July 2022


Activation 02/07/2022: Wet and windy day to assist 57 ft Beneteau into berth at Coral Sea Marina

I received a call from Debbie at the radio room at 11.30. It was blowing and raining outside. Debbie advised me that a non member was sailing from Hamilton Island to Coral Sea Marina and that their engine had blown. Could we meet them outside of CSM to assist them into their berth at P arm? The vessel was a 57 ft Beneteau weighing about 20 Tonne and it would be outside the marina about 1330.

We arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and prepared it for the activation. I gave instructions to the crew on how we were going to handle the job. We checked out its berth on the way out of the marina at 1315, where we rendezvoused with the vessel and then brought it into the marina and reversed it into their berth.

The job went smoothly and my thanks to a very efficient crew of Donna, James and Michel.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, James Roberts and Donna Deegan
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 6/07/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

It was great to have a sunny day again especially when the emergency phone holder calls. Bill advised me that we were required for a medivac at Hamilton Island so I told him to get a crew and have them prepare Coral Sea marina VMR1 for the task. With Shane, Michel and a QAS officer we departed Coral Sea Marina at 1610 and headed off with 5 knots of wind and a flat sea with Shane on the helm for the job.

We picked up our patient and carer and after a short stay we were on our way back to CSM where it was dark and cold on our return, after the patient etc were off the vessel we refuelled and returned to our berth and were finished at 1850.

Thanks to the crew.

Crew: Shane Newell and Michel del Aguila.
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation (1) 8/07/2022: Tow broken down vessel – just outside Hill Inlet.

It was 11.30 Friday morning and the chainsaw had been busy. I had 2 logs in the ute ready for a trip to the transfer station. Both about 2.0 meters long and 0.4 m diameter. That was when Bill, our 24 hour emergency phone holder rang.

A Non-member has broken down just outside Hill Inlet, are you available for an activation? “I’m on my way Bill, sawdust and all”.

A quick check of weather currently at Hamilton Island airport showed 20knots plus so Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was our choice of vessel for this one.

With crew of Michel, Dick, Barry and myself we had the boat prepped and departed for Hook Passage, then Tongue Bay in reasonable seas and breeze from the E.S.E.

Our target boat was exactly where she said she would be although VHF radio communication was difficult as they had snapped their aerial.

Their skipper had his sister and his 2 children plus Grandma on board for a day trip. Not quite the ending he was hoping for.

While the paperwork progressed the 3 younger ladies opted for the closed cabin of VMR1 while Grandma stayed with son for the tow back to Shute Harbour boat ramp.

This ramp is by no means user friendly and low tide would make the drop-off quite difficult.

Some tight maneuvering had all our assisted family safely secured beside Shute Harbour boat ramp by 15.10.

It was then the journey back to Coral Sea Marina to refuel, wash down and prepare VMR1 for our next journey into the unknown.

Thanks to the crew for donating their time, effort and expertise.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Dick Filewood and Barry Lake
Skipper: Ron Roberts.


Activation (2) 8/07/2022: 2 persons in a disabled 8 metre powerboat drifting onto rocks off Port of Airlie.

You may remember the load of logs I had on my ute just before my last activation, this is the next chapter.

I had managed to drive straight to the green-waste transfer depot after our rescue from Tongue Bay. As I was reversing back to roll the beasties off, my emergency ring-tone told me a different story. 2 persons in a disabled 8 metre powerboat drifting onto rocks off Port of Airlie.

Logs still on, out I drove and back to a still warm Coral Sea Marina VMR1. With my new crew of James and Bill we brought the vessel and instruments back to life and headed to our next tasking.

Within 15 minutes of clearing the rock wall of Coral Sea Marina we were in sight of the broken down vessel and taking stock of hoped for destination, level of dropping tide and depths required to float both vessels. Sadly the results weren’t good, so a decision was made to take our tow back to a berth in Coral Sea marina, now this was going to get interesting.

Just to set the scene, picture this;

VMR1 is 44 feet long and weighs about 16 tons in the old measure, the boat we have tied firmly to our Port side is 26 feet long and weighs about 4 tons, combined width about 31 feet.

Now we have to drive these combined boats side by side under VMR1 control only at very slow speed around a tight corner and along an aisle made up of other boats, all of different lengths, some with anchors pointing out, some with outboard motors sticking up and on average about a 46 foot gap. We then need to rotate both boats anticlockwise between these 2 walls, then untie the broken vessel and push it gently into it’s appointed gap in the wall of docked vessels. Then we have to once again do our pirouette to face back out the way we came in and quietly motor out. Without touching a single part of those 30 other boats.

We talked through as much as we could before committing to this series of maneuvers, as a training exercise it was intense. James agreed that he could drive it, and proceeded to do so, PERFECTLY.

Bill and myself stationed ourselves fore and aft and called distances up to James as he controlled both boats with not a single errant touch. Excellent skills and well done James and Bill.

The audience of boaties that had come to watch the fun was also suitably impressed.

After that adrenalin rush, the paperwork, wash-down and putting the boat to bed seemed quite anticlimactic.

It was also now too late to take my logs to the green-waste. Ah well, we will have to see if I get another activation in the morning.

Until next time….

Crew: James Roberts, Bill Hopton.
Skipper: Ron Roberts.


Activation 10/07/2022: 60′ Beneteau needing assistance

A call for help from the Radio Room is rarely good; in this case, no skippers were listed as available! Oops, I can help. Fortunately no activations were in progress!! We adjusted our day, preparing to install a couple of chooks in the yard and build a shed. All good thoughts of fresh eggs vanished when Abbie from the radio room called about a yacht needing assistance; a 60’ Beneteau had lost it’s engine and needed assistance to dock at Coral Sea Marina. “Ok, no worries, the tide is dead low, 0.37m at 1333 hrs, we need to wait a couple of hours to get some water under his keel before we bring him into the marina”.

The crew were asked to be available at 1445 hrs to prepare Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for a towing job. Once assembled, I briefed the crew on what I envisioned the job to be and how we would achieve a happy ending.

We proceeded to the intended berth for the yacht, checking the depth before we proceeded to engage the yacht. No need to rush, let the tide do it’s thing then we can do ours. We secured the yacht to our starboard side, all fenders neatly in place; the yacht’s bow well forward of VMR1, to provide easy access to the yacht’s bow line once entering the berth where a marina staff member was awaiting our arrival to assist with securing lines.

There appears to be a level of misunderstanding regarding the towing flag, Securite radio call and what is fairly asked of other seafarers; should you see a flag coloured Blue, Yellow and Blue in horizontal bars, that would indicate the towing of a disabled vessel or dangerous object. Should the vessels appear to be uncomfortably close, it may be that they are tied alongside. In either case it would be good practice to try to avoid the towing vessel, not cause an added stress to either vessel by your wake as you pass.

The manoeuvring inside the marina was slow and steady, we arrived with little trouble or fanfare, our marina helper was in place, taking control of the bow line as planned as we tried to keep the stern of the yacht in good order, our task complete.

My thanks to the crew for their efforts to keep me abreast of all factors, their handling of the lines ensuring safe and steady delivery of the yacht to it’s berth.

Crew: Senior crew – Shane Newell, Communications – Debbie Simpson, Deck crew – Donna Deegan, and Radio operator – Abbie Kemp.
Skipper: Paul Martin


Activation15/07/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

I received a call this morning from QAS advising that a 70 year old male was having breathing difficulties at Hamilton island. Could we respond? As I had the 24/7 emergency phone, I organised a team of a senior crew and a trainee who is doing a Coxswains course. With a QAS officer on board and Laura at the helm Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 0940 heading to Pioneer Point where the seas started to roughen up. With 25 knots of wind from the south east we had white caps and rough seas by the time we got through Unsafe Passage at South Molle Island, so we slowed to 14 knots of speed (but there was no using the auto pilot for the trainee as they have to be able to steer in all conditions).

We arrived at Hamilton Island, picked up the patient and returned to CSM. This time running with the sea and wind, which was much smoother and we were able to maintain 18 knots. After the patient and QAS officer departed we refuelled VMR1 and returned to our berth. We were finished at 1310. Laura was on the helm under my instructions for the whole activation (except for berthing at Hamilton Island, as there was a strong wind blowing us off a confined berth).

My thanks to Laura and Shane for completing the activation in a very competent manner.

Crew: Shane Newell, Laura Oates
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 15/07/2022: Medivac x 2 from Hamilton Island

My emergency phone was ringing, just after 21:00 on a Friday night.
I have been covering the Friday and Saturday Night duty roster for months without a call out.

I had just spoken with Ray, one of our 24 hour phone holders.
I happened to mention that both those nights never get any call outs.
Well, I was in for a beauty tonight!

Hamilton Island here we come. It started with one Medivac and rapidly escalated to two. With two paramedics on board we set off into the 25knot South East conditions at 22:32

I did mention that this was going to be a rough trip and it was. I had Brie as my assistant helmsman and Michel as my senior crew. Brie was keen to take control of Coral Sea Marina VMR1. We discussed the route and conditions.

Just past Pioneer Rocks and we were having to slow down as the sea conditions deteriorated. Through Unsafe Passage with a further reduction in speed. 13 knots was it, to maintain a little comfort for the medical team. 23:55 we arrived at Hamilton island. A quick turn around and we departed at 00:07.

The Paramedics asked if it was going to be as rough, on the return trip. This will be a dream run in comparison, with the sea behind us. 01:05 we were berthed in Coral Sea Marina. Our 6 passengers thanked us for out assistance.

Refueling and a wash down were next on the agenda.
01:52 we were all headed for home.

Many thanks to my Crew.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Brie Sherow
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 17/07/2022: Medivac from Daydream Island

There is nothing like being woken up in the early hours of a cold Sunday morning to be advised that you are required for a medivac. QAS called to say a person on Daydream island had dislocated her shoulder and required assistance.

With a QAS officer and crew member Michel on board and Shane at the helm we departed Coral Sea Marina at 0140 and made our way to the island through a moderate sea.

We had a longer than normal stop over in cold and windy conditions before departing with our patient back to CSM, where we unloaded them before refuelling and then back to our berth.

Thanks to crew Shane and Michel for a smooth operation.

Crew: Shane Newell and Michel del Aguila
Skipper: Ray Lewis


Activation 23/07/2022: Dark Night Rescue of 6 metre Vessel.

18:05 on Saturday night, my (Ken) emergency phone was ringing. Ray was on the line. “We have a 6 metre vessel with 4 adults and 2 children, broken down off North Mole”. “Okay, I am on my way”. So I donned my thermal wear including beany and off shore jacket. I was now assured of staying reasonably warm.

Coffee in hand, I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 to find Bill and Avi doing the pre-start checks. Brie was next to arrive. We departed Coral sea marina at 18:15.

Sea conditions were good although it was very black as we crossed Pioneer Bay. Bill as Senior crew, had given me a Latitude and Longitude for our target vessel.

As we approached this position, the sea was completely black, not a light to be seen. I had the Radar running, there they were, a small blip on the screen. As I turned towards them the blip disappeared. It was totally black again, so I stopped while Brie arranged a search light.

As Murphy would have it, Brie returned with the light as the blip popped up on the screen. I manoeuvred along side, as Bill handed over the tow line. The conditions were not conducive to rafting up. Their crew were advised to put on their life jackets.

The tow was established immediately and we were soon heading for Port of Airlie. 20:20 we were at the boat ramp with the stricken vessel. The children thanked us for the rescue.

Back to refuel and into our berth, 21:10 we were all headed for home.

Thank you Bill. You had two relatively new crew to keep on the straight and narrow. On the job training is really where the lessons are confirmed.

Crew: Senior crew – Bill Hopton, Comms – Brie Sherow – A very professional Radio announcement (Securite) Say Cure e-tay and Trainee crew – Avi Fridman.
Skipper: Ken Bryce.


Activation 24/07/2022: Assist Police to identify upturned vessel at Shaw Island.

VMR Whitsunday received a message on our website late on Saturday evening that a vessel had been reported upside down with its anchor out, on the south side of Shaw Island, no debris on shore and no persons seen in the water. The registration number was not reported. The message was reported to the Police SAR contact straight away, and after discussions the next morning with the duty officer at the Water Police, VMRW was tasked with travelling to Shaw Island to locate and try to identify the vessel, and recover it if possible.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 set off at 1030 for the 32 mile plus trip each way, conditions were reasonable with a SSE wind of about 15-20 knots and a falling tide to keep the waves down a bit. We arrived at the location advised to us at 1220, but found nothing, so extended the search further along the south side of Shaw Island. 1 ½ miles later there it was, with the bow just visible and in water too shallow for us to get alongside.

Ray offered to take our tender in to attach a line so we could drag it out but had to row as the outboard would not cooperate. With the anchor line cut – he could not raise it – we then pulled Ray and the vessel out into deeper water, and tried to right it so we could pump it out. After a few attempts we realised it was too heavy and could not get it the right way up, and had to cast it free.

It was very hard to read the rego number as it was well underwater, but luckily Louise took a photo burst and we were able to pass what we all thought the number was to the Police. Its location was reported to Whitsunday VTS, and we started on our way back after 1300, pulling into the fuel dock at 1425. It was 1500 by the time we put VMR1 to bed, ready for the next activation.

The next morning the Water Police advised us that the vessel had overturned on the 12th of July off Dalrymple Bay, about 50 miles away, south of Mackay. Both persons on the vessel were recovered safely.

Well done Ray, Louise and Delton, your work was much appreciated.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Louise Keepa, Delton Keepa
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 26/07/2022: Vessel broken-down vicinity of Cid Island

The splendor of the Whitsundays was on full display yesterday; bright sunshine, blue skies, gentle breeze and sparkling seas, what more could a man ask for? The ringing of my phone held promise; Ray, our 24/7 phone holder was on the line; a broken down 5metre tinny near Cid Island.

Ray was busy with Whale Song VMR2 as I arrived at Coral Sea marina. The information was that the vessel had a flat battery and needed a jump start, Ray supplied a jumper cable just in case! Donna was busy with the pre-start checks, Avi arrived shortly thereafter. All checks complete, off we went.

The waters of Pioneer Bay were calm, a comfortable 25 knots was the order of the day. Our transit across Whitsunday Passage was equally as pleasant! As we neared Cid Island we attempted to contact the skipper of the disabled vessel, no luck. Flipping a coin, which way should I proceed? I only had two choices, continue to Hunt Channel or go around the northern end of the Island, naturally I chose the wrong way! As we neared Ross Islet, we identified our target, a 5 metre Quintrex, displaying an orange “V” sheet. The two gentlemen aboard the vessel were very happy to see us! They had the orange “V” sheet displayed for a couple hours, not a single vessel responded, and the rocket they fired was similarly ignored! I can only suppose the day was too glorious for all those boaters to be bothered by someone else’s plight!

All efforts to start the vessel’s engine were unsuccessful, now a tow to Shute Harbour was in order. Donna and Avi did well deploying the tow line, ensuring it remained clear of the ever hungry propellers. We were soon underway, the initial drag was slow, but we were able to get the tinny up onto the plane, a quick trip to Shute Harbour ensued. Once within the harbour confines we rafted up to guide the vessel to the public ramp. The tide was out. Rather than take the vessel all the way to the ramp, the occupants of the rescued vessel were happy to manhandle the boat to a safe place while awaiting the trailer to be positioned.

Donna was able to complete the paperwork, driver’s license and credit card details were gathered, our job complete, we said our farewells and back to Coral Sea marina. This was the first activation for both Donna and Avi on VMR2!

My thanks to the crew for doing a good job and making the afternoon a pleasant one.

Crew: Donna Deegan – communications and deck hand, Avi Fridman – trainee,
Skipper: Paul Martin


Activation 30/07/2022: Late night Hamilton Island Medivac.

Right in the middle of an exciting game of rugby league I received a call from QAS. A person on Hamilton Island had fallen down some steps and required our assistance, so I rang some crew who were available on our call out system for the job. I met Donna and Bill at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 where we completed the start up procedures while we waited for the QAS officer to arrive. After his arrival on board we departed Coral Sea Marina at 2125.

I was a very dark night. As we turned into the Molle Passage it started to roughen up and we had a slow trip of about 15 knots to Hamilton Island. The patient was wheeled down on a stretcher and after getting him onto a back board we carried him onto VMR1 for the trip back to Airlie Beach, as the patient had a neck brace on and in considerable discomfort we also had a slow trip home.

We were met by another QAS officer at CSM and after the patient was unloaded we refuelled, returned to our berth, washed down VMR1 and were finished at 0050 am and by then the Broncos had been well and truly beaten.

Thanks to the crew of Donna and Bill

Crew: Bill Hopton and Donna Deegan.
Skipper: Ray Lewis.