December 2018

Activation 1/12/18 (1): A dash over to Hammo in the wee small hours

It was the middle of the night…02:50 to be exact….when I (Geoff) was woken from a deep sleep. Took a minute for the drowsiness to clear but then I could hear Bill’s voice on the phone saying there was an urgent medivac required from Hamilton Island, and could I drive the boat.

I was awake now anyway so swung the legs over the side of the bed and tried to make them move.

By the time I get down to Abell Point Marina VMR1, the crew already had the pre-start checks completed so with paramedics Brian and Carol on board we left at 03:30. At that time of the the night, Airlie looks sooooo dark. Just a few little bright lights in the marina and around Airlie that faded away quickly as we sped up – and then everything suddenly became black. It is a perfect mixture of air, water and land: just black. 😯

We arrived at Hammo at 0420 and our paramedics organised the patient on board. It was stifling hot and still so we started the air conditioning for patient comfort. Left at 0440 and enjoyed the trip back as it was dead calm with just the sickle of a quarter moon in the sky to guide our way. (Just kidding…we used the GPS like sensible people do). 😁 As it was getting light we noticed the sky was very orange and the mountains behind Airlie were hazy and smoky looking.

Got as far as the marina entrance where we met Mitch, an active VMR volunteer, who was setting out on his jet ski. We pointed out a large piece of drifting timber that we had noticed, so he zoomed over to collect it and return it to shore. Nothing like finishing up a medivac with a little community service to clean up the water around APM!!! 🤗
It was 0600 when we finally tied up so as I had to go to work that day, I treated myself to brekkie at Macca’s before I had to front up. Thanks to the crew.
Crew: Michel del Aguila ,Clayton Earl & Peter Beaumont
Skipper: Geoff Fitszimmons

Activation: 1/12/18 (2): A simple tow for a member…and then…

How a simple activation can change into something else entirely. I (Ray) was woken at 06.30 and asked to go out to a member who had broken down two miles north of Hayman island.

Fin Forbes had already agreed to be Skipper so with Chris Williamson and myself on board as crew, we departed Abell Point Marina and headed across the Whitsunday Passage in perfect conditions.

The coordinates given by the member were spot on which made him very easy to find, so within minutes we had them in tow back to Port of Airlie marina where we completed the paperwork before depositing them at the boat ramp.

And this is where everything changed. We were returning to Abell Point Marina to fuel up and as I approached the fuel dock I lost drive on the port side and could not manoeuvre the vessel. It was a stroke of good luck because at that point we noticed the Water

Police entering the marina in their RHIB, so with a radio call to them they came over and assisted by pushing us on to a jetty. Alan Robinson from All Marine Services came to pinpoint the issue…. and we were back in action.

My thanks to the Water Police, All Marine Services and the rest of our crew. It shows that even VMR1 occasionally needs to be rescued.:-)

Editor’s Note: The photo taken of VMR1 was sent to us by the member. He would like to thank the crew for the tow home, and reports that he has the motor back up and running. Good to hear, and thanks for the photo! 🙂

Crew: Ray Lewis and Chris Williamson
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 12/12/18: Assisting a member get out of the weather

It was a fairly leisurely start to the day. I (Geoff) had a meeting with builders at the VMR building to talk over some repairs and possible extension. That didn’t take long so I then strolled down the main street of Airlie, looking for breakfast. Didn’t actually get to the breakfast part though as Bill rang (24/7 phone holder). Apparently a member needed assistance to bring his boat into the marina.

Our member was getting a bit nervous about the weather reports, and as he had a broken down engine he needed some help to move it into the marina. Not super urgent as he was on his way up from Kuttabul to meet us. We didn’t need a cast of thousands for this short and simple tow, so with Ryan & Ron organised I turned up at Abell Point Marina VMR1 at 0900. We were ready to go when the vessel owner arrived at 1000, so with pre-start checks all done, we headed out to the vessel which was on a mooring just outside of the marina.

The owner boarded his vessel (8m power cruiser) and we towed him alongside into the marina. it was a bit tricky parking it on A arm, but with some assistance from bareboat workers on the dock (thanks guys!) we got her safely in and secured. Back to our berth by 1030….and I could finally get that breakfast. 🙂
Crew: Ryan Houston and Ron McCall
Skipper: Geoff Fitzsimmons

Activation 14/12/18: Assist motor-less vessel into APM

Bill Harrison the Emergency Phone Holder called at 17.30. A 36’ yacht anchored just off
Coral Sea had drive problems and needed to get into the Marina before TC Owen arrived. Not sure how, but whilst getting to their yacht they had managed to get their tender upside down.

I thought I got to Abell Point marina VMR1 quickly, but Ryan was already there and halfway through the checks when I got there. As the boat had been out already, assisting a Trimaran into the marina, the checks didn’t take long and we were on our way by 18.00.

We found the yacht in 10 minutes and noted the very sloppy sea (reported by Mal on the previous trip) as well as a swamped tender on the port quarter. Next, we found the guys couldn’t get the anchor up so we tried towing them forward a little to take the load off as they hand wound the anchor winch, but the chain kept jumping off the gypsy.

By now we were up to ‘Plan F’. We passed a line behind their anchor chain and attached each end to our quarters. We motored forward gently and the anchor finally came up. Whew! With a little more stuffing about we got underway ….and the tender promptly turned turtle!!!

Halfway across the bay things improved a little because the tender righted itself and, as we were doing about 6 knots, most of the water tipped out over the transom. Once in the Marina we got them alongside us and we were on our way to Q arm.

I like Q arm as it has a nice wide runway giving plenty of room for the turn into the pen. We had the yacht well forward so it was relatively easy to start them into the pen, especially as a couple off a nearby boat appeared to give us a hand.

Ryan jumped off to do the paperwork whilst we returned to the pen at 19.00 and tidied up. Thanks to a great crew and fellow boaties for making it look easy.

NB. Neither the owner nor crew had a clue about anything. When the anchor did come up, we saw they only had about 10 metres of chain down, in 4/5 metres and a very sloppy sea and 10 knots of Northerly. Harrumph.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Ricardo Pritchard, Chris Williamson
Skipper: Geoff Smith

Activation 13/12/18: Medivac from a large yacht

I sometimes consider the impact of technology in our everyday lives, and I was doing that while enjoying a coffee. A machine brewed the wonderful coffee, the home-made Latvian gingerbread was flown here at 30,000 feet and 600 knots apparent wind and the lady that was sitting with me was beautiful.I had also recently changed my VMR ringtone so that I can identify it immediately……so when my phone rang I poured my coffee into a thermal cup, said goodbye to the lady and her biscuits and headed to Abell Point Marina VMR1 to do a medi-vac.

A charter vessel with a possible cardiac patient was motoring towards Abell Point and we needed to pick up paramedics and meet it in transit. No time to waste on this one. I met them at the top of the gangway on my way to the boat, and was part-way through the departure checks when the crew arrived, all within 15 minutes.
Flat seas and light winds had us half-way across Whitsunday Passage and rafted up beside the large yacht within 20 minutes of departure. Great work.Once the medics had the patient and his worried partner aboard we stood-to in the passage while they assessed the risk levels and considered a helicopter evac from Hamilton or Hayman Island.
As the patient stabilized we headed back to Abell Point Marina for an Ambulance ride to hospital for him, and another successful activation.By 11.20 we had VMR1 refuelled, cleaned and ready to go again. Thanks to Paramedics, Nicola and Chris.
Crew: Michel, Andrew and Ryan
Skipper: Ron
PS: The lady left me some biscuits. 🍪🍪🍪

Activation 20/12/18 (1): Assisting a timber yacht back home

It is heartening to see a happy ending to a sad story. 🙂 A VMR member was the proud owner of a beautiful 60ft timber yacht, but Cyclone Debbie had shoved it unceremoniously far up into the mangroves.  Since then, an incredible amount of salvage, care, work and cash has gone into her rehabilitation and she was now ready for the inaugural trip from the repair yard slipway back to her berth at Abell Point Marina.  The owner’s family and friends were all onboard for the trip, but they couldn’t get the engine started and needed some help.

After hastily organizing a quick tow out of the creek by a friend, Abell Point Marina VMR1 arrived on the scene to get them home.

Flat seas helped but the breeze made some maneuvers a little taxing. Even with our two big Cummins diesels working hard, the long deep keel on the heavy yacht made turning tight corners at low speed interesting. The last delicate movement into a tight berth showed some very capable crew work on VMR1 and we waited close by while they secured to the pontoon. Our wave good-bye was joined by a cheer for us and the sound of their champagne opening.

The rescue mission began at 08.30 and by 10.20 there were two smiling crews and VMR1 spruced up and ready to go again. Thanks for a great team effort by the crew.

Crew: Marty, Mitch, Ryan and Nicole
Skipper: Ron

Activation 20/12/18 (2): Assist a member with engine problems

It was 1728hrs exactly (I know as I looked at the clock) when I (Fin) received a call from Mal, President of VMR.  I thought it might be a VMR business call but he said he was acting as temporary 24/7 phone holder and was organising an activation.  Turns out that a member was in trouble just East of Hook Passage.  He was in a 5.5m open runabout with 2 people on board, and they were experiencing engine problems. 20181220_190418

With crew on board, Abell Point Marina VMR1 left at  1800 hrs in clear conditions on a rising tide.  There were some isolated showers about but the wind was only 0-10 knots and visibility was 10 nautical miles making our target easy to spot, even in the waning light.

We got to the vessel at 1845 and transferred one person to our vessel before setting off  by 1848 hrs….all very efficient.  By 1940 hrs we had dropped them off at Shute Harbour public boat ramp and were back in our pen in Abell Point Marina, refuelled and washed down at 2045 hrs.

The crew worked brilliantly, individually, and as a team – All aspects were carried out in a calm, efficient, professional manner. They make the task ‘pleasant’ and look easy.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Ken Bryce and Marti Davy
Skipper – Fin Forbes

Activation 22/12/18: Medivac from Hammo

I was sound asleep at 0300hrs when the sound of ringing invaded my deep sleep.  Why does all the bad stuff happen in the wee small hours of the morning?  Ray was on the phone acting as 24/7 emergency phone holder and he explained there was someone in trouble over on Hammo, and they were in need of a medivac back to the mainland.20181201_044433

The town was dark and still as I drove down to Abell Point Marina VMR1 to find crew already there, relatively awake and getting started on the pre-checks.  Thank goodness for the coffee machine on our new vessel!!  Paramedics Damian and Rosie joined us and we set off for Hamilton Island marina, arriving at 0420hrs.

At Hamilton Island we waited while a male patient was brought aboard with his female carer, then we departed at 0430hrs and were back by 0530hrs.

It is very reassuring to have competent, efficient crew aboard at any time  – especially at night – Thanks guys. A professional team.

Crew: Jim Dunn, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 28/12/18: Assist a vessel broken down in the Molle Channel

The “Help” ringtone went off around 1230 – phone holder Roger Wodson had received a phone call from an 8m vessel with 3 people on board, broken down in the Molle Channel and requiring a tow back to Abell Point Marina. It was gusting over 30 knots from the south east against an incoming tide, so it was not going to be an easy retrieval.  At least it wasn’t raining.🌧️

Abell Point Marina VMR1 departed the Marina at 1300, and after calling the broken-down vessel to confirm their coordinates we were alongside about 20 minutes later…no, make that nearby…as it was waaaay too rough to go alongside. 😬The safest option was to use our heaving line to get our tow line across (nice throw first time, Bill). There was no way to get the line attached to the towing eye in the rough conditions as it was way down at water level. Nor could it be attached to their anchor winch as it was not deemed strong enough, so we had them loop it over both of the small bow cleats like a bridle, and then ran extra lines aft to other cleats to reinforce the bow cleats. This was going to have to be a slow tow for fear of pulling out the bow cleats.

By 1330 we were underway, being very careful to try and keep their bow from pointing into the seas to keep the pressure off the cleats as much as possible. Best speed at that stage was about 4 knots, but after we got into the lee of Pioneer Point we were able to take that up to 6 knots. Off Abell Point Marina we shortened the tow and decided to take them alongside once we had entered the marina as it was still quite choppy outside. The Police boat Tempest was returning into the marina at the same time, and stood by in case we needed assistance to get the vessel safely alongside VMR1 in the windy conditions (thanks Adrian).

All went to plan, and then we had the delicate task of getting them into their berth, where we had Amy from the Marina and one of the Whitsunday Escape crew standing by to take lines. Marti was on the helm at this time, and threaded the needle nicely with just enough room to get both boats in side by side safely. That also gave us the first opportunity we had to have the necessary paperwork completed by the owner before we headed back to our own berth, where VMR1 was washed down and secured, ready for the next activation.  Great job as usual by Ryan, Bill and Marti in the difficult conditions prevailing at the time, well done fellas.

Crew: Marti Davy, Ryan Cunningham, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Mal Priday

PS: Less than 1.5 hours later we were activated by police to assist a vessel aground near Henning Island. A passing vessel was able to assist the troubled boat back to Hamilton Island though, so we were stood down just as we were getting ready to depart.  It looks like we are going to have strong and gusty winds for the next week or so, and we urge all boaties to pay particular notice to the forecast before venturing out. Stay safe out there! 😦

Activation 30/12/18: Medivac a patient with a back injury

There goes the “help”ringtone again, at 1150. A male from a commercial vessel had injured his back at Langford Reef, near Hayman Island, and Tom Manning who was on duty in the radio room had fielded a request from QAS for a medivac. Tom put a crew together while I was on my way to the boat.
I arrived at the marina just in time to help Paramedics Rhiannon and Taylor take their gear down to the boat, and Abell Point Marina VMR1 was on its way by 1220. Conditions were ESE winds of 23-26 knots and the tide had just started to flood, making for a windy and choppy run across the Passage to Langford. We were alongside the vessel about 1300, and the paramedics transferred across to begin looking after the patient.
We carefully transferred the patient onto the spine board from VMR1, and then it was a team effort to carry him from the other boat to VMR1, including the gap between, but all went well, and he was placed into the stretcher position on the rescue boat. Rhiannon and Taylor then administered more medication to ease his pain, and we were underway again at 1330. The route back was a bit longer as we tried to stay in the lee of Hook Island as long as we could before bearing away back to Airlie Beach to give our patient the most comfortable ride we could – we were back at Abell Point Marina about 1420.
After carrying the patient onto the dock and helping to transfer him to the ambulance stretcher for the trip to hospital, we moved to the fuel dock, refuelled, then moved back to our own berth to clean and secure VMR1, and were finished about 1515.
Thanks to the crew for their assistance and muscle, well done guys.
Crew: Marti Davy, Michel del Aguila, Ryan Cunningham, Tim Hearn.
Skipper: Mal Priday
NB: This was our 13th activation for December and our 33rd medivac for 2018.

Activation 31/12/18: Assist a member with engine problems, 6.5m alloy 

It was 10 minutes after midday when I received a call from Roger Wodson (acting as 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder) to say we had a member who was stuck where he was anchored at Ratray Island.  Two people on board but they weren’t keen to miss out on the New Year’s festivities so were looking for some help to get back.

I didn’t have any major parties planned so made my way down to Abell Point Marina VMR1 and met up with Andrew, Ken and Michel who Roger had roped in as crew. 🙂  We left the Marina at 1240 hrs. travelling at approx. 24 knots (Ken on the helm) and arrived at the vessel at 1335 hrs.  The weather was overcast and the wind ESE 15 to 20 knots.

We have a special device made by Tom Manning which we use to attach the tow line, but in this case we had trouble using ‘Toms Hook’ as the towing eye on their vessel was too small.  Eventually worked out a way though, and we were towing by 1350 hrs travelling at only 11.5 knots (due to the rough seas). We dropped them off at the APM public boat ramp – and were refuelled, washed down and safely in our pen at 1610 hrs…a total of 4 hours.

It’s worth a mention that there was a ‘bet’ on that this would be the last activation for the year. Michel stood to make a small fortune ($5) from Marti Davy as they had crewed together the day before and enjoyed a friendly disagreement about how many times they had to go out again before the end of 2018.  The crew all agreed to make ourselves available in case there was another. A phone call from Roger at 6-30pm for a medivac from Tongue Bay (which was eventually cancelled) almost put the ‘bet’ in jeopardy! 😀 This one WAS the last though, so Michel ended the year with a $5 bonus.

The Crew were great – they make an activation (even in difficult conditions, and at a time when any sane person is celebrating the end of the year) almost pleasant. Thanks guys.

Crew: Andrew Gray, Ken Bryce, Michel del Aguila
Skipper: Fin Forbes


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