January 16


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Activation 25/12/15

Skipper: Mal Priday

Crew: Michel de Aguila & Norm Fraser

Task: Medivac from Nara Inlet

Twas the day before Xmas, and not a creature …….wait. I had called the phone holder Bill to let him know that I was available for call outs on Xmas day, little knowing that he would be calling me at 3:35 am on Xmas Day for an urgent medivac of an elderly patient on an 86ft motor vessel in Nara inlet.


I met my crew of Michel and Norm on VMR1 and we were ready and waiting for paramedics Anthony and Leigh near the fuel dock, departing at 4:15 am for a very quick trip to Nara. Aided by the pretty good conditions we scooted across the passage at 30 knots plus, and were alongside the other vessel at 4:45am.

Apologies if we woke any one on boats in Nara on the way in, this was a true emergency!

After the paramedics had spent some time to stabilise the patient and we had lowered the chart table to set up a bed for her, we loaded her and her daughter and grand-daughter for the return journey to Abell Point – instructions from Anthony were “make best speed”, so it was 30 knots plus all the way back, and we were able to discharge the patient and her family for the trip to hospital by 6:45.

After refuelling, and raising the chart table back into place, we left the boat at 07:00. Nice job by the crew.

Time on job: 3 hours      Fuel used: 185 litres

Activation 01/01/16

Skipper: Mal Priday

Crew: Rod, Bill & Craig

Task: Tow near Hayman Island

The ringtone I use for calls from the VMR phone is very distinctive – the Beatles song “Help” – so when it winds up about 2:30 pm on New Year’s Day as we are on our way out to have a couple of drinks and nibbles I think “oh-oh, drinks and nibbles might have to wait”. Unfortunately, my first reaction was right; phone holder Fin tells me that a member in a 5 metre runabout, 5 pob, has motor problems 2 km on the other side of Hayman Island and requires assistance.

After borrowing a VMR shirt from my proposed host I arrived at the boat to meet my crew of Rod, Bill and Craig.

Slight problem, no power to start the engines! After trying all steps ourselves we called Fin for further guidance and he joined us with his own emergency starter pack – coupled with our own, we were able to get the engines started (maintenance man Gary is already onto it)  – and we departed Abell Point at 3:05 pm.hook_island_panorama

Pretty nice conditions, about 10-12 knots of east to north-east winds, slight seas, so after getting coordinates for the member we reached him at 4:05.

It was a little rolly out in the passage so we simply passed a tow line to him and after that was secured we started back for Abell Point at 4:15, cruising at 16-17 knots and arriving about 5:30.

After depositing our tow at the boat ramp and completing paperwork, we refuelled the boat and had VMR1 back in the pen by 6pm.

Thanks to the crew for taking time out on New Years – well done.

Time on job: 3 hours      Fuel Used: 240 litres

Activation 02/01/16

Skipper: Fin Forbes

Senior Crew: Bill Falconer

Crew: Jock Main

Task: Locate and  Tow near Hayman Island

Margo at the radio room rang at 1410 to say that a VMRW member had engine troubles 8 miles NE of Hayman and needed assistance.

It was a ‘standard’ activation on a lovely Saturday afternoon.

We left APM at 1440, were towing the vessel  by 1555 and had him back at the public boat ramp in APM, us refuelled and back in our pen by 1755.

I contacted Margo at 1640 to ask if she could remain on duty for a while after her shift finished to enable me to complete the activation and take over the 24/7 phone again. She advised that there were possibly 2 more people needing our assistance after we had finished our tow – but thank goodness she made other arrangements for them. She went (again) beyond the call of duty – thanks again Margo.

It was good to have our very experienced Bill back on the boat – I haven’t had him on as crew for quite some time.

Total Time on job: 3¼ hrs      Fuel used: 260 litres

Activation 06/01/16

Skipper: Ray Lewis

Crew: Gary, Richard & Roger

Task: Locate and Tow near Hamilton Island

Received a call from Fin around 1845 hrs regarding a vessel that was having problems on the way back from Black Reef.

With a crew of Gary, Richard and Roger we departed Abell Pt marina at 1915 hrs, progressed through Hook Passage and made our way towards a waypoint we had been provided with.

It was a clear night and moderate seas so when we were getting close to the waypoint, we stopped and made a radio call as we had not received an answer from the earlier call

The person’s radio was transmitting very poorly as I could just hear him and his co-ordinates revealed that he was only seven nautical miles away.

We located the vessel and towed it to Hamilton Island where his family were holidaying.

We then returned to Abell Pt to refuel and berthed VMR1 at 0115 hrs.

Richard was in control under observation of Gary and myself and performed proficiently.

Time on the job: 6 hours      Fuel used: 540 litres

Activation 12/01/16

Skipper: Craig Verral

Crew: Tom Manning, Ray Lewis & Fin Forbes

Task: Medivac – Cid Harbour

Emergency Phone holder Fin called me at 10:15am, but I missed his call & called him back ten minutes later. (He was struggling to get a full crew assembled, so I was very glad I saw the missed call and called him straight back).

A 70 year old female solo sailor’s yacht’s bilge had exploded, apparently from some cleaning product vapours igniting when she was cleaning it while at anchor in Cid Harbour; she was badly burnt and needed medical attention ASAP.

We departed APM @ 10:45, with Fin the phone holder coming along as crew, Tom and Ray and with two QAS officers onboard; we proceeded at full speed towards Cid Harbour.

Fin had requested that the sailor stay anchored in Cid Harbour until we got there, however when we raised contact with the vessel on radio, she reported that she was underway, motoring back to the mainland. A heroic effort by the sailor to up anchor and head for the shore, but in this case it made things a little more difficult for us and probably less comfortable for her.

We found the 40ft sailing yacht motoring west in the middle of the Whitsunday passage, however due to the sea conditions and the sailors apparent confusion (possibly suffering from shock) it was very difficult to come alongside the sailing yacht as it kept turning beam on to the seas, making it roll quite violently… a LOT harder than if the boat was anchored as requested!

We decided it would be safest and most prudent to transfer one of our crew (Ray, a very experienced VMR skipper also) onto the sailing yacht and he motored the vessel to the safety of Bauer Bay, South Molle Island.

Once in the calmer waters, the patient was transferred to VMR where the QAS officers assessed her condition and started treatment. They advised that she would need to go to hospital, so after putting the sailing yacht on a mooring, making sure it was secure to be left unattended (and her cat had food and water) we then returned back to APM as quickly as possible, arriving at 12:25.

The QAS officers and the patient departed for hospital, while we refuelled and stood down VMR1.

Great work by my highly experienced crew- It’s hard to look bad as a skipper when the crew are also all VMR skippers with about a century of accumulated nautical experience between them!

Time on job: 2 hours      Fuel used: 140 litres

Activation 19/01/16

Skipper: Geoff Smith

Crew: Tom Manning, Norbert Gross & Gary Sullivan

Task: Medivac – South Molle Island

We were on board shortly after 11pm and transferred to the fuel dock to pick up the Paramedic who arrived 11.30pm.

The night was warm, clear, nice moon, little wind, no seas and almost low tide. Perfect.

Thanks Fin, a perfect training trip and we could have missed it all and stayed in bed.

We had a fast run to South Molle, arriving at midnight.  The non-floating jetty at low tide meant a bit of a step down for our passengers to the gunwales of VMR1, but we were able to transfer the patient and her friend without anyone going for a late night swim.

After the Paramedic gave us the go, we had an equally fast trip home and onto the fuel dock at 0050 for the drop off and into the pen at 0105 after refuelling.

Thanks to a well-oiled crew, we had nil incidents.

Time on job: 2 hours      Fuel used: 155 litres

Activation 28/01/16

Skipper: Mal Priday

Crew: John Fearnley

Task: Plane Crash – Whitsunday Island

I was getting ready to go to the boat to run the Thursday training session when I received a call from phone holder John Caldwell. He said that VMR Mackay had just called to advise that a plane had gone down in Chance Bay, but that we had not yet been activated. I asked him to put a crew together as we were bound to become involved, and made my way to VMR1.

As I was pulling up in the car park John Fearnley was just in front of me coming to what he thought was a training session, and I said it may turn out to be a bit more involved than that.

As we walked to the boat John C rang to say that we had been activated by QAS, and as I was on the phone an ambulance pulled up with paramedics Anthony and Doug. Anthony very quickly pointed out that we needed to go, and go now!

John and I quickly prepared the boat for departure and we then helped the paramedics load all of their gear – a lot of gear, but at that stage they did not know how badly injured any of the passengers were.

After waiting a couple of minutes to see if any more crew were to arrive, I made the decision to depart immediately with just myself, John F and the paramedics – time was of the essence!

We left Abell Point at 4:15pm, at that stage bound for the crash site at Chance or Crayfish Bay at the southern end of Whitsunday Island. Conditions were a bit choppy, with an outgoing tide pushing against 10-15 knots of north to northwest wind, but the hammers were down all the way.

palne crash

Courtesy of the Whitsunday Times

En route we were advised that the 11 passengers had been transferred to Hamilton Island by another boat, and after a quick phone call to Hamilton Marina we knew where to head when we arrived.

At 4:55 pm we  tied up near the Police rhib that had preceded us, and the paramedics were off to assess their patients along with our offer to assist in any way, if required. VMR1 was doing 30-33 knots all the way out, depending on how strong the tide was at the time – a very quick trip.

Fortunately our further assistance was not required, and our paramedics were back on board by 6:25. One patient had been airlifted to Mackay with head injuries, but the rest were able to stay on the island and their condition was to be monitored overnight.

This was almost an anti-climax ending to an incident that could easily have had far worse consequences.

VMR1 departed Hamilton at 6:30, off loaded the paramedics and equipment around 7:30, then was refuelled and washed down before returning to its berth for shutdown by 8:00 pm.

Thank you John, for your assistance, including radio comms with VTS Hay Point.

Time on job: 3¾ hours      Fuel Used: 230 litres

Editor’s Note:

Even though we now have the means on VMR1 to take photos,  we almost always forget to do so.

Thank you, Michel, for remembering on Christmas Day; it does make the activation reports much more interesting.

OK, so the crew is generally a bit busy during photo opportunities, but you smilie shocknever know, you may miss shots like these!!


Photo by David Sandford http://davesandfordphotos.com

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