July 2020

ACTIVATION 5/7/20: Some good lessons for everyone going out on the water!

For the first time in a while I (Ryan) had finished breakfast before Dewi Hughes in the radio room called around 8am, he had received a call from someone who had an overturned tinnie out near Eshelby island. He immediately reported that everyone was safe but needed recovering off the island, We had a quick discussion and I requested another skipper join me as there was some uncertainly on the severity of the situation.

The forecast was showing 15-20 SSE although the weather at the marina looked remarkably better than that, so after the usual pre start checks on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 we quickly made way for the island, It wasn’t until we passed Armit Island that the wind and subsequent sea state really revealed itself though… yuck!

We quickly located the overturned tinnie at the south west corner of Eshelby and found our two customers on one of the small beaches nearby. Captain Ron was quickly into the tender and off to the beach. I assessed the overturned craft whilst holding VMR1 in position nearby and decided that salvage of the boat was not safe at that time.

When our first customer (and pooch) were safely aboard VMR1 we got the full story. They had travelled across from Dingo Beach on Saturdaym enjoying the fine weather, Unfortunately they got caught out during the night when the wind changed although luckily they were camped on the beach when the boat got overturned by the waves, so they remained safe and dry until our arrival.

With our second passenger and their gear onboard we headed back to Dingo Beach. The tender again had to do a few runs as the access to Dingo Beach ramp was not suitable for VMR1.

The sea state hadn’t improved much on the return trip. We slowed to around 9 knots at one stage with the waves on the nose, and once we cleared Grimston point we managed around 14 knots. Not a great day out there, but we were back at the marina, refuelled and finished by 13:15…a 5 ¼ hour activation.

These guys were lucky on this occasion, although it might be a costly lesson,
LESSON 1 – It pays to check the zoning where you plan to go – they were in fact in a Pink zone, where access is prohibited!
LESSON 2 – Always check the weather forecast for the next few days, not just the day you are heading out!
Stay safe out there, people, and always have a close look at the weather when planning your trips. It might save you, your passengers, and your boat!

Crew: Shane Newell and Thomas Dahmin
Skippers: Ryan Cunningham and Ron Roberts


Activation 7/7/20: Tow an 18m vessel into CSM from Grimston Point.

Our long suffering 24 hour phone holder Bill Harrison called me (Geoff S) at 12.30, just as I was sitting down to lunch. An 18m vessel had steering and engine problems – they were off Grimston and were heading slowly to CSM. They had a berth booked near the end of O arm and it was waiting for them.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 headed out at 13.15 as soon as Paul arrived and we were alongside our target by 13.25. Yes, luckily, they were just outside the marina! Our tow was very big; 18m long, 90 tonnes and 3 floors high. Oh…! Their port engine had lost its blower so didn’t work at all and their 240v generator was down and…yes, you guessed it…their thrusters were 240v.

I was pleased that Capt. Fin was aboard and our trusty crew were experienced, as this had the potential to end up being very interesting. Fortunately, the wind was mostly quiet with almost no seas, so we were able to go alongside immediately and set up for the push (rather than a tow) into the Marina. Gently, gently does it.

We noticed the Water Police entering the marina just in front of us and they kindly agreed to stand by (we are still having VHF problems). Meanwhile, we launched our tender with Paul on board, to act as a pusher as well, if needed. I noticed Bill on the end of the superyacht arm taking photos of our entry. I don’t know what he was expecting, but he obviously wanted to get photographic evidence of it. 😀

The wind stayed quiet as we negotiated our way round the corners and as we lined up for the final push into the pen. It was no easy task as we had what seemed to be a block of flats alongside us which totally obscured any view to port and of the pen arm. Several people came from their boats to grab lines and give us a hand as well.

Thanks to a massive team effort by everyone, all went well with no scratches, dents or hysterics.

Crew: Shane Newell (comms), Paul Martin
Skippers: Geoff Smith, Fin Forbes


Activation 11/7/20: Assist an 8 metre runabout taking water near Pioneer Point

My evening walk to exercise the dog was interrupted by a call from Janet who had just shut the radio room for the day. She had received a call from a runabout between Pioneer Rocks and Pioneer Point, 3 pob, taking water and unable to use his engine.

While I hurried home so I could get to the marina as soon as possible, Janet tried without luck to raise a crew – a very rare event these days now that we are using an app that shows everyone’s availability. I said that I would call people not on the list while I was heading home, and Tony and Murray kindly agreed to join me on the activation.

Next decision – what rescue boat to take? A nice problem to have. This was probably well within the capabilities of our 6.7m Whale Song VMR2, but in the end we opted to take the bigger Coral Sea Marina VMR1 as it has a couple of portable pumps on board, just in case we needed them. We departed the marina at 1745 and were near our target about 10 minutes later.

He was close to shore, and floating pretty well, so we would not need the pumps after all (Murphy’s Law) but it was too shallow to get close enough to pass or throw a line across. Murray hopped into our tender and took the tow line across while Tony fed it out, and we held position in deeper water. That worked well. After we took the strain and they had raised their anchor, we set course for what we thought was going to be Coral Sea Marina. It was not a fast tow as the boat had to raise his stern leg to stop the inflow of water from a damaged seal, but as a result he had no steering, so a bit of caution was the order of the day.

By this time it was well and truly dark, and off Port of Airlie we were advised that the ramp there was actually where they wanted to go, We altered course accordingly, took them alongside and deposited them on the ramp pontoon with the assistance of a couple of fishermen that took their lines. As it turned out it was to be their last trip before the end of their holidays and heading home – sure was in more ways than one!

Then it was back to Coral Sea Marina to secure and clean VMR1, all done by 1915. Nice job by Murray and Tony at short notice, made it look easy, and we appreciate their willingness to assist.

Crew: Murray Story, Tony McNeil
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activations 12/7/20: Three Back-to-Back Rescues

It was Sunday morning and Paul Martin and I (Ken) were busy doing the monthly maintenance on our two vessels. At 10am I received a call from Chris Mullett, the radio officer in the VMR Radio Room. He said “We have an activation for a broken down 5.6 metre vessel, east side of Unsafe Passage. Can you attend?” My response was “Yes Chris…please organize additional crew.”

Paul and I quickly finalised the maintenance on Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 when our additional crew member Chris Williamson arrived. We departed CSM at 10.47am and quickly found our target vessel, having them in tow by 11.10am. There were 3 POB happy to see us.

We were back at the CSM ramp at 12.09, then to the fuel dock to refuel. I thought that was it for the day, but whilst refuelling, I heard a call on the radio. It was the VMR base again, this time Mark Henry who was taking the afternoon shift. Apparently Bowen VMR had one of our members in tow at the reef, 50n miles out, and they would like us to meet them and take over the tow. Okey-dokey! We departed CSM (with the same crew) at 12.25.

Conditions were moderate and deteriorating. We spotted the Bowen vessel and their tow on radar. The target vessel had 4 POB including 2 children. We rafted up in conditions that were not great for the transfer of children. With Paul Martin at the gate securing each and everyone the transfer was finally completed with as many reassuring smiles as we could muster.

We thanked the Bowen crew for their assistance and headed off to Port of Airlie. At 15.41 we had the vessel and crew on the dock, and noted that this was the first time the children had smiles on their faces.

At 16:30 we were back in our pen, having refuelled and washed down the boat. Chris W was completing the paperwork and we were ready to head home for a quiet evening. But no….apparently not yet!

Paul contacted the base to sign off and was advised “Sorry guys but we have another activation…a 7.3m banana boat with 5 POB.” I looked at my tired crew and asked them “Shall we do this one too?” There were nods all round so we prepped the boat for yet another outing.

At 16.37 we were heading for Hook Passage…somewhere? The GPS position just didn’t make sense. We asked 3 times and were given the same position, but we knew it was wrong so we tried a different tack. “What is the closest identifiable piece of land that you can see?”

The light was rapidly disappearing and we did’t want this to go into a night search so it was crucial that we find them fast. At 17.02 we had them. Phew! As we tie up alongside, their entire crew including children were so keen to disembark their own boat that they were trying to scale the gunwale of VMR1! Fortunately our crew suggested that they use the gate as it is far safer.

At 17.20 we were off to Whisper Bay, arriving at 17.55. Our passengers all departed, very happy to be home safe. We were very pleased to be back too! What a day! Three activations, back to back!

A big thank you to:-
Senior crew: Paul Martin who assisted on the helm and communications. A very busy day.
Crew: Chris Williamson, who completed all the paperwork for 3 activations.
Chris Mullett and Mark Henry for their assistance on the radio.
Great work by all!

Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activations 13/7/20: Busy day! Two searches using two boats

The phone ringing at 0445, can only mean one thing. Yes…it was Roger informing me (Geoff F) that a vessel with 3 POB was reported overdue, and could I go out? Sure…why not…I’m awake now.

I wiped the sleep from my eyes and headed for the boat, arriving at 0520 to find the crew (Tony, Terry and Thomas) awaiting a key to get through the marina gate and gain entrance to Coral Sea Marina VMR1. We carried out the pre-start checks then waited for instructions from water police. Didn’t have to wait long – they asked us to proceed to the eastern side of Whitsunday Island from the southern end, while they would proceed from the northern end via Hook Passage.

By 0545 we were on our way with calm seas, a light SW wind and falling tide. While travelling to our designated point to begin the search we overheard the rescue helicopter calling the missing vessel on ch16. At first light the chopper had located the missing vessel safely anchored off Whitehaven beach. We continued on & located the vessel as we came through Solway Passage (where we saw a mother & calf Humpbacks enjoying themselves). The crew on the little vessel were happy to see us, having spent a cold night huddled under a tarp with their dog.

We rafted up and completed the paperwork. Apparently the computer on the outboard had caught fire the night before, they had no phone reception, and their radio would not transmit. Luckily they had advised family of their destination and when they expected to be back. This enabled the family to contact water police, and led to their timely rescue. Smart people and a good lesson for everyone! We transferred one person and the dog to VMR1, then hooked up the tow & headed back to CSM.

No time to waste though as we had received a request to head to Shute Harbour and join in another Search and Rescue, this time also with Whale Song VMR2.

A half cabin runabout with nobody on board had drifted into one of the barges at Shute Harbour, and the Police were concerned that a person or persons may be in the water. VMR2 (with crew Shane G and Dave, Skipper Mal) and VMR1 together made haste to Shute and quickly began water and shoreline searches while checking for any people that may have climbed onto another boat.

Both boats were stood down by Water Police at 1010 and as VMR2 was departing, a commercial Skipper on his way to his boat (thanks Phil) provided some details. It transpired that he had seen the half cabin tied up to the fishing pontoon the day before, and this was relayed to the officer in charge of the search. This information turned out to be bang on, as the owners of the boat were eventually tracked down and they advised that it had come adrift from the pontoon, with nobody aboard. Both boats headed back to their berths, were cleaned up & we were all off the boats by 1100.

VMR1 Crew: Tony, Terry and Thomas, Skipper: Geoff F
VMR2 Crew: Shane and Dave, Skipper: Mal


Activation Report 15/07/20: Assist a VMRW member, 40ft. sailing vessel

Vessel just outside Port of Airlie, 2POB, Engine problems – wanting to get back into Port of Airlie.

Conditions- Weather – Clear, Wind – SSE 10 to 15, Seas – below half a metre, Visibility – 15nm, Tides – H@0649 of 2.52m, L@ 1307 of 0.82m. B.P. Steady at 1016hPa. We left CSM at 1310 arriving at the target vessel at 1320, Secured him alongside for the tow and doing essential paper work – then towed him to his designated berth in Port of Airlie. We had them safely in their berth by 1345. Thanks to the young ladies from Port of Airlie Marina who came down and helped him secure his lines.

We were back in our pen by 1425 ,washed down (due to salt encrusted on the stainless steel work) and signed off with Bill and Whitsunday VTS – No need for refuelling. A pleasant job, the competent crew made everything appear relaxed and easy, and the weather was ‘Whitsunday Startling’ – a pleasure to be on the water.

My thanks to all involved today, including Capt Geoff wearing his other ‘hats’ of Comms officer and Snr. crewman for this activation. Good to see skippers willing to act in a variety of capacities when called upon to do so.

Crew: Geoff Smith (Snr Crewman for the day), Paul Martin and Dave Richter (crewman)
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 19/7/20 (1): Medivac from Hamilton Island

We departed on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 13:55, arriving on Hamilton Island at 14:52. Weather was 15 to knots. Two people were collected and tended to by the Ambulance Officer. We were off again by 15:00 and back to the dock by 15:50.

No need to refuel or wash down because on our way in, we were called for a second activation so headed off immediately after depositing our passengers. ‘

Senior Crew : Paul Martin
Crew :Dave Richter
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 19/7/20 (2): Tow a 6 m vessel with 7 POB

We were on our way back from a Medivac to Hamilton Island when we received a call that a 6m vessel was in trouble and required towing. After depositing our passengers it was already 16:15 so we set off immediately, heading adjacent Martin Reef. Time was of the essence as it would soon be dark and location coordinates given to us are sometimes inaccurate so we often need more time.

On our outward journey we had whales breaching to our port and starboard. Very entertaining and one of the ‘payments’ for being a VMR volunteer!

Luckily we located the stricken vessel at 18:02 before it got too dark, and the crew had the tow ready to go by 18:10. The weather had deteriorated considerably as a front was passing through which made the sea conditions very rough and retrieval challenging. It was a magnificent throw of our tow line by Senior Crew member Paul, which eventually secured our our line to the vessel and enabled us to get going for our return trip.

It was very slow going at 5- 6 knots, and the night was black as pitch. We arrived back at CSM at 01:45, refuelled and washed down. By now it was 02:30 and very much past everyone’s bedtime. A big thank you to the crew in very difficult conditions.

Senior Crew : Paul Martin
Crew :Dave Richter
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 21/07/2020: Water Police request to secure drifting boat

This was not a ‘normal’ activation. It was at 14:13 that I (Fin) received a call from Bill Harrison (24/7 Emergency Phone Holder) who explained that the Water Police had received a report of a drifting boat, and could we please locate and secure it before it does any damage.

We headed out on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 16:45, and immediately rendezvoused with the Water Police who said they would follow us out to the target vessel. The weather was rather unpleasant being overcast with rain and winds SSE 10 to 20 knots.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at the vessel where we transferred Mal (acting as crewman) to the vessel via the Water Police vessel. Mal then needed to haul 30-40 metres of anchor aboard – not an easy task in the rough conditions! Luckily he is an experienced seaman so handled the tough job with alacrity. When that was completed, we transferred our tow rope (also using the Police boat) to Mal who secured it.

We started our tow back to CSM at 1740 travelling at 7 knots, finally bringing the vessel alongside just outside the marina and towing it to the public jetty. The Water Police had been able to locate the owner so he was waiting for us. Michel completed the paper work with him and Mal came back on board VMR1. He looked like a drowned rat as there was very little shelter on the yacht while being towed back. A very uncomfortable ride!

We were washed down, refuelled and signed off with Bill and Whitsunday VTS and back in our pen by 1940 hrs.

Thanks to all concerned – including the Water Police for providing their support. It’s worth noting that our crew regularly endure very uncomfortable conditions while they serve the community…and Michel, Terry and Mal did a superb job.

Senior Crew: Michel del Aguila
Crew: Terry Clark and Mal Priday
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Double Header for Coral Sea Marina VMR1 – and a long one of 70 miles return!

Tasks: Assist a vessel that had run aground at Bait Reef, then assist a vessel broken down near North Molle

Any plans I (Mal) had for the day went out the window when Adam called me from the radio room just before 1000 – a 40 ft Riviera had run aground at Bait Reef, had damaged its propellers and steering, and would need assistance back to port. After contacting the vessel by VHF, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed the marina at 10:35 onto a gorgeous flat sea with very light winds and a cloudless sky, a perfect winter’s day in the Whitsundays, and we could not have asked for better conditions. En route we were treated to a few good breaches and sightings of whales.

The Water Police had heard us talking on the VHF to our target vessel (a big 40 foot Riviera) and beat us to Bait Reef, by which time the vessel had floated free and had been able to secure itself to one of the moorings. Luckily, they were not taking any water. After a careful approach into the lagoon, we were alongside at 1215, and at 1225 after completing the paperwork VMR1 took the vessel out of the lagoon tied alongside in deference to their lack of steering control. The tow was lengthened outside, and we set course for the 35 miles return trip to the marina at 7.5 to 8 knots. We had to sidestep a pod of whales on the way, much to the delight of the crew on the towed vessel.

The vessel was taken alongside outside the marina, and was then carefully taken into the marina and after a bit of delicate manoeuvring, was safely deposited onto its allotted berth just before 1730 – a 7 ½ hour activation!

We had literally just pulled up to the fuel berth to refuel when Comms crew Shane got a call from 24/7 phone holder Bill – we had another activation to assist a vessel broken down the other side of North Molle! We got under way again at 1740 and as we approached our second customer for the day we passed Whale Song VMR2 going the other way with a vessel in tow from Whitehaven, this was also VMR2s second activation for the day.

We were alongside our second vessel at 1805, and were under way with them in tow at about 20 knots, a lot faster than our first tow of the day. They had launched at Port of Airlie but there is not much water for VMR1 at the boat ramp on a dropping tide, so the decision was made to take them to Coral Sea Marina and have one of our crew take them by car to pick up their car and trailer. They were deposited on the ramp pontoon by 1850, after which we had a second go at refuelling, this time with more success.

It was 1915 by the time we had refuelled, returned to our berth, and cleaned and secured the vessel after a big 9 hour day. Well done to the crew, great commitment.

Crew: Paul Martin, Shane Gosselink, and Thomas Dahmin
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 26/7/20: Double banger for VMR2 as well!

It was Sunday and a fabulous boating day. With so many vessels on the water we figured it was only a matter of time before VMR would be called to assist. I ( Ken ) received the first call at 11:40. There was a 7 metre vessel broken down near the entrance to Port of Airlie.

Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 was already on her way out to the reef to rescue a grounded 40′ vessel, so there was no need to consider which boat we were taking for this one….Whale Song VMR2 it is! Ideal for this particular type of activation anyway.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, we were a bit short on available crew for that day so while the Radio Room made urgent calls for volunteers, I did the same. Eventually got onto Terry C who said he was available to assist. Whew! (Thanks Terry!) It was a short activation anyway…we departed CSM at 13:15, found our stranded vessel with 8 POB then towed them back to Port of Airlie.

We returned to our pen and were all finished by 13:50.

But….it was definitely going to be one of those days! Terry C had departed and I was tidying up after the previous activation when the Radio Room called again. Yep…another activation. This time there was a 6.3m vessel with 4 POB stranded on south Whitehaven Beach.

Back to finding more crew! Luckily Ron made himself available, saying that he had been in the middle of sanding the interior of a yacht, and was happy to have a change of jobs for a while. At 15:45 we departed Coral Sea Marina heading for the coordinates we were given. The sea had a slight ripple as Whale Song VMR2 powered along beautifully.

We arrived at 16:45 rafted up and had the paper work done and on tow by 16:55. She was a heavy girl, however with Ron adjusting the tow line as I powered along we had her on the plane and travelling at Between 18 to 20 knots. Arrived at Whisper Bay boat ramp at 17:58 and by 19:30 we had refuelled and were back in our pen….again.

That took nearly 6 hours out of my day but hey…what a lovely day to be out on the water!

Crew: Terry Clarke (first trip) and Ron Roberts (second trip)
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 28/7/20: Catamaran with gearbox failure north of Port Of Airlie.

Bill (our 24/7, non-stop, always there) phone holder called me (Geoff S) at 15.54 just as I was heading off to VMR Training. Apparently a 45′ Cat had gearbox linkage problems on one engine and wanted help berthing at Port of Airlie.

I got to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and joined the small group of volunteers who were arriving for the Drills Training session. I spoke to Ken and he assured me he was happy to carry on with the training, but he suggested (told?) that I take Whale Song VMR2 out….something to do with needing VMR1 for the Drill session. 😄

Bill had also arrived for the training session so it was a good opportunity to get the final details while we got VMR2 ready to go. We left at 16.10 and arrived at the target 10 mins later. As the conditions were so perfect, we went alongside straight away and made off our lines. The target skipper steered us in, with us adding a bit of power to speed everything up. The entry to POA was very straightforward and the pair of us were alongside the arm in no time.

Paperwork completed, we set course for home. On the way back we saw VMR1 in the bay doing their fire drill. It was so effective that John Henderson on “Paradise Explorer” stopped to offer assistance. (Thanks John). 😄

We had barely used any fuel so put the boat straight onto the pontoon and tidied up. Thanks to Chris for being such a good crew and nice company to boot.

Crew: Chris Nicholson
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 29/07/2020: Assist a 36 ft Charter yacht drifting 1nm south of Nara Inlet

The call came in at 1515 hrs from Bill Harrison, our 24/7 phone holder who explained that the charter yacht had dropped a mast and needed assistance. There were 2 POB.

The conditions were very favourable for a late afternoon run…only 5 – 10 knots of breeze and clear weather.

We left on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 1550 hrs, arriving at the vessel at 1630. We assessed the situation and established that the people on board were safe and comfortable so we waited for the Charter Company support boat to arrive and let us know what they wanted us to do. On arrival, they went aboard and secured all the sails and lines and then decided that they could use their motor to proceed back to the mainland under their own power. They got us to follow them for a while to ensure all was working well – and when this was established we left them at 1720 hrs and made our way back to CSM where we refuelled and were back in our pen by 1805 hrs.

Thanks to the crew for making this a pleasurable and relaxed activation due to their skill and competence.

Crew: Geoff Smith and Paul Martin
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 30/7/20: Assist a 45’ yacht with failed engine 3 POB

Bill, our 24/7 emergency phone holder called me (Geoff S) at 15.10 just as I was about to leave for the Thursday training session. A 45’ yacht was disabled north of Hayman and heading to Airlie under headsail only. Hmmm….this was definitely going to be a job for Coral Sea Marina VMR1, which meant the planned training session was over before we started! Bill said he would get a crew from the attendees and then notify the rest of the last minute training cancellation.

We left at 15.45 and headed off NE with a bit of wind…it was blowing mid to high 20’s at Hammo, and a choppy sea. Paul inputted our target vessel’s coordinates and it came up as North of Long Island. “That’s not very close to Hayman!” someone pointed out, “Perhaps we need to call them and get the Lat and Long again“.

It transpired that the Skipper had never sailed in this area before and didn’t know the islands. That puzzled me as I thought all charts had the Island names on them…but maybe not. Anyway, I executed a 90˚ turn to starboard and off we went to Long Island where we located our intrepid sailor.

The wind was still up and the sea was lumpy, and even though they had furled their headsail they were still making 3 knots. After a quick chat, we passed our tow rope over and we were on our way back by 16.30. The yacht was 45’ long and weighs 17 tonnes and wasn’t a planing boat so the best we could make was 8 or so knots. En route we conferred with the Skipper about where he wanted to go. They had called the Marina and were expecting a call back with a pen number. After a follow up call they found that the office was shut. OK, the public wharf seemed like a good alternative!

We arrived at Coral Sea Marina at 18.05 to find that both sides of the public wharf were taken.

One side by a boat that had been there 3-4 days! Over to Plan B, which was to drop them off on the end of H arm with instructions on the security gates etc. Time to call it a day so we headed to the fuel wharf and then back into the pen for a wash and tidy.

Thanks to a well-oiled and competent crew, the day want perfectly and made the Skipper look and feel good. Always a good thing.

Crew:Michel DelAguila, Dave Richter, John Caldwell, Paul Martin
Skipper: Geoff Smith


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