to complete the paperwork before setting off for home at a comfortable 15-16 knots before taking them alongside again off the marina and depositing them carefully on a pre-arranged berth at 1755.

Half an hour later we had refuelled, James had moved us to our own berth and we cleaned and secured the boat and completed the paperwork before heading for home at 1825. Thanks to the crew, made my job look easy.

Crew: Dave Richter, James Roberts, Paul Bloomfield
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 17/01/22: Medivac from Hamilton Island

Settling in for the evening after a good dinner and some pleasant conversation, about to launch into another movie marathon (what else to do on a hot, humid, mosquito filled night?), Ray, our emergency phone holder, asked if I would do a Medivac from Hamilton Island, you betcha! The short walk from the parking area to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 reminded me to slow down a little, as a sheen of perspiration was rapidly turning into a torrent. A northeasterly wind was blowing at 10 knots, no cooling to be found!

Roger and Ray arrived within minutes, we commenced preparations for departure as we awaited the paramedic. I am always astounded by the amount of equipment these women and men carry, a low loader would blanch at the effort. Back to the Medivac.

Our departure was not unusual, except for the rolling swell as we approached the leads, a promise of things to come! The moon had cunningly hidden itself behind some dense cloud cover; there are varying degrees of darkness, lets just say it was very dark! Our instrumentation and radar showing the way. Once rounding Pioneer Rocks we were able to increase our speed from a sedate 19.5 knots to a more normal 22 knots, Whitsunday Passage was rather cooperative nearing a full tide, the wind did lift some swells, but nothing too exciting to slow our passage.

Arriving at Hamilton Island with a pleasant ‘blow on’ wind we were able to dock using wind power to bring us to the jetty. The ambulance with the patient arrived, the handover of information on the condition of the patient complete and and securing of the patient to our stretcher done, we headed back to Coral Sea marina. I was very aware of the conditions as wind and tide were in agreement, the condition of the patient needing a smooth as possible transit was foremost in my mind; as we approached areas of known turbulence, I reduced speed accordingly. We arrived back at the marina, had to wait for the assisting paramedic to arrive, shortly the patient, carer and 2 paramedics were on their way.

Refuelling, paperwork, wash down were completed post haste as the witching hour was upon us!

Thanks to the crew, good job!

Crew: Ray Lewis (Senior crew) and Roger Wodson (Comms officer).
Skipper: Paul M.


Activation 20/01/22: 1st trip of the afternoon – Ferry Police to Hamilton Island.

I had just finished lunch after dropping my wife off at the Airport when Ray, our 24hr Emergency Phone Holder called at 14.25. A quick ferry job on offer; Hammo on a nice afternoon, if a bit windy, perfect.

I arrived at the boat first and started the checks then Paul arrived and he took over and also won the comms job. Next was Pauline and Ross and, as this was their first activation, assisted Paul who had now become Senior crew as well as comms (fast promotion with this mob). The three Police arrived shortly afterwards and Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 15.00.

On the way we discovered we were going to the Airport. OK, never been alongside Hammo Airport wharf before, but I’ve stood on it a few times. Right, what do we know about it? The deck is floating and at commercial ferry height so fenders will need to be high. Cleats will be bollards, therefor chunky, and probably not many of them. Not sure of the distance between the Pontoon Piles though. Ok, the rest we will have to wing it.

We arrived at 15.58 and easily tied onto 2 of the HDPU faced uprights. Easy. The Police went off to do Police stuff whilst we waited. The Police returned and after we had all the protocols done departed for CSM at 16.14. The wind had been gusting to 30 knots from the ESE on the way over, setting up a hard wind chop. Now, with the wind behind us, it was a lot smoother. Passing through unsafe passage, Ray called that there was a Medivac from Hammo. We were already full, so we carried on to CSM. Paul, Ross and Pauline elected to stay on for the next trip. We dropped everyone off on L1 at 17.12 and handed over to fearless Ken (who was taking over from me) and Debbie who was going along to assist Pauline and Ross.

Crew: Paul Bloomfield, Pauline Vlismas, Ross Vlismas
Skipper: Geoff Smith.


Activation 20/01/22: 2nd trip of the afternoon to Hamilton Island – this time for a Medivac.

It was 17:00 and as I was not on night duty I was contemplating an early call to drinks. Something told me to have a glass of milk instead.
The emergency phone started ringing. It was Ray advising me that we had a Medivac from Hamilton island.

Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 was out on another mission and would be back very soon. Some of the crew had decided to stay onboard for this Medivac.
Gluttons for punishment as the wind was near 30 knots and the sea was rising. Which we soon experienced once in the passage. Before I headed to VMR1, I called Debbie (a Coxswain) “would you like to assist me”? The answer was yes.

17:30 With the paramedic and 4 crew (two of which were Trainees) on board we headed for Hamilton Island. Paul, who had been on the previous trip said “oh! the sea has certainly increased.”

We travelled at a comfortable 19 knots with Debbie on the helm. We had an interesting encounter with two Naval ships who were running down the passage. The first one was not a problem as we were on her starboard and well ahead. The second was ahead directly on our bow, beam on. We decided to duck her stern and leave them to head directly into the sea. VMR1 headed straight into Fitzalan passage and then onto Hamilton Island. 18:35 we were docked awaiting the patient. 18:50 saw us departing for Coral Sea Marina.

The Paramedic asked if we would have the same ride on our way back (assessing the conditions for the comfort of the patient). I explained that it would be much better with the following sea. The paramedic said when ever he takes his vessel out it never rides like ours. I said you did not spend a million dollars.

19:58 we were docked, Paul helping the paramedic with all the equipment. Meanwhile Ross, Pauline and Debbie refuelled VMR1. We picked up Paul and returned to our dock. Wash down, paper work, clean the interior and off for dinner. 20:40.

Nice work by all. You cannot beat on the job training.

Crew: Debbie Simpson – good spotting (Senior), Paul Bloomfield (Comms), Pauline Vlismas, Ross Vlismas (Trainees)
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 24/01/22: Assist a vessel broken down in Whitsunday Passage

Phone holder Ray called just before 1500, he had received a call for assistance from a vessel with 2 pob broken down just north of Nara inlet, in the Whitsunday Passage, and he put a crew together while I made my way in. Just as I got to the marina Ray was taking another call for what sounded like a second activation in a similar area – it turned out to be the same vessel after we were contemplating doing a double tow with Coral Sea Marina VMR1, glad we did not have to do the double.

We set out about 1540 into an easterly of 10-15 knots, and stopped in the passage on the way over to investigate a red object floating just off our path – it turned out to just be a pool noodle, but it could have been a lifejacket or a life ring or a person in the water – glad it was just the noodle! After a couple of phone calls we found our target a bit closer than he was on the first call – said he was drifting closer to reduce his cost for the activation -😊. He was from Melbourne, a long way to tow a boat and then break down!

It was a bit too rolly to go alongside safely, so we manoeuvred close enough to pass over the tow hook attached to our tow line and we were soon underway at about 18 knots, heading for Port of Airlie. As we took him alongside off the entrance channel we let a ferry go ahead of us, then got them just off the ramp – luckily he was able to use his engine for a short period before it overheated and we waited to make sure he got there safely. Then it was back to Coral Sea Marina to refuel, move back to our own berth and clean and secure the boat before heading home for dinner just before 1800.

Thanks crew, nice job!

Crew: Ray Lewis, Debbie Simpson, and trainee Nathalie Hartman
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 25/01/22: Locate and tow 5.5m tinny NW of Teague Island

I had a call from Ray (the 24/7 phone holder) at 2.56pm. Our task this afternoon was to assist a 5.5m tinny with electrical problems, NW of Teague Island, with 2 POB, requiring a tow back to the VMR boat ramp. The only information available to Ray was a short text from a friend of the people on the boat. The activation was a “go out, locate, bring back” one.

A good day, good seas, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 a good boat, and even more important – a great crew.

The overall time on the water for this activation (including shut down procedures) was 3 ¼ hours from 3.30 pm till 6.45 pm.

My team today was: Ray Lewis as 24/7 Phone Holder. Michel (Snr Crew and great asset). Michel has done an average of 1 activation every 6 days in the last 12 months – special thanks from VMRW – and the boating community.
Debbie (Crewperson and Comms for the day), Pauline (Trainee – and helmsperson on the way back) and Ross (Trainee – and helmsperson on the way out)

Thanks team, for making it a relaxed, pleasant, safe experience.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Debbie Simpson, Pauline Vlismas, Ross Vlismas
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation (1) 29/01/2022: Respond to a Mayday call for a vessel reported taking water near Dent Island in the early hours

Phone holder Ray interrupted my sleep with the ”Help” ringtone just before 0100 – he had been called by the local Police Search Coordinator to ask us to respond to a Mayday call received by Whitsunday VTS for a 38ft vessel with 3 pob reported as taking water near Dent Island in the Whitsunday Passage. While I made my way in Ray organised a crew which included himself. After we had all finished the prestart checks and dimmed all the instruments Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was on its way at 0125 into a dark and wet night with an ESE wind of 15-20 knots gusting up to nearly 30 knots on a dropping tide. At one stage it was so wet we abandoned the upper helm on the flybridge and drove from the lower helm, only the third time in 4 years that I have had to do that.

They were just where they said they said their coordinates were, and we pulled up alongside them in nearly 30 metres of water at 0220 and began to assess their status. They had stopped taking water but there was a lot in their engine bay. We started our genset and tried to get our 240v pump down there but there was not room to get it low enough, so we changed to the 12v pump, which they wanted to be made ready in the aft of the boat as they said that the water would run aft once under way – not so as the water was contained in the engine bay. They had started taking water when the engine overheated, most likely from a damaged water hose or a leak in the cooling system by the sound of it.

Then came the challenge of pulling up a lot of anchor chain by hand, as their anchor winch was not working and they had nearly all of their chain out in the deep water. Perhaps it was hydraulically operated and with no engine it was a no-goer. After quite a few minutes they were not able to make much progress, so the anchor and chain were released with a plastic drum tied to it with a rope but the weight of the chain was too much and that soon went under the surface while we manoeuvred to begin the tow back to Coral Sea Marina. We were underway at 0300 but limited to about 6 -7 knots as their boat was yawing a lot and moving from side to side. That speed was cut back to about 5 knots over the ground as we fought the incoming tide. The moon made an appearance at last followed by the first rays of dawn, still with the occasional shower.

We took them alongside at 0545 off the marina and by 0550 we had them safely on the public jetty. Then refuelled and were back in our own berth by 0600 and stepped off at 0615 after cleaning and securing the boat for its next activation – which happened less than 3 hours later.

Great work by the crew in difficult circumstances, but all nicely done none the less. Now for some sleep!

Crew: Ray Lewis, Bill Hopton, Paul Bloomfield
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation (2) 29/01/2022: Assist a 44 foot sailing vessel at Happy Bay, Long Island, which had lost all steering.

I (Ken)was just finishing my morning coffee when my emergency phone was ringing.

It was Richard from the radio base. We have a 44 foot sailing vessel, 2 pob, at Happy Bay Long Island. They have lost all steering. They are on anchor and were dragging. “Okay round up my crew please”.

08:40 with Shane, Terry and James onboard Coral Sea Marina VMR1, the start up procedures were completed very quickly. What a great day for a rescue. It was top of the tide, the sea conditions were great and we were making good time.

09:34 we had our target in site. As I came along side James and Terry secured us bow and stern. Shane was ready with the paperwork. As the paperwork was underway I asked what exactly happened. The owner explained that the steering cables had come loose and so he had no steering. I asked “do you have an emergency steering facility?” They had only had the vessel a short time. They were told there was one onboard, however they had not found it. Okay, with all the paper work complete and our tow line attached it was time for a tow. I eased both vessels slowly forward as the anchor chain was retrieved.

Whilst taking up the tow line Murphy was with us. The towed vessel turned hard to starboard and was trying to out-run VMR1. She looked like she would overtake us. This situation had to be remedied. Shane called the vessel to ask, “Can you see the Quadrant and possibly point the vessel straight ahead”? The reply was, “What is a Quadrant?” “Ok,” the crew advised the target vessel, “We are coming along side again”.

Once along side, I put Shane on the helm while I went to view the steering. I climbed into a very small hatchway and I could see what I was looking for. Yes, the cables were loose. Not only that, there was the emergency tiller and an autopilot connected to the Quadrant. I retrieved the tiller, installed it on the rudder post, checked the alignment on the autopilot and we were once again ready to tow. The owner was instructed to man the tiller and follow in our wake.

VMR1 about to “park” an assisted sailing vessel in Q row Coral Sea Marina

12:20 we arrived at Coral Sea Marina heading for their berth on Q arm. We were thanked many times for our assistance. Back to refuel and into our berth by 12:40

Great team work by the crew, as expected. Well done!

Crew: Shane Newell (Senior crew), Terry Clarke (Comms) and James Roberts
Skipper: Ken Bryce