March 2022

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Activation 28/02/2022 & 01/03/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island – double header

Sleep seemed such a good idea as I lay on my bed, lights out, Chloe asleep on her bed snoring melodiously as is her want. Phone on my bedside chest began toning, “Yes Ray!” Was my response. Ray Lewis, our phone holder informed me of a Medivac required from Hamilton Island. Say no more, I have done this often enough to know where my kit was located, dressing quickly while avoiding stepping on the sleeping dog (we all know the saying!), and off to Coral Sea marina.

I arrived to find Coral Sea Marina VMR1 aglow with lights, Shane Newell and Michael McQueeney had completed the pre departure checks. Hearty greeting over, we awaited the arrival of our paramedic, shortly she arrived and we were ready to go! After checking the functionality of the gearbox, casting off the lines, we were away.

A starry night, no wind to speak of, top of the tide, a waning crescent moon doing little to light our way, dictated a night of reliance upon the plotter and radar and navigation lights. Shane joined me in the fly bridge, keeping and eye on the radar screens and providing good conversation. Our transit was uneventful, relatively calm seas provided a quick passage. We passed our ETA to the paramedic on Hamilton Island, approximately 1 hour. He had experienced a long day and asked if we could be there in 50 minutes as he was very tired, we will try!

Arriving 53 minutes later, I was advised our normal docking area may be too crowded! OK, I’ll take a look and, if necessary, select and alternate dock. Not necessary, we proceeded to dock in our usual position; our passengers were awaiting us, a brief passing of medical information was exchange between the paramedics, loaded the patient and her partner with luggage in tow.

I awaited word that all was good for departure. The only word I was given was “we have another one!” OK, we can wait. My plans for a few hours sleep before Miss Chloe would be demanding my presence for her morning walk were about to be wrecked! We waited and waited. To our relief the lights of an approaching ambulance could be seen. Once the loading procedure was repeated, passenger briefing completed by Shane we could commence our return journey. Once again I pivoted VMR1 through 270 degrees and we waved farewell to Hamilton Island.

A northerly breeze had sprung up, combining with a falling tide created a rougher sea to be negotiated; rather than our 22 knot outbound journey, we now had to reduce speed to 20 knots for the comfort of our passengers.

We arrived at Coral Sea marina, discharged our passengers and then proceeded to the fuel dock, once tanks were topped up, we headed to our pen. Completing the paperwork and Michael washing down our vessel, we bid VMR1 a good night! Both Shane and Michael did a superb job on the deck, handling lines with ease, making my job far simpler, Thanks guys!

Crew: Shane Newell and Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation (2) 01/03/2022: Assist tinny stuck somewhere near Double Cone

This rescue would have fitted perfectly for the first of April.

Ray called, we have two pob in a 5.1 metre tinny stuck somewhere on Double Cone. “Okay, I (Ken) am on my way”. I was first to arrive at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and had the pre-starts well under way when Michel arrived followed by David R and Debbie. 14:10 we were on our way to Double Cone. It was blowing a Northerly so it was a rough ride.

Debbie was our comms officer, so she made contact with our target. The target said you will not have any difficulty seeing them. Getting closer, we spotted our target and to my amazement there was the 5.1 metre tinny high and dry about 100 metres from the waters edge.

What am I supposed to do with this I was thinking. Debbie made contact again and they were requesting help with their bilge pump. Apparently it had stopped working, the vessel flooded with water so they ran it well and truly aground.

Michel and David launched VMR1’s tender. I had decided to have David look after VMR1 as Michel and I went ashore. The tide was falling so I left Michel to look after the tender while I waded ashore. We had taken the portable 12 Volt pump with us just in case I could not get their pump to work.

I had an interesting conversation with the owner who insisted that the pump fuse was not blown and even if it was, the pump would still work. Proving this to be total rubbish we moved on to the next issue. The owner said,” do you have any spare fuses?” ” I don’t have any, however you have many in your fuse panel”. So I had a quick look to see which one he was not going to need and swapped it to the Bilge pump. As their pump had already blown a fuse it was likely that this could happen again. So I explained and how to use our 12v Pump and tested it.

The next problem was this vessel did not have access to her bilge. It was a flat deck screwed down with Tech screws. I discovered in the aft corner there used to be a removable panel which was now screwed down. Luckily they had tools. Okay, get that panel out and put our pump in there. You now have at least two and a half hours to wait for the tide. I inspected the vessel to ascertain how she filled with water. Nothing was found. They had live bait tanks etc – any one of these could be the source of water ingress.

Not being a member was costing them $324 per hour, while I solved problems that they should have been capable of. They decided that they could handle the situation from there, so I headed back to Michel and the tender. 15:41 on board VMR1, we headed for Coral Sea Marina. Ee were refueled and then back to our pen. The pump was to be returned to Ray when the target arrived at Whisper Bay.

Thankyou to Ray for securing the pump, to David for taking the helm on the return trip, to Debbie for the excellent communications and to Michel my backup in the tender.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, David Spiteri, Debbie Simpson
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 03/03/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island for unconscious patient

0207 – I remember the time on the phone when the Help ringtone went off. 24/7 phone holder Bill said we had been tasked to do a medivac from Hamilton Island. Michel and Shane had already started prepping for the departure when I got to the boat, and when that was finished Michel went up to help the paramedic down to the boat with all their gear. While he was doing that I checked the depth under us – not much at all almost at the bottom of the tide, so Shane and I moved the boat around to L arm and Michel and the Paramedic arrived shortly after. Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was under way at 0255.

Conditions were very dark and more than a bit rolly, with a NW wind gusting up to 28 knots against a dropping tide, not nice at all. A trip we can usually do in under an hour with ease took 1h 10 minutes running with the wind and waves on our port quarter most of the way. It was not going to be nice going back into that! We were alongside at Hamilton at 0405 and under way again at 0415. Then it was a matter of trying to find the smoothest way back to make it as comfortable as we could for our passengers.

At times we were down to 8 knots. After we got back into the Molle channel behind South Molle and found it very rough as we headed in closer to the mainland for shelter. We even tried a course change suggested by Shane, to sneak up the eastern side of Daydream to get a bit of shelter and a better angle against the wind. A bit better but still not good. By this time the tide had turned and it was wind against tide – lovely – NOT!! Very rough again as we approached Pioneer, and finally managed to get up to a reasonable speed after that, but it was still rolly.

Finally berthed at CSM at 0545, after 1 ½ hours of pretty uncomfortable stuff and speeds as low as 8 knots again – not nice. After assisting the paramedic and patient up to the ambulance and refuelling VMR1, it was not until 0625 that we had finished and were off home as the sun came up. A longer run than usual, but well done by Shane and Michel

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Shane Newell
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 4/03/2022: Assist drifting yacht in strong winds and big seas.

Our SARCO and 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder Bill Harrison gave us the job today to assist a person whose 24 ft (6 tonne) yacht had lost its anchorage (in the strong Northerlies and big sea) out from New Beach (Airlie), and was drifting towards other boats and possibly the beach or the rocks. Some urgency was obvious.

Bill arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 soon after me, followed by Shane. So I had 2 Snr crew for this potentially difficult assignment. Bill was well rested (he told me) because he has recently arrived back from a break in Sydney. Shane on the other hand has been doing almost permanent night shift lately for VMRW.

We found the owner uncomfortably sitting in his tender, between a mooring buoy and the stern of his boat. He had managed to snag the mooring line as he floated past – very lucky in the conditions. The yacht had finished up with its stern facing the wind and waves.

With skilful work by my team, we managed to secure the tow line and tow him and his vessel to his mooring – and left him there securely attached.

This very difficult task was performed with calm efficiency by my skilled crew. They were not so well rested after their necessary ‘work out’ with the ropes. Thanks Lads.

All paperwork was completed by Shane over the phone, when we were safely back in our berth. It was far too dangerous to attempt the paperwork ‘out there.’

Crew: Bill Harrison, Shane Newell
Skipper: Fin Forbes

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Activation Friday afternoon 4/03/2022: It was proving to be a busy Friday for VMR Whitsundays.

I (Ron) was tasked with the third activation for the day at 13.56 when Bill, our 24hr phone holder rang, needing crew for a medivac from Hamilton Island.

“No problem, no delay, I am on my way”. A change of shirt and a short drive down to Coral Sea Marina and I met Paul B. in the carpark on the way to Coral Sea Marina VMR1. We were working through our pre-start checks when trainee Louise arrived followed soon after by Debbie. As we were ready to depart, Debbie elected to return to the carpark and assist the paramedics to carry their gear down to the boat.

The North Westerly breeze was still quite strong so we were hoping the bottom of the tide at this time would allow us a reasonable ride to Hamilton Island. We were down to 12 knots over ground for a while, but the boat handled it well, and so did the crew.

At our usual berth at Hamilton Island we were met by the patient and her care team who settled her in for our return journey.

A quick briefing from the paramedic informed us that we had a very fragile patient and a smooth ride was paramount, okay lets assess the situation.

Blustery winds from the North always give us rough conditions and we would be driving into it on our return journey. The roughest spots would probably be the southern end of the Molle Group, and Pioneer Point, so lets see if we can head directly to the new Shute Harbour Wharf facility, get permission to dock there and re-route the ambulance to out new drop off point. This would remove most of the rougher points of our patient’s journey to shore. Some quick phone calls and this was all okayed, so off we set.

Boaties are aware that sometimes going slower means rougher going with the waves, so we were very careful to try and balance our speed with our wave-dodging skills on the now shorter journey for our patient.

All went well and in 55 minutes at a much reduced speed we were putting our patient on a stretcher at Shute Harbour and setting off into the sea-way for our trip back to Coral Sea Marina, refuel, washdown, paperwork and prepare for the next activation by 18.17.

This trip was an excellent training exercise as well as a life-saving service. Paul did a lot of the driving and docking manoeuvres, Louise gained valuable experience and bonds were created with the team at Shute Harbour ensuring that we could use their facility at any time. The patient also smiled and waved her thanks as she was escorted up to the ambulance, but that may have just been because she was glad to be back on land.

Great work by the team.

Crew: Paul Bloomfield, Debbie Simpson, Louise Keepa, and our paramedic on this journey.
Skipper: Ron Roberts.

A quick reference for the readers; 1 knot [nautical mile per hour] is very roughly 1.7 kilometres per hour, so 12 knots is about 20.5 Kph.

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Activation 7/03/2022: Assist Sailing boat with no motor in Funnel Bay

Bill Harrison, our emergency phone holder, called at 09.16. A yacht, returning from Hook, was unable to start his motor as the batteries were flat. This would make it tricky to get into his pen at CSM. The call had come in via Whitsunday VTS with very little detail.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 09.45 in a brisk N’Wester and shortly afterwards Bill was able to contact our target by phone. Why they didn’t call us direct by phone instead of via VTS wasn’t made clear, especially as the targets VHF usage was suspect. We were alongside the target off Muddy Bay at 10.10 and passed the tow line across in fairly choppy seas.

The Target said we had towed him in recently because of the same problem, flat batteries. He had a local chap install new ones but even though he had his engine available, and a wind generator, still managed to flatten the batteries. Either he has a major charging problem or needs a battery management system and voltmeter. The Target didn’t want to try jump starting the engine. Probably wise.

A short tow had us in the pond at CSM at 10.30 where we put the yacht alongside for the trip to their pen. CSM had given us an alternate berth if we had problems. That was not too useful as the target didn’t have any dock lines on board only in his pen. The marina also made a Securité call warning of our entry to the marina and had Michael McQueeney standing by to help our target dock. As there was a boat sharing their berth, we put the Yacht well forward and had our lines ready to slip quickly. We got the yacht halfway into the pen before the wind interfered and we bailed out.

Back to our berth for a tidy and to and to Shane for the final paperwork and all the hiking.

Crew: Shane Newell, Bill Harrison
Skipper: Geoff Smith

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Activation 8/03/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

A beautifully cool night (well it was under the sheet in bed with the air-con on) disappeared with my dreams as the emergency ring tone went on my phone at 22.05.

Bill, our 24 hour phone holder, was enquiring if I could do a medivac from Hamilton Island for a lady with a sports injury. No rush he said, the paramedic can’t get there for 30 minutes.

Okay, coffee on, clothes on door closed and down to Coral Sea Marina.

Shane and Michel were already on board Coral sea Marina VMR1 doing pre-departure checks when I arrived. I think Shane just about lives on board. He has done an activation every 2nd day for 2 weeks. That is dedication.

So, with paramedic on board, out we went into a blustery North-North Wester, with a neap tide approaching the low. Bumpy, but not too bad, so Shane drove for the entire journey. Excellent training and he handled it well.

Adding to the evening was a change of docking position at Hamilton Island, no problem, and we soon had our patient aboard and were departing Hamilton Harbour and searching for a ‘smooth’ trip home. This meant matching speed to conditions, and a change to our course home to take advantage of the protection of Daydream Island.

Once we had handed over our patient, her carer and our paramedic to the shore based ambulance crew, we were free to move to the fuel dock, then back to our berth for a wash-down and to shut down and complete the paperwork.

Great work by Shane and Michel had us heading home at 02.05.

Crew: Shane Newell, Michel del Aguila
Skipper: Ron Roberts

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Activation 9/03/2022: Early hours medivac from Hamilton, patient with dislocated collarbone.

I remember looking at the time when the phone went off – 1107pm and 24/7 phone holder Bill told me that we had been tasked to do a medivac from Hamilton Island for a young lady with a dislocated collarbone – okay, on my way, at least I had managed a couple of hours sleep. By 2345 we had prepped the boat and loaded the paramedic and Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was underway with Shane helming, still with the unseasonal northerly but it had eased a little to 10-15knots, but there was residual swell.

By 0045 we were alongside at Hamilton, and after a bit of a delay as the paramedic advised that there was possibly another patient to bring back at the same time. That was discounted, so we loaded our young lady and her carer and with James helming this time we started the trip back at 0115. Coming alongside at Coral Sea Marina at 0220 to discharge our patient, her carer and paramedic. Then refuelling and heading back to our own berth for the paperwork, washdown and securing the boat ready for the next activation. Off to home for another welcome kip at 0300.

Thanks Shane and James, nice work and great commitment in the middle of the night.

Crew: Shane Newell, James Roberts
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 10/03/2022: Assist a 45 foot sailing vessel with engine problems from Funnel Bay area to its mooring in front of the Sailing Club.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 had been out on the water for about 1½ hours assisting the WMTC with navigation and boat handling instruction. Then the instructor asked if we could head into Funnel Bay to show them how to anchor and to launch our tender to practice towing. On the way into Funnel we passed astern of a yacht of about 45 feet under motor, heading back to port.

Less than 5 minutes later we had a radio call from the very same yacht saying that his engine had just been shut down and there was smoke in the engine bay. Could we please assist them to their mooring off the Sailing Club! A quick chat with the WMTC instructor confirmed that he thought that would be fantastic! At 1000 we told the yacht we were on our way. Ray was briefing the trainees on what we would all have to do.

The boat was not far away and we were close by pretty quickly. As it was still a bit rolly from the north, rather than tying up alongside we got close enough to pass across the paperwork for completion on the way in, then passed across our towline. Ray and the trainees paid out the line to a suitable length, tied it off, put the “gob rope” into action (it goes across the stern of VMR1 with a retaining line and a snap shackle spliced into the middle to keep the line close to the centre of VMR1 to greatly reduce the chance of us being overturned by the weight of the towed vessel if it goes too much off to the side). We started the tow at about 6 knots towards his mooring. As we got close he advised the he had managed to get his engine going again and was happy to take his boat the last couple of metres himself, all done easily. Sounds like he had a problem with a rocker cover gasket.

By 1100 we had retrieved our tow line and paperwork off the boat, just in time for Ray to be advised by 24/7 phone holder Bill that we had been tasked to do a medivac and that the Paramedics would be ready to go from the Marina in 15 minutes! VMR1 headed back into the marina to offload the training mob (I think I had convinced the AMSA chap that the yacht tow was not a prearranged setup!) and to get a new crew of volunteers to handle the medivac activation.

The photo of the track of VMR1 from Marine Traffic show how busy it has been in the last 36 hours – Medivac Hamilton, WMTC training, assist from off Funnel Bay, Medivac from Hayman, our regular Thursday evening training for our own crew, and more training for WMTC.

Thanks for your help Ray, top notch as usual.

Crew: Ray Lewis, 5 trainees from the Whitsunday Maritime Training Centre, a WMTC instructor, and an AMSA training auditor!
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 10/03/2022: A day of plan changes including a Medivac from Hamilton Island.

It was 10:50, I (Ken) was just parking the VMR2 trailer while Paul was on Whalesong VMR2 at the dock. I had just returned from completing the hull repairs on VMR2.

My Emergency phone was ringing, it was Bill. We have a medivac from Hamo, can you take it? Your afternoon training session with WMTC has been cancelled. “Okay, I have Paul with me we will go to VMR1”.

Mal had been out all morning with another group from WMTC. He was now back at our dock, having also completed a rescue tow that morning.

I went down to Paul to inform him we were going on a medivac. 11:20 we were on board Coral Sea Marina VMR1 with Ray, Shane and two Paramedics. I was informed that this emergency was a heart attack, would we make haste. We departed immediately with good sea conditions. Arriving Hamilton Island at 12:10

After a very unusual delay the patient was loaded and we departed at 13:10 arriving at Coral Sea Marina at 14:05. We refuelled and headed back to our pen to complete all the paper work. Thankyou to Ray for attending to this procedure.

14:30 after wash down we headed for home…. Well some did… Paul and I went back to VMR2 to complete the task that we were involved in prior to the Medivac. As Murphy would have it, we were not going to complete that task today. A broken part stopped that operation.

It was a VMR training day scheduled to commence at 16:30. Well that is something to look forward to.

Well, Murphy had more instore for us.

A call from Bill our emergency phone holder. Can I inform all that training is cancelled as we have a medivac from Hayman Island.

Thankyou to Shane on comms, Paul M as assistant Skipper and Ray holding it all together.

Crew: Shane Newell, Paul M, Ray Lewis
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 10/03/2022: Hayman Island medivac.

Bill, the 24hr emergency phone holder called with a Hayman Island medivac. Paul and Ken had been working on Whale Song VMR2, so walked over to VMR1 to act as crew. Ken, in the meantime had contacted all the trainees as it was Thursday night training and it would need to be cancelled. Debbie was already on board, she had come down to clean out the fridge and decided to clean the whole cabin as well and did a top job.

After the paramedics arrived, we headed out on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and arrived at Hayman at 17.25. The paramedics went off to assess the patient, who had a bad back and after they returned, we loaded the patient and got on our way.

Paul had us alongside at CSM by 18.40. The paramedics had contacted the local fire brigade to give them a hand to get the patient off the boat.

After refuelling we returned to the berth at 19.25. Thanks to a very good crew.

Crew: Paul Martin, James Roberts, Debbie Simpson, Ken Bryce,
Skipper: Geoff Smith.

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Activation 14/03/2022: Midnight Medivac from Hamilton Island

Was it Sunday, or Monday? It didn’t seem to matter much when the emergency ring-tone started beside my bed at 00.06. My wife and I had been unpacking moving boxes all weekend, and thankfully the strident tones didn’t wake her.

‘Hi Bill’ I answered, What have you got for me today?’ ‘A young girl needs a medi-vac off Hamilton Island, the paramedics will be down at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 00.30, are you available please?’ Even at midnight, Bill is very polite.

So, dress for the night, 25 knot winds from the South-East with cloud cover and the chance of rain on a very dark sea. Again.

I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 to find our paramedic had arrived early, and just before my crew tonight of Ron and Michel got there and we began our pre-start checks.

Departure and the journey were predictably bumpy and dark, but conversations with Ron on the fly-bridge were interesting. Ron is also a highly honored volunteer with SES and had just returned from assisting in flood work in Brisbane.

Our arrival at Hamilton Island marina saw a change in docking procedures as our usual berth was being used, but all went well. With our young patient carried aboard by her Dad and Mum as escort, we headed back to Airlie Beach and the waiting ambulance.

On a dark, blowy and bouncy night at sea it is a very comforting feeling to know you are protected within a world class vessel.

Our return to Airlie was the usual ‘no fuss’ process with assisting our passengers and the paramedic with all of their bags and equipment up to the ambulance. We then move VMR1 to the fuel dock to top up and ensure we are best prepared for our next task and finally motor around to our normal berth for a wash-down, tidy-up and complete the necessary paperwork.

My thanks to the crew tonight, great work once again.

Crew: Michel del Aguila and Ron McCall
Skipper: Ron Roberts.

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Activation 15/03/2022: Tow near Port of Airlie

t was around 13:00 when My emergency phone was ringing. Bill was on the line. We have a member who needs a tow.

Okay I am on my way. I then remembered that my car was in for a repair. Oops! Tony was my crew for today, so I called him, “can you please pick me up?” “Yes of course” was the reply.

This Activation was ideally suited to Whale Song VMR2. 13:40 we were underway to Port of Airlie. On arrival we saw the problem. The tubing on the runabout had parted from the hull causing the vessel to turn over and sink.

Tony commenced the paperwork. By 14:05 we had the vessel on a tow behind VMR2 heading for the public ramp. 14:40 the vessel was righted and put onto the trailer. Many thanks from the owner.

15:15 VMR2 was back on her floating dock. Tony completed the wash down while I completed the paperwork. Great to work with Tony. We were in auto mode, it all just happened.

Crew: Tony Bell
Skipper: Ken Bryce.

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Activation 17/03/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

Bill Harrison (VMRW’s 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder and Search and Rescue Co-ordinator -SARCO) rang just after 3 am organising a crew for a Medivac of 2 female patients and one carer, from Hamilton Island.

The job (on the water) took from approx. 3.40 am till 7am – it was slow because of the rough conditions. We had 3 crew and 2 paramedics going over, plus an extra 3 passengers on our return.

Michel (Snr Crew and shared Comms),Terry (Shared Comms, Crewman and helmsman going over and back). Thanks to the crew – you make any activation relaxed.

Crew: Michel del Aguila and Terry Clarke
Skipper: Fin Forbes

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Activation 18/03/2022: Medivac or marathon?

Awoken by the dying ringtone on my phone, I looked at my phone and dialled the last caller, Phone holder, Bill Harrison answered, “a medivac from Hamilton Island, 2 patients!” OK, I’m on my way. Avoiding any unnecessary noise or light I quickly dressed and was on my way to Coral Sea marina. The southeasterly wind continued it’s thrashing of the neighbours palm trees, signalling the chance of a bumpy transit to Hamilton Island. Shortly after my arrival at the marina, Michel and David appeared and commenced readying Coral Sea VMR1 for departure. We awaited the paramedics who arrived some 30 minutes later. Once the paramedics were on board and gear stowed we ventured into the night; a full moon illuminated the scudding clouds as they passed above us, oh boy, it will be a bumpy ride! We departed at 0122 hours.

Not surprisingly there were no moving vessels showing on the radar, our path was clear. Past Pioneer Point and entering Molle Channel, it became increasingly obvious that this was not destined to be a hasty ride, undaunted we pushed on towards Unsafe Passage; it took little imagination to see what awaited us as we entered Whitsunday Passage. My expectations were fulfilled; a choppy sea spurred on by the southeasterly wind and a falling tide. The Bureau of Meteorology predicted wind speeds to be 35 Km/hr, gusting to 45 Km/hr, and they were right! I headed for Fitzalan Passage seeking some sheltered water. Passengers and crew were relatively comfortable, we arrived at Hamilton Island marina at 0228 hrs, sooner than I expected. G arm at the marina was typically crowded, a little space for mooring was available, so in we went, (little space is a relative term when mooring a 12 metre vessel). Our paramedics set off to be transported to the medical facility.

Left to our own devices we discussed all manner of things, of no particular relevance. We waited for the arrival of our initial patient, she was stretchered down the ramp and soon loaded aboard to our awaiting Striker stretcher, partner and bags loaded, now for our other patient. Again we waited for sight of the ambulance, eventually a phone call advised we would be delayed as a third patient was to be transported! Ok, no problem, we have plenty of room. Eventually the lights of an ambulance were approaching. Two rather ill, young women joined us. Now complete, we prepared for departure at 0404 hrs, bound for Coral Sea Marina.

Sailing with the wind behind us and following seas we disembarked our passengers at 0505 hrs. Post activation refuelling, clean up and paperwork were now the order of the day, this completed our activation, we departed.

Many thanks to the crew.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, Senior crew and David Richter on comms.
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation 18/03/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

Our ever ‘on call’ SARCO (Search and Rescue Co-ordinator) and 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder, Bill Harrison, rang at 1.50 pm organising a crew for a medivac of a patient from Hamilton Island.

Our time on the water, to complete this job, was approx. 2 ¼ hours (from approx. 2.40 pm till 4. 55 pm).

The day was ‘Whitsunday perfect”– the seas were flat, there was just enough wind to be pleasant. The crew on board were good company – competent and efficient and obliging in everything they needed to do.

You too can help the Whitsunday community, and be part of a group that helps people in need – by simply volunteering your time and skills with VMRW.

Crew: Tony Bell (Snr Crew and todays Comms Officer), Debbie Simpson (Crew and Helmsperson – over and back), Louise Keepa (Trainee)
We also had 2 Paramedics and one patient as passengers.
Skipper: Fin Forbes.

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Activation 18/03/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

It was 20:40 I (Ken) was watching a movie when my emergency phone started ringing. It was Bill, our 24 hour emergency phone holder. ” We have a medivac from Hamilton Island.” I said,” it is way too early for a Medivac, they only occur after midnight, in the wee hours. Okay, I am on my way”. Being conscious that we may have to carry a person on our stretcher. I said to Bill let’s have a look who is on the crew list. Well, there are only two on for tonight. So the three of us will just have to manage.

21:30 with Ron Mc, Paul and the Paramedic onboard Coral Sea Marina VMR1, we set off for Hamilton Island. Ron was on the helm, so Paul would have his hands full on the mooring lines and paperwork. The sea conditions were not good, we were near the top of the tide with 25 knots from the S/East. We passed through unsafe passage all good. Now for the Whitsunday passage. Yes, it was rough. The moon was hidden behind the rain clouds.

At 22:05 VMR1 bounced into a trough and the Port engine shut down. That was interesting for the next 20/25 minutes. With me up and down checking everything. While Ron drove very slowly. I had the engine bays open. The only thing that could stop the engine would be electrics. So I paralleled the batteries. This did not work. I then reset all four contactors. Two in each engine bay, also turning off and on the isolators. I was then able to start the engines from the lower helm and transfer to the upper helm. Result, a contactor had apparently momentarily opened and so shut off the engine. 22:35 Ron had us under way one more time.

22:58 we berthed in Hamilton Island, the Paramedic went off to meet the ambulance. 23:10 we departed heading for Coral Sea Marina. With a following sea, the conditions were far more comfortable, if you enjoy surfing.

12:09 we arrived at N1 CSM patient, carer and Paramedic departed.
We refuelled and returned to our dock for a wash down, completed the paper work and ready for home 00:55

Although Ron was on the helm under training supervision. A special mention goes to Paul who filled all the following positions Comms/ Deckhand/ Senior Crew. Some of you know how challenging deck work is when training a new helms person. Great Job Paul.

Crew: Ron McCall, Paul Bloomfield
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 19/03/2022: Tow Non member

I (Ken) just busy writing my last activation when Dick was on my emergency phone with an activation to Pioneer Bay. An 8 metre Bayliner had broken down not far from Coral Sea Marina.

I was questioning my decision to use Whale Song VMR2 when the rain poured down while I was sitting in my vehicle at CSM. With David R and Debbie on board we set off in VMR2 for this short run. 11:02 We departed to a Lat Long supplied by the broken down vessel.

Well surprise, surprise, there was nothing to be seen for miles. Debbie called their vessel and ascertained a new position. We were soon along side in very choppy conditions. David commenced the paper work immediately while Debbie and I secured the vessel along side.

We made ready for the tow to Coral Sea Marina. We were requested to proceed to Berth A22. Okay, I will do my best to get you in there. 11:29 we headed for their berth, arriving at 12:19. Everyone was very happy to be safe and secure.

VMR2 then headed for the fuel dock and then to her dry dock 12:40 saw us heading for home.

Thankyou Debbie on Comms and David R on paperwork.
Well done.

Crew: Debbie Simpson, David Richter
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 19/03/2022: Tow to Whisper Bay

The front lawn freshly cut, backyard demanding attention, disaster! Out of fuel for the mower!! Well it’s getting hot, go get the fuel, cool down and finish later, that was my thinking, ha! En route to the service station my phone rang, yep, Jonny from the VMR radio room called, vessel broken down in the vicinity of Pigeon Island. I grabbed the 5 litres of fuel, quickly to home, change, no need to apologise to Chloe, my dog, she knows what this attire means. I’m off!!

Ken was preparing Whale Song VMR2 for departure, all checks done. Launching VMR2 from the floating dock and we are on our way. Once clear of the leads we headed for Pigeon Island looking for a 4.5 metre tinny with 4 persons aboard, apparently having broken down.

We arrived in short measure, our target vessel was at anchor. We gently pulled alongside, secured lines fore and aft and proceeded to the public ramp at Whisper Bay. The persons on the rescued vessel secured lines on the dock, we completed the paperwork and departed for Coral Sea Marina. Oh, if every rescue were this simple!

Post activation wash down and lock up was completed.

Senior Crew: Ken Bryce
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation (1) 22/03/2022: Member broken down in Turtle Bay 2 POB.

Bill Harrison called at 08.19 with a member breakdown. A 7m ½ cab Sea Ray had a starter motor problem in Turtle Bay. Bill arrived at CSM at the same time as me and by the time Ron arrived, we were ready to depart.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 got away at 09.00 in good conditions, if a little bumpy at times. We got to our target at 10.00 after an uneventful trip and because Turtle Bay was quite choppy, postponed the paperwork. Their trailer hitch had broken so they organised a bridle using 4 of their cleats to spread the load.

Once we got in the lee of Hammo we did the paperwork. The people were from the Gold Coast and members down there but understood that as there is no reciprocal agreement between the Gold Coast and ourselves, they had wisely joined VMRW as well. We were not sure of the strength of the Sea Rays cleats so elected to tow at 10 knots and got to the CSM Public Ramp at 12.55.

As VMR1 was returning to Hammo for a Medivac I handed over to Ron and headed home. Thanks to a great crew, next time I may take a book.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Ron McCall
Skipper: Geoff Smith.

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Activation (2) 22/03/2022: After a standard beginning, this activation offered something a little different.

At 11.48 my phone shouted out it’s emergency ring-tone. It was Bill asking if I could do a medivac from Hamilton Island. My usual reply followed, ‘of course’.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 is out retrieving a vessel with a broken motor from Turtle Bay and won’t be back until about 14.00. ‘No problem’ was my reply, “I’ll just keep cleaning out my shed and see them on their return’.

12.15 and Bill calls again, their return was faster than expected, they are just coming around Pioneer Point.

That was all the incentive I needed to leave the messy shed and head down to Coral Sea Marina in preparation for the next activation.

A quick turnaround on the dock as both Ron M. and Bill H. were happy to stay on as crew, and it only needed a quick brief from skipper Geoff S. before I took over and we departed the marina with our Paramedic on board.

We were about to power up outside the marina when the very distinctive cry of the DSC alarm blasted from one of our VHF radios.

Both engines to neutral and I grabbed the hand-piece and responded to the emergency radio link. Nothing further heard, wait and respond again, nothing further heard.

Then we followed the process. Bill on comms contacted VTS Hay Point, they had not heard it and had no further information. He then called Water Police, they had no information. We had run through the menu and extracted all the info automatically recorded by the DSC system on the receiving radio but it didn’t give us a position for the “Man Overboard” code we had received, so we held position and waited 5 minutes while repeatedly responding, to no avail.

Still listening for further calls, we determined that we should continue with our medi-vac but be prepared to react to anything that might occur.

The rest of our activation followed the usual course. A comfortable trip across Whitsunday Passage and into Hamilton Harbour where Ron M. steered the docking maneuvers, stretcher the patient on board, secured and comfortable with carer briefed and Bill H. steered us out and back to our discharge point for our paramedic and passengers at Coral Sea Marina.

Across to refuel and then back to our berth for a wash-down, clean-up and paperwork. The crew had been on board since 08.30 and we finished of at 16.20. Another big day for 2 volunteers, thank you gentlemen, very much.

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

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Activation (3) 22/03/2022: Transport Paramedic to vessel requesting medical assistance at Chalkies Beach, Haselwood Island. An unwanted birthday present.

There goes the “Help” ringtone, just before 2000. It was 24/7 phone holder Bill, saying that we had been tasked by QAS for a medivac from a charter vessel at Haselwood Island, about 1.5 hours each way. Bill put a team together while I was on my way in to Coral Sea Marina VMR1.

Michel and James beat me in, followed closely by Shane. While the rest of us prepped VMR1 for night operations James went up to help the paramedic down with his gear. By 2030 we were under way with trainee coxswain Shane on the helm, after he had got more details of the location from Bill.

A pretty black night for the first half of the trip before the moon showed up, an E/SE wind of 12-15 knots making it a bit lumpy once we got through Hook Passage and headed down the western side of Whitsunday Island towards Chalkies. A quick radio call confirmed that our target still needed medical assistance, and Shane had us backed in alongside them a fraction after 2200. We had gone around Esk Island and outside French Shoal as the most direct route.

After the paramedic had assessed the patient (who had managed to split his foot between the big toe and the next and would require some stitches – and this was on his birthday!) Shane had us underway again at 2020, taking the scenic route (yeah, right, at night!) through Solway Passage and past Hamilton Island and back through Unsafe, docking at the Marina at 2345. A short delay while the paramedic’s stretcher was brought down, then while Michel and James helped the paramedic and the patient up to the Ambulance, Shane and I took VMR1 to the fuel dock and the other two re-joined us there.

By 0010 refuelling was completed we moved back to our own berth, cleaned and secured the boat, completed the paperwork and emailed it to our activations officer. We were all done by 0030 and on our way home to bed after 4 hours on board. Nice work by Shane on the helm, and Michel and James were good crew as usual.

Crew: Shane Newell, Michel del Aguila, James Roberts
Skipper: Mal Priday

This was Coral Sea Marina VMR1’s 3rd activation of the day, with earlier assists for a breakdown and another medivac from Hamilton Island. At the same time last year we had done 39 activations, so far this year it sits at 67, a 70% increase over what was a record breaking 2021.

Activations Summary – VMR Whitsunday
VMRW Activations 2022 2021 2022 vs 2021
Breakdowns March 6 5 120%
Medivacs March 13 6 217%
Total March 24 15 160%
Breakdowns YTD 21 15 140%
Medivacs YTD 34 18 189%
Total Activations YTD 67 39 172%

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Activation 23/03/2022: Medivac Hamilton from Island

We, Ray and I (Ken) had just completed a training session for our budding Coxswains when Ray’s emergency phone was ringing. It was Bill, our emergency phone holder, with a Medivac to Hamilton Island.

Not a problem with crew as we had more than enough on board Coral Sea Marina VMR1. Shane and Ron Mc decided to join Ray and I for this medivac. 12:00 with the paramedic on board and Ron at the helm we set off for Hamilton Island.


Conditions were great arriving at 13:00 The patient had a bad fall, so this meant the stretcher was required and a great deal of care. This was not a problem for this crew as they have completed hundreds of similar Medivacs in the past.

13:25 we departed with Ron Mc on the helm again heading for Coral Sea Marina. It was a very relaxed trip with Ray looking after all the paperwork. Shane assisting Ron at the helm station and well, I was feeling redundant in the back ground. 14:35 we were met at the dock by another Paramedic. Our crew transferred the patient to the backboard and then to the waiting stretcher.

Well done crew, very professional.

We refuelled and headed to our pen for a final clean up and paperwork 15:15. It had been a long day, commencing around 08:30

Crew: Ray Lewis, Shane Newell and Ron McCall
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 27/03/2022 VMR1 and VMR2: VERY URGENT Medivac for a suspected Irukandji sting victim in Butterfly Bay – and a great team effort all round.

The day started to get busy when Di in the radio room received a call from a charter company – a guest on one of their vessels had suffered what sounds like an Irukandji sting and required urgent medical assistance. She asked them to call QAS immediately, as they coordinate all medivacs in the area. She soon had a call from QAS advising that they were trying to task the rescue helicopter, and then another call saying that the helicopter was not available, could we please attend? Di called me as SARCO (Search and Rescue Coordinator) and I immediately gave her the go ahead to put a crew on the task, which she did straight away. Death from an Irukandji sting is very rare, but it can be extremely painful – you might wish you were dead!

I knew Ken was the skipper from looking at the app we use for crew availability, and rang him suggesting that he could ask the paramedics if they wanted a fast transfer on Whale Song VMR2, our 6.7 Naiad, to get them on scene as soon as possible, and I would follow on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for the patient transfer. Their response was “it is very urgent, yes please!” Ken rang me to confirm the arrangement, he was leaving with Bill and the two paramedics, so I rang Ron and Tony to advise them of the change and I was soon on my way in to the marina.

Ken took Whale Song out of the marina and took off for Hayman Island Resort, the target boat had moved around there from Butterfly Bay and the Hayman team had picked up the patient and transferred him to the marina there for attention by Hayman emergency care staff. As this was VERY URGENT VMR2 was full noise at 37 knots, and just 27 minutes later at 1112 was tied up at Hayman and the paramedics could get to work. Nice work Ken and Bill, lucky it was very light winds at that stage! And quite an initiation for one of the paramedics for his first job on the water – baptism by fire!

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 set off at 1105 at a very fast cruise of 25+ knots at 3000 rpm, and 45 minutes later at 1150 we were tied up at Hayman. The paramedics had been on the task for over 45 minutes getting the patient stabilised, aided by another paramedic who had managed to somehow get there from Hamilton Island – I did not know paramedics could fly or teleport from one island to another, but it was good to see him on the job as well. (Turns out he came on a fast charter boat from Hamilton – QAS take incidents from potential Irukandji stings very seriously).

We took our stretcher off the boat so the patient could be kept on the same stretcher that he was being treated on (same design, almost as if it was pre-planned – it was) and after we had assisted to transfer him onto VMR1 and took onboard his brother and the two Airlie paramedics we departed Hayman at 1210 for another faster trip than usual back to Coral Sea Marina, tying up alongside at 1255. One of the paramedics retrieved the split combi backboard from the ambulance so we could transfer the patient more easily from our stretcher to the newer model used by the ambulances, and the crew helped with that successful transfer and helped get the patient up the ramp to the ambulance for the transfer to hospital.

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Ken and Bill went back to refuel Whale Song and put her to bed back on her floating dock while Ron, Tony and I refuelled VMR1 and returned her to our normal berth. By the time we had done the shut-down, wash down and paperwork and secured the boat ready for the next activation, it was 1345 before we headed for home.

A great team effort by all concerned – Di at the base, staff at Hayman Island Resort, the Hamilton and Airlie Beach paramedics, and both rescue boat crews – to help a patient that was in a very dangerous situation. Well done, everybody!

VMR2 crew: Bill Hopton
VMR2 Skipper: Ken Bryce
VMR1 Crew: Ron McCall, Tony Bell
VMR1 Skipper: Mal Priday


UPDATE! Further to our post regarding the medivac performed by VMR1 and VMR2, we have just received the following information from QAS:

“Just so you are aware, the call to QAS came through as a box jellyfish, not irukandji, hence the more urgent response”

and even more striking:

“We saved the patient’s life he was in a bad way. Test came back positive for tropponin leak which is the enzyme that is released when the heart is under extreme stress like a heart attack.”

Well done again to everyone involved!!

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