May 2022

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Activation 30/04/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

I was happily watching a movie, interrupted by Ken, our senior skipper, “Can you do a Medivac to Hammo?” Yes, on my way. As the crew arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1, I briefed them that our paramedic is awaiting us at Hamilton Island, pre departure checks done, off we went.

Our passage to Hamilton Island was thankfully uneventful, southeasterly winds at 15-20 knots, tide ebbing, seas moderate. As we arrived at the Hamilton Island marina we were advised to dock at our usual spot. Except….vessels of all descriptions were moored where we usually transfer patients, go to Plan B, moor on “F” arm and await our paramedic, patient and carer. They arrived in short measure and were soon aboard once our stretcher was readied and secured.

Our paramedic asked for a smooth transit as her patient had spinal issues. Honestly, I could not guarantee a smooth ride but assured her we would do our best…challenge accepted! As we cleared the marina leads, Brie, our trainee, requested to take the helm; she has considerable experience with smaller vessels. The old adage “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, rang true, Brie did an outstanding job at the helm.

As we approached Pioneer Rocks, Michel came to me and prefaced his message with “you’re not going to like this”. WHAT???? He has never said that to me before, go ahead; our paramedic requested we dock at Port of Airlie. I considered this request, bottom of the tide, need to get permission from the marina to dock, where to dock, access to and from the marina. My initial response was no. As this was relayed, further information was forthcoming – the ambulance is parked there! Goodness me, now I have no choice, graciously I steered for the Port of Airlie leads. As we entered the leads, Michel again came to the upper helm, “change of plan, go back to Plan A”. I change course and headed for Coral Sea marina.

We docked at “L” arm and awaited the arrival of the wayward ambulance. The patient was eventually transferred to another stretcher; the ramp leading to the commercial area of the marina was very steep, we were approached to help with the stretcher and help carry equipment to the ambulance. I applaud the paramedics, the amount of equipment they carry over some pretty long distances is extraordinary, and manoeuvre a patient on a stretcher at the same time would be a super human effort.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila (Senior Crew), Tony Bell (Communications), Brie Sherow (Deck crew).
Skipper: Paul Martin.

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Activation 09/05/2022: Medivac from Hayman Island

“A medivac from Hayman Island, certainly Ray”.

And so it was that at 11.40 Ray, Ron, Barry and myself were departing and heading out into 20 knot E/S/E winds on board Coral Sea Marina VMR1 with a paramedic for company as well.

Because of the small tidal range and tide times we were a little surprised by the calmness of the seastate, but happy to accept the smoother than expected ride.

Our trip across to Hayman Island was uneventful, as was the transfer of our patient aboard via wheelchair from the resort.

With the go-ahead from our paramedic once she was comfortable, we proceeded to use the shelter from Hook Island as much as possible before turning back towards Airlie Beach and her waiting ambulance.

We had transferred our patient ashore, refueled, washed down and finished our paperwork by 14.45.

Another routine, but well handled exercise by the crew, thank you for your volunteered time, effort and expertise.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Ron McCall, Barry Lake.
Skipper: Ron Roberts.

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Activation 10/05/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

Have you ever experienced confusion being awoken from a deep sleep and misconstrued a message over the phone… yep, I did this morning. Ray Lewis, our 24/7 phone holder called me at 0 dark thirty, said something about Hamilton Island and coffee; I thought it strange that Ray wanted me to join him for coffee at Hamilton Island. No, the message was “we have a Medivac from Hamilton Island, have a cup of coffee as the paramedics have another job to finish before they can get to us”, or words to that effect!! It took me, what felt like many minutes, to clear my head and make sense of the import of the message.

I could hear the wind buffeting the trees as I dressed, the wind was blowing from the wrong direction, an easterly wind, haven’t had one of these in a while. I arrived at the marina under threatening skies, low cloud, strong wind and the now familiar smell of rain. A waxing gibbous moon was hidden by the clouds, not that it would have been of any assistance, the marina was deserted. I made my way to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and commenced my familiar routine of entering tide and wind information, fuel status, pre departure checks on the vessel’s log. Ray arrived and busied himself with preparing the upper helm for occupation as Barry arrived, his 3rd activation and first in darkness. I failed to tell Barry that this being his first night activation that he owed a shout at the bar in celebration of the event.

Ray went up to the parking area to assist the paramedics with their equipment. They arrived shortly and we were on our way just prior to the nautical first light. The seas were relatively quiet as we made our way through Unsafe Passage then onto Hamilton Island. Patches of rough water were present, rain squalls curtained our view. Proceeding at 22.9 knots we soon entered Fitzalan Passage for a calmer ride and soon entered Hamilton Island marina, docking at our most familiar mooring site. The paramedics collected the patient and boarded, off we went.

The return journey was comfortable, a following wind and an ebbing tide saw us surfing back to Coral Sea Marina. Docking at “L” arm we discharge our patient and paramedics and moved to the fuel dock to refuel, no splash and dash here! Soon we were back at our mooring, completing a wash down and paperwork. Having Ray as our senior crew and Barry doing the deck work was great, working like a well oiled machine. We managed to stay dry beneath the threatening sky until we were about to dock, such is life. The sprinkle quickly turned into a downpour as we walked to our vehicles; a fisherman’s lament, wet bum and no fish!

Well done to Ray and Barry, thank you for you splendid efforts.
Senior crew: Ray Lewis
Crewman: Barry Lake
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation without a rescue boat 11/05/2022: Police requesting assistance for a boat owner whose boat was taking on water.

Wednesday at 2221 hours I received a call from Ray Lewis, our 24/7 emergency phone holder. ‘We have had a call from the police requesting assistance for a boat owner whose boat was taking on water at a rate which was overwhelming his efforts to control. The vessel is a 50foot power boat which is tied to a berth within the marina on ‘T’ arm.’

Okay, yes it was hosing down rain from a great height, and it is going to be easier to put some pumps on a trolley and wheel them around than do the pre-starts on VMR1 and motor around then find a berth and transfer pumps. So we used a trolley.

It then took quite a while to sort out his boat bilge and piping systems and to be sure that we were winning the battle on this partially submerged paddle pool. We left with the owner looking a little more relaxed about his long night ahead.

By the time we had returned most of our equipment to VMR1 and knowing that Ray was going to return to check on his vessel in the morning light, we closed up and headed for home at 02.00.

Zero diesel used, but a much happier boat owner from the results of our efforts.

Thanks for your efforts on a different type of rescue Ray.

Crew: Ray Lewis
Skipper: Ron Roberts

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Activation 11/05/2022: Medivac from Hayman Island for person with a probable hip dislocation – ouch!

At least the gale warning had been cancelled and the winds had dropped to the strong wind category, so when Ray called me to advise of the QAS request for a medivac from Hayman, I was soon on my way in to help Ray, Shane and Debbie prepare Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for another medivac. After helping the paramedic down to the boat with her gear we set off with Ray on the helm at 1525 for what was be a bit of a rolly and sometimes wet trip across to Hayman, but it was not as bad as we were expecting – so far.

VMR1 was alongside at Hayman by 1625, and Shane had already removed our stryker stretcher (actually it was Hayman’s from the last trip) to allow us to transfer the patient onto VMR1 using the stretcher we swapped last time – a very handy operation. By the time we had set off back towards Airlie at 1645 conditions in the area had changed somewhat with wind blowing 30 knots plus for at least half of the way back in the lee of Hook Island, as Ray tried to make it as comfortable as possible for our patient, definitely the longer way to go home but by far the best option under the conditions.

As we got close to False Nara the wind had eased considerably – to about 15-20 knots – and Ray was able to bear away and set course for home, tying up at the marina at 1750. After assisting the patient onto the stretcher waiting on the dock using the ambo’s split “combi-board” which makes short stretcher to stretcher transfers much easier than using our single piece spine-board, we helped them up the ramp to the waiting ambulance.

By 1840 we had refuelled, moved back to our own berth, finished the paperwork, and washed and secured the boat before heading home for a meal. Excellent job by Ray, Shane and Debbie, it went without a hitch in what could have been very trying conditions.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Shane Newell, Debbie Simpson
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 13/05/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island.

Phone chiming the emergency tone, Ray, our 24/7 phone holder on the line, “Paul, we’ve got a Medivac from Hamilton Island, I’ll get you a crew”. “Hello Ray, nice to hear from you in the clear light of day was my first thought!” A quick look at our MEC (My Emergency Crew) application, confirmed that my crew would likely be Michel and Paul, good, very happy with that! I still get a thrill being tasked for an activation, an opportunity to hone my skills, enjoying the challenges of wind and tide and working with a like minded crew.

Arriving a few minutes before the crew I busied myself with the vessel log, noting tides, winds, fuel, engine hours and checking instrumentation. My crew arrived, Michel in a jocular moment asked rhetorically “do we have a skipper?”, as he boarded Coral Sea Marina VMR1, good to hear a cheerful tone. He and Paul completed the pre departure checks as we awaited our paramedic; he cut a lonely figure encumbered with all his equipment walking towards the ramp, Paul went to assist him. Once he was settled onboard we departed into a flooding tide and southeasterly winds at 10 – 15 knots, no worries, a pleasant transit was most likely.

As anticipated, our transit was relatively smooth. We were rewarded for our efforts by a most spectacular sunset; reds to orange to yellows painted the sky, such a sight! As darkness descended the reliance upon plotter and radar grew, several yachts were about, best to give these mariners a wide berth. As we approached Hamilton Island marina a series of lights greeted us, more yachts heading to the marina. Again, giving them a wide berth, we went to our usual mooring on “G” arm. Our patient arrived, briefing completed and our return journey commenced. VMR1 looks spectacular as she performs her pirouette away from the dock, elegant!

The return leg was typically in darkness. As we approached Pioneer Rocks, vessel COBIA was outbound, many thanks to her skipper for his consideration and communication; we had activated our flashing orange light at the commencement of our task, Cobia’s skipper was enquiring if we had a vessel under tow as he was prepared to likely slow to reduce his wake, a very courteous gesture.

We soon reached Coral Sea Marina, discharged our passenger and patient, refuelled and returned to our mooring. Mother Nature smiled upon us and sent a solid downpour of rain to wash down VMR1. Paperwork finished and all secure we departed for home. Again, many thanks to my crew, another job well done, very professional!

Crew: Michel Del Aguila (Senior Crew), Paul Bloomfield (Comms and deck hand).
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation 14/05/2022: Rescue tow north of Hayman Island.

My emergency phone was ringing on this glorious day it was around 16:00. Not a problem. As I said that afternoon the sea was flat, the conditions were picture perfect.

Where am I going? David from the radio base, explained that a 6.3 metre half cabin had broken down North of Hayman. Okay, a quick look at crew availability. That looks good please give them a call.

16:20 Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was on the way. Pauline was on comms, the base had given her a Latitude and Longitude. This was plotted so that we had a course to steer. I handed the helm to Roger for our passage to this position. As we approached the area there were three targets to be seen on our radar.

As usual we start to wonder, is there any accuracy in the position we have been given? Have faith, we will proceed to the plotted position to see which one of the three vessels is our target. As it turned out the position given was very accurate. Well done, they had saved us a lot of time searching.

It was now 17:28 as we rafted up to our target vessel to complete some paperwork. Ross had the bow line secured while Pauline and Roger secured the springer and stern lines. It was flat calm, we could have been on a lake instead of well North of Hayman Island.

17:50 We were ready to commence the tow to Coral Sea Marina. Roger as Senior crew had completed all the paperwork. Our return trip was amazing the sun was very low on the horizon making some wonderful photo opportunities.

How lucky are we, cruising along at 19 knots on flat calm seas, the Whitsunday sky showing its best. It is not always like this, so we really appreciate nights like this.

18:52 we were berthing the stricken vessel at the public ramp. Their crew thanked us for our professional approach and service. We are happy to help. Lucky that you are a member.

19:25 we were refuelled, washed down and the footy was close to starting. That was perfect timing.

Thankyou to the VMR Base Radio operator. Attention to detail makes an easy rescue.

Crew: Senior – Roger Wodson, Comms – Pauline Vlismas, Crew – Ross Vlismas,
Base Radio – David Burge.
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 15/05/2022: Assist a member between North Molle and Double Cone, engine failure.

The “Help” ringtone went off as I was on my way home, it was Mark at the base advising me that a member had broken down north of North Molle, and was requesting assistance. I met Roger and Paul at the boat, and at 1305 Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was underway onto an almost flat sea with very light winds, heading to the last position provided to Mark which had our target a little way off North Molle.

As we got closer to the area we could not see any sign of the boat, so a quick phone call gave us new coordinates, about half way to Double Cone as the outgoing tide did its bit. By 1330 we were alongside getting the paperwork completed and preparing for the tow, and we were under way again about 10 minutes later at a comfortable 17-18 knots heading back to the marina.

After a short delay waiting for other vessels to clear the ramp, we deposited them safely alongside at 1425 before refuelling and returning to our own berth to complete our shutdown procedures and heading back home at 1545. Thank you Roger and Ray, a routine job made easy.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Roger Wodson
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 16/05/2022: Member broken down at Bait Reef, 4 POB. It pays to belong.

Yes, it was still daylight and yes, that was the strident ringtone telling me that Ray our 24 hour emergency phone holder wanted more than a chat at 16.19 on a Monday.

Yes I will take Coral Sea Marina VMR1 out past Bait Reef now to assist a member with a broken motor and 4 POB. Then Ray had to hang up as he had another call coming through. This might be a busy night.

My probable journey would be a minimum distance of around 70 nautical miles so I grabbed a packet of biscuits to put in my kit bag before I walked out the door.

Suspicions were justified on arrival at Coral Sea Marina with the sight of VMR2 also being readied for a simultaneous activation.

As my crew tonight I had another skipper, Mal, a relatively new Barry and out for his first activation was Dick.

With our pre-starts done we headed out to the coordinates we had received from Whitsunday VTS and relayed to us because of the distance out to the disabled vessel.

2 hours of motoring was the perfect time for some training of the crew and running through some possible scenarios in preparation, but nature has a way of changing our plans sometimes.

We were cruising at 23knots over perfectly calm flat waters without another vessel in sight and the sun began to set. It seemed to set the western sky on fire. Most of that horizon seemed bathed in a constantly changing golden/ orange/ brilliant red display. I had never seen a sunset so breathtaking in my 60 plus years on the water. Then, just as the show was waning, a full moon was rising over Hook Island and in the crystal clear evening air it looked like it was trying to upstage the sunset as the attraction of the day and it almost succeeded.

So, back to the rescue.

We checked with VTS and got an update on the position of our target as we neared the area and found them easily. The raft-up and paperwork went just as planned and we set off homeward with a 23 foot GRP power boat following us perfectly at 18.5 knots. We had some more training on the Radar as we crossed the shipping lane and passed ahead of a large cargo carrier heading South at about 18 knots. Our closest point of approach being 1.8 NM.

Our tow was gently nudged onto the public ramp pontoon just as we reached 4 hours on the job.

This meant that for the princely sum of $80 as an annual membership fee, this boat owner had just bypassed a bill of over $1,500 which he would have copped as a non-member. It pays to think ahead!

With the rescue completed we went about the usual refuel, washdown, shutdown and paperwork and departed our superb vessel at 22.00.

Thanks once again to the boat crew and all the onshore team who made this work so well. Thanks also to the beautiful Whitsundays for being such an astoundingly wonderful place to be, for us, tonight.

Crew: Mal Priday, Barry Lake, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Ron Roberts

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Activation 18/05/2022: Multiple Medivacs. Not quite what we expected. Four injured following jet ski incident and transfer patient from yacht.

For me as a volunteer skipper the activation started as normal at about 17.40. The ‘rush’ ring tone followed by a voice (Ray) on the 24hr emergency VMR phone setting me on a task to somewhere, for who knows how long, in the company of some fellow like minded souls in an effort to assist someone we didn’t know who needed help. A large number of people from other agencies were already involved before I got the call and the list would grow as the evening progressed.

I was met on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at her berth in Coral Sea Resort Marina by first James and then by Dick who would be my crew for the activation. Dick was also carrying a host of gear for our 2 paramedics for tonight. This gave me an insight into what was to come. A jet-ski incident near Hayman Island had left 4 people injured, so it was going to be a busy return trip.

Departing the marina in a 10 knot and building E/S/E breeze under heavy cloud I handed the helm over to James as a newly proclaimed ‘senior crew’ so that he could get some drive-time training, as it turned out he drove the rest of the journey and did a flawless job.

Docking at Hayman Island, we were met by their medical team and our patients, one of whom needed our stretcher and rapid attention from our paramedics while bandages were checked on the others and all made as comfortable as possible for our return trip to Airlie Beach.

During this process our marine VHF radio alerted us to a call for help from a local yacht with a medical problem. A passenger on his yacht had embedded a fish-hook deeply into her hand, what should he do. Okay, so then the training really kicks in.

He was advised to radio VTS Whitsundays who relayed his information to QAS base in Rockhampton, who had tasked us to this area earlier. Hurried discussions with our paramedics on board on whether we could delay long enough to pick up another patient, and if this was feasible gave us a yes, if we are quick.

So onto the chart to measure distance to the next patient therefore expected added time on our Able Point ETA. This looked within parameters, so we set off to the position given, only to find that the GPS information from the vessel was incorrect and he was not to be seen. On a mooring he said, Northern end of Stonehaven Anchorage. Sorry, that is where we are and you’re not here. AH he replied, I can see a bright yellow strobe light at the other end of the bay. Ah we said, you will be at the Southern end then. As we proceeded to his position we received confirmation from QAS with a second activation number. All good. The raft-up and new patient transfer went perfectly in the bucketing rain and we set of at best speed in the worsening conditions for the waiting ambulances at Coral Sea Marina.

From first radio call to fifth patient aboard had taken about 20 minutes including travel and location.

Excellent work under pressure from the whole team.

Our return trip was uneventful and well received by our patients, we had them all ashore as we assisted multiple loaded stretchers up the ramp from our berth by 21.30.

After the usual re-fuel, return to our berth, wash-down, internal clean and paper-work we left the boat in a ready state for her next activation by 22.10.

Thanks to tonight’s crew for another full evening of hard work.

Crew: James Roberts and Dick Filewood
Skipper: Ron Roberts.

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Activation 20/05/2022: Commercial passenger yacht broken down 5 miles North of Pioneer rocks.

Ray called at 16.00, a large commercial Yacht was having fuel problems in the Whitsunday Passage and needed a tow back to CSM and helping into her pen. All the crew arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 promptly then did the departure checks so quickly we were underway by 16.30.

We were only halfway to our target when they called to say that they had replaced their fuel filters and the engine was running nicely. That’s great, a nice easy job. That’s what can happen if you carry the correct spares, a decent tool kit and have the skills to use them. So we returned to our pen at CSM by 16.55 for a tidy up and off home.

Thanks to a well-oiled crew who had VMR1 ready to go and on her way so quickly then had the boat put to bed so promptly on our return. Thanks particularly to Ray for doing the paperwork because I had left my reading glasses at home!

Crew: Michel del Aguila (Snr Crew), Bill Hopton (Comms), Barry Lake, Ray Lewis.
Skipper: Geoff Smith.

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Activation 22/05/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

Typical Sunday evening, dinner done, coffee brewed, now to enjoy a good movie. My eclectic tastes witnessed my scrolling through titles; “seen it, seen it, seen it, wouldn’t watch it,” a common refrain of a man with no life! My boredom vanished as the phone rang, the so familiar emergency tone. Ray Lewis, our 24/7 emergency phone holder, gave me a warning order for a Medivac from Hamilton Island, simply awaiting confirmation. I was happy for the interruption, with uncommon haste, I dressed in clothing appropriate to the conditions; long sleeve high vis shirt, shorts and shoes. I sat and continued with the movie, it was starting to get really tense. Ray called and said we are on! Down to the marina, Ray was starting the checks as I arrived, Brie was next to arrive, only her 2nd activation, she asked what needed to be done, “all restart checks, please”. I proceeded to the upper helm and prepared the instrumentation, checked the radios, started engines and awaited our paramedic. Ray, ever the gentleman, went to assist the paramedic with her heavier and bulky paraphernalia. Once aboard, off we went.

The skies were very dark, Moon phase in the last quarter, winds southeasterly 17-25 knots, tide ebbing. Yet another night staring at the instruments, little point trying to distinguish land marks, be satisfied with identifying the various lights marking our way. The seas were moderate, VMR1 handled the swells easily. I chose to utilise Fitzalan Passage for a calmer ride. We arrived at Hamilton Island marina without drama, our patient was awaiting us. We quickly got her aboard along with her partner and off we went. The winds were fairly calm, assisting our departure from the dock, gently blowing us off the dock, executed a pirouette and headed back to Coral Sea marina. Once clear of the islands Brie took over the helm and performed her duties well, rounding the markers at Unsafe Passage, heading for Pioneer Rocks. Rounding the headland we were greeted by the array of lights marking Airlie Beach, almost home! We surfed the return transit, our speed matching the following wind, making for a rather calm ride.

Upon arrival at Coral Sea marina, we discharged our patient, her partner and the paramedic; her assistant was on hand to assist with the stretcher, Ray assisted carrying her equipment. Brie was busy with the mooring lines doing a good job, we moved to the fuel dock and refilled our thirsty steed. Shortly we moved to our berth, Ray did an excellent job with the mooring lines, making my job much easier in a blow off situation. Paperwork completed and vessel made secure, time to bid farewell to the crew and off to finish the movie.

Crew: Senior – Ray Lewis, Deck crew/helm – Brie Sherow.
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation 26/05/2022: Medivac & Break down followed by Training

Well yes, it was a busy afternoon.

Ray called on the emergency phone. We have a medivac from Daydream Island.
Okay, it is a training afternoon so we will be able to complete this Medivac and then go to training.

14:50 we departed in Coral Sea Marina VMR1 with the paramedic on board. Apparently a young lady had been Electrocuted. 15.15 we entered Daydream harbour, where the paramedic departed to attend to the patient. They returned almost immediately with the patient in a wheel chair.

15:20 We were heading for CSM. The conditions were absolutely perfect.
15:30 Whilst en-route Ray had another emergency call for a 13 metre yacht that had broken down. 16:05 we were disembarking patient and paramedic at CSM.

On to the next activation. We picked up two additional crew who had arrived early for training. We did not have far to go as the yacht had secured a mooring. We rafted along side and secured the vessel. They wanted to go stern first into their berth. So I explained to the crew what we were required to do and how I would like the yacht secured.

At that time I received a call from the crew who were gathering for training at 16:30. I suggested they meet us on Q arm and they could assist with the securing of the yacht. As Murphy would have it the wind picked up on our beam as I was going astern in to the dock. With many hands on shore this task was relatively easy despite Murphy. I was a little concerned going astern as there was another vessel in the same pen and it belonged to a friend of mine who happened to be assisting on the dock. Pretty sure he did not like seeing VMR1’s stern so close to his vessel.

It all ended well. The land crew then made their way to our normal pen so we could commence our Thursday training. 17:00 There is nothing better than on the job training. Thankyou to everyone that assisted. Great job.

Crew: Assisting Skippers – Ray Lewis & Paul Martin, Comms – Paul Bloomfield, Trainees – Brodie Reynolds & Ashley Roberts
Skipper : Ken Bryce

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Activation 26/05/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

Catching up with a cousin one has not seen in almost 50 years can be a delicate and daunting task; I had manoeuvred through making dinner, no small task given that her husband does not eat meat of any description, vegetarian quiche for him, pan fried Speckled Emperor for my cousin and I. We discussed the family events spanning a couple of generations. The question remains; how do women remember all those details??? Exhausted, I went to bed around 2300 hrs. Forty short minutes later Ray called, our 24/7 phone holder, not to wish me a good night, oh no, medivac from Hammo!

We gathered at Coral Sea marina, Ray and I arrived simultaneously and Paul a few minutes later. We readied Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for the trip while awaiting the paramedic; he arrived in short order, off we went.

The winds were southeasterly to southerly 15 – 20 knots, tide ebbing near the bottom of the of the flow, the moon had not yet risen, the inky blackness punctuated by distant stars; all promising an interesting transit. The seas were noncommittal as we entered the Molle Channel, they definitely had a change of mood upon entering Whitsunday Passage, helping me to decide on Fitzlan Passage for the final leg to Hamilton Island marina. An hour and 10 minutes was our transit time, not too bad considering the conditions.

Upon docking at the marina, we were informed that we now had two patients, both capable of walking onto our vessel, negating the need for our setting up our sticker stretcher (a little time consuming activity, given that the stretcher is stowed in the forward Portside bulkhead behind the foul weather gear and backboard). Once the patients were briefed we were on our way.

Our return journey was a slightly more pleasant experience; a following wind and following sea generally makes most skippers happy. We arrived at Coral Sea marina an hour and 5 minutes later, discharging our patients and paramedic, pivoted to the fuel dock to top up the fuel tanks and back to our mooring. Good work by Ray and Paul securing the mooring lines swiftly in a “blow off” situation; the upper helm, aside from providing an excellent viewing platform is also a very efficient sail, where power is of little use and finesse is required.

Great work by the crew, Ray completing his 3rd activation of the day, and Paul keeping a good lookout and good conversation throughout.

Crew: Senior crew – Ray Lewis, Crewman/deckhand – Paul Bloomfield, and
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation 28/05/2022: Assist a member with power problems returning from Martins Reef to Dingo Beach – a 90 mile and over a 5 hour job

Ray called from the base and set off the “Help” ringtone about 1415 – he had picked up a request for assistance from a member on the way back from the outer reef (Martins Reef) with engine problems, but was not able to get much information due to poor reception. Ray put together a crew with fellow skipper Paul acting as senior crew and doing a lot of the helming, plus Louise and Dick. Paul got us under way on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 1450 while I worked out a possible intercept point with the target reported as still moving at slow speed towards Dingo Beach, and put a go to mark up for Paul to steer to.

Ray was not able to get a boat name but had a rego number, so after he spoke to our membership guru Bruce he had more information – owner’s name and mobile number, but the boat did not have a name. After a couple of radio calls using the owner’s name with no response we managed to make contact, and got a GPS position to steer for. That turned out to be a little bit off, possibly a dreaded cursor position, so after another radio contact and an updated position we found our target at 1645.

It was a lovely day, with very flat seas and light winds, so we were able to take them alongside while the paperwork was done and the tow was prepared. Ten minutes later we were on our way to Dingo Beach at about 18 knots with them riding comfortably behind, and another spectacular sunset to watch on the way.

Fortunately they still had enough power to get themselves to the ramp after we dropped the tow near Dingo at 1850, and we started to head back to Coral Sea Marina, pulling into the fuel dock at 1950 and back into our own berth at 2005 for the paperwork and clean up before heading for home at 2015 after nearly 5 ½ hours and 90 miles on the water. Thank you Paul, Louise and Dick, but not all activations are blessed with such perfect weather!

Crew: Paul Martin, Louise Keepa, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 29/05/2022: 7m cabin cruiser with flat batteries.

A bright, sunny day, a gentle northeasterly breeze and calm seas invited what seemed to be every sailing vessel, jetSki, tinny and frustrated fishermen and fisherwomen from the surrounding districts to converge on Airlie Beach. Each of the 3 boat ramps was jammed with vehicles and trailers; Coral Sea marina, Whisper Bay and Port of Airlie (the cars with trailers and trucks suitably festooned with trailers stretched almost to the PCYC. Thus the scene was set for an assurance of another activation for VMR Whitsunday. Sure enough, my phone rang, the VMR Radio Room on the line, vessel with flat batteries, south and east of Daydream Island. No other information was immediately available.

Locating parking at Coral Sea marina was the first obstacle, it was packed! Circling the parking areas twice, I spied Michel in his vehicle following me. Eureka, a spot! Michel was fortunate in finding a park as was Donna, who soon arrived, completing today’s crew compliment.

Upon boarding Coral Sea Marina VMR1, further information was provided, a 7m cabin cruiser, moored, unable to start engines, the owner’s name and cellphone number was all we had to go on. As soon as possible we completed our checks and headed for Daydream Island. As luck would have it, we were unknowingly headed directly for our target vessel; a quick phone call confirmed our luck. We drew alongside, the sea was calm at this mooring. Passing over the battery pack and giving advice on it’s use we waited with hope in our hearts that the engines would start, our run of luck ended.

Passing over the Tom’s hook and attached tow line we were soon on our way, steadily at first and gradually increased to a comfortable speed, heading for Coral Sea marina. The seaway was very busy, particularly around Pioneer Rocks, but all afloat were being courteous. We drew the towed vessel alongside when outside the leads of the marina, issued a “Securite” message advising all vessels that we had a vessel in tow and were restricted in our ability to manoeuvre. Shortly we delivered our recovered vessel to the public jetty, much to the relief of the owners.

Our job done, we proceeded to the fuel dock to top up, then to our pen. Paperwork and a wash down for VMR1 and we were done. A special mention to my crew; this was Donna’s first activation, she did an excellent job communicating with the Radio Room and contacting the skipper of the target vessel, was confident on securing lines and followed all directions without hesitation, assisted with the tow line and learnt many valuable lessons. Michel was a confident teacher and advisor, helping Donna learn some of the in’s and out’s of our trade.

Crew: Senior crew – Michel Del Aguila, Communications deck – Donna Deeggan,
Skipper: Paul Martin

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Activation 30/05/2022: 5 metre Polycraft high and dry

I was onboard Coral Sea Marina VMR1 this morning ready to take three crew members out to Pioneer Bay to complete some practicals for the Coxswain’s course. Before we could start, I (the 24/7 emergency phone holder) received a call from a person who was stranded at Sandy Bay. His 5 metre Polycraft was high and dry above the high tide mark and required assistance to retrieve it back into the water.

After a quick call to the president to get authority to carry out the activation we departed Coral Sea Marina at 0915. We headed for Sandy Bay with a 5 knot wind from the north west and arrived about a half hour later. The plan was to get VMR1 as close as possible to the shore and launch the tender with a tow rope attached which is a simple operation but our outboard motor played up. Crew member Shane had to row in but there was a strong current running along the shoreline which put a large bow in the tow line causing a problem, plus it snagged on the coral close to shore.

Shane eventually overcame the problems and the tow rope was attached to the beached vessel. It was easily towed back into the water by VMR1. After Shane completed the paper work the person towed our tender back against the current to our rescue vessel. We then returned to Pioneer Bay to complete the training that was our goal for the morning,

Thanks to senior Crew Shane and crew members Paul and Dick

Crew: Shane Newell, Paul Bloomfield, Dick Filewood
Skipper: Ray Lewis

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Activation 30/05/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island for patient with acute asthma.

It was a rude awakening when the “Help” ringtone went off at 0230 – phone holder Ray let me know that we had been tasked by QAS for a medivac from Hamilton Island, and he would put a crew together while I was on my way in. The paramedics beat me in by a couple of minutes, and after taking them to the boat and helping to finish the prep already started by Ray and Paul, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was under way with trainee skipper Paul on the helm at 0300. Light winds, a little bit of swell, no moon, a pretty good trip via Unsafe Passage, and we were alongside at 0400.

Our patient was able to walk to the boat with the help of the on-island paramedic, and we were soon on our way back, and by 0515 she was on her way to hospital via the waiting ambulance after a slightly slower trip due to the unusual NW swell. After refuelling and returning to our own berth to do the washdown, paperwork and secure VMR1, we were on our way back to bed by 0540 as the sun put on a spectacular dark red sky as it was getting ready to pop over the horizon. Thanks Ray (multi-tasking as he does well) and Paul, good job as usual.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Paul Bloomfield
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 30/05/2022: Sinking Catamaran

I was just leaving Coral Sea Marina VMR1, having received our new Combi Carrier (Medi Back board) when Ray (our 24/7 phone holder) called.
“Are you still down at VMR1?” Yes, what is happening. We have a sinking Catamaran out side Coral Sea Marina. I will prepare VMR1 and await the crew. Michel was first to arrive followed by Shane and then Donna.

We departed at 14:13 wondering where this sinking vessel might be. The sea conditions where rough with the Northerly blowing. As we pushed into the head on sea there approximately 200 metres ahead was a vessel with her decks completely awash.

Who ever was onboard had already departed. We spoke to the operations manager who was near by collecting flotsam. He asked if we would tow the vessel out of the channel. My crew set to work rigging the tow line which was passed to the ops manager. This was then secured to their bridle. We commenced towing which was very slow in the conditions.

I noticed that the bow was going very low in the water, even though we had a short tow on her. Then there was a loud bang and the tow line was free. Their bridle had broken. Only to be expected after we received the answers to a few more questions. Is the anchor down? The answer was yes. Is the chain still around the anchor winch? No, it is connected by the bitter end only. I was planning to tow her via the anchor chain. I suggested they go onboard and cut it free. Then we would reconnect using our unbreakable bridle. None of this was going to happen as the anchor locker was totally flooded. The sea was fully washing over the bow.

I contacted VTS gave the exact position of the stricken vessel. There was 271 litres of fuel escaping and MSQ were soon heading in our direction.
15:10 we were back in our berth to complete the paperwork.

Not the out come that We liked to see. Thankyou to the crew, Well done.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Shane Newell, Donna Deegan
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 31/05/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island.

I was busy on my laptop finalising the modules that some of our crew completed yesterday when I received a call from QAS asking if we could assist with a medivac to Hamilton island. I called in senior crew member Shane to assist and with Donna we had a crew. As Shane has just completed all the modules for a Coxswain’s certificate and is being taken through the MARPA test this coming weekend, I placed him in control of the activation while Donna and myself did the berthing.

It was an absolute beautiful day to be out on the Whitsunday waters. We were at Hamilton Island after an hour’s travel, picked up a walk on patient and within 10 minutes we were on our way back to Coral Sea Marina. Then to unload our passengers, fuel up, berth VMR1 and hose it down.

A big thanks to Shane and a job well done skippering our vessel also thanks to Donna.

Crew: Shane Newell, Donna Deegan
Skipper: Ray Lewis

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Activation 31/05/2022: Police activation to join the search for a missing sailing kayak, 1 pob, between Whitsunday and Shaw Islands.

Phone holder Ray got me about 1715 – we had been asked to standby for a search for a missing kayak somewhere between Chance Bay on Whitsunday Island and Shaw Island, potentially a very large area to cover.

As we were preparing Coral Sea Marina VMR1 the Police search coordinator rang and tasked us to do a shoreline search on Whitsunday Island along Fitzalan Passage to Solway Passage. As dusk was rapidly approaching time was of the essence, and it was a faster than normal trip with Shane on the helm. As we approached Fitzalan we were re-tasked to do a shoreline search of Haslewood Island, on the other side of the Solway Passage. We could also see on Flight Aware that the Rescue 660 Challenger jet from Cairns was overhead and executing a search pattern, and CQ Rescue 412 had also just arrived on site and was going to cover the area we had been originally asked to do.

About 1835 we copied a transmission from 412 to say that they had spotted a trimaran sailing kayak on the beach in the bay just before Solway, and as we moved to that location we could see them descending towards what may have been our target. As we cautiously approached the narrow entrance to the bay we could see that they had landed on the beach, and were advised that they were talking to the person with the kayak to see if he was in fact our target.

In the meantime we had launched our tender, and just as Shane was on his way in we were advised that the person was in fact our target and Shane was recalled. Apparently the person had supplies for the night and was happy to wait until the morning to make his own way back to Chance Bay, so VMR1, 660 and 412 were stood down and we set off for home at 1905 with Shane on the helm again, pulling into the fuel dock at 2030.

After refuelling and returning to our own berth for the usual paperwork, washdown and securing the vessel we headed home for a late dinner at 2100. Thank you Shane, Ron and Barry, nice to see it was a happy ending.

Crew: Shane Newell, Ron McCall, Barry Lake
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 31/05/2022: Medivac from Hamilton Island

I had just finished dinner when QAS rang with a request for a Medivac to Hamilton island. I consulted with the night rostered skipper and I suggested that I do this job and he could cover any late night activations. We departed in Coral Sea Marina VMR1 with a QAS officer. I had James and Bill for crew who both happen to be doing a Coxswains course so I had one drive over to Hamilton Island and the other drive back while I rode shotgun.

Normally at night traffic is nil but on this trip a boat popped up in front of us just before Unsafe Passage. We slowed down and followed it at six knots through the passage. We then turned towards Hamilton island to what we thought were the lights on the island but a boat appeared inside Bauer Bay coming straight at us so after passing it, we headed on our way. As we were midway in the Whitsunday Passage the night was crystal clear and from the flybridge we could make out the red and green lateral lights at the entrance of Hamilton Island marina.

We arrived at 2120 hrs picked up a walk on patient and her partner. We were on our way back to CSM in 15 minutes where we dropped off our passengers, fuelled up, returned to our berth and washed VMR1.

Thanks to James and Bill.

Crew: James Roberts, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Ray Lewis

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