February 2018

HawkesBoatyardActivation Reports brought to you by
Hawkes Boatyard
supporting VMR when we need to lift
VMR1 out for servicing

Activation 1/2/18: Assist non-members who were broken down

There is nothing like a 6am phone call, telling you that three people have broken down at sea and your assistance is required. Oh well….time to get up anyway. 🙂
The emergency phone holder advised that a 7 metre vessel was on its way to the reef when it broke down in the Whitsunday Passage. As they were non members it was probably lucky for them that they broke down there and not at the reef as the cost would have been a considerably more! (Editors note: this should be an incentive for people to join VMR as it is very cheap insurance).
With Senior Crew member Rod and new trainee Ricardo, we readied ‘Abell Point Marina VMR1’ and were on our way at 6:30am. No time for breakfast! With clear skies and a beautiful flat sea, we made our way to the position that we were given. As Thursday was a King tide I assumed that they would have drifted a bit being in the middle of passage…and this proved correct because as we passed North Molle island we could see the vessel in the far distance.
We rafted up to the vessel and Rod did all the paper work before towing them back to the Port of Airlie boat ramp. Last job was refuelling and berthing but then at 8:30am we were finally released from duty and could get that long-awaited (and much deserved) big breakfast.
Crew: Rod Wilson, Ricardo Pritchard
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Activation 6/2/18: Double Medivac from Hamilton Island

Medivacs are not usually quite this novel! Skipper Mal said “The Australian Warship “HMAS Parramatta” (I looked it up later on Marine Traffic) was coming up fast on our starboard side as we approached Daydream Island and made for Unsafe Passage.” Uh…oh….

But let’s start from the beginning. 🙂 ‘Abell Point Marina VMR1’ had been activated by QAS (Qld Ambulance Service) for a medivac of a patient from Hamilton Island. I received the call from phone holder Bill just after 3:00pm saying that we were to meet the paramedics near the fuel dock at 3:30, which meant we had to hustle to move the boat from its temporary berth on O5 to be there on time. As it turned out, we then had to wait for the paramedic as QAS were concerned that as the patient was suffering from a suspected spinal injury from an industrial incident, sea conditions (winds 20 to 30 knots plus and a moderate sea) may have made the transfer by boat quite difficult. And then we heard we may have a second patient to transfer at the same time. Already this was panning out to be a tricky situation….but it goes on… 🙂

Bill had advised the QAS that the return journey would be downwind and with the prevailing seas, so in due course the Paramedic Damien was on board, and we departed Abell Point at 4:15pm. As mentioned earlier, we had seen the warship at the southern end of South Molle Island, making its way around the eastern side of Daydream as we made our way towards Unsafe Passage. I has slowed down while I watched them for any course change because

1) they were on our starboard side and had right of way, and at that stage they were going to pass ahead of us, and
2) they were bigger than us, and
3) I did not think they would have really tried to go through Unsafe, and
4) they had big guns! 😀

As I was reaching for the radio I noticed that they were slowing, and starting to alter course to port – at that stage it was throttles down again and we passed them on their starboard side, cleared Unsafe and set course for Hamilton, using the shelter of Bauer Bay as long as we could as seas in the Passage were short and steep, with a lot of wind on top. We had to reduce sped to 15 knots at times but once again the new boat handled the conditions superbly, and we pulled into Hamilton Island Marina around 5:15 and waited for our patients.

After carefully loading our stretcher patient and swapping our own QAS stretcher with the Hamilton Island paramedic, we assisted the other patient on board and departed Hamilton at 6:00pm. The air conditioner was running to make things more comfortable for our patients.

Caution was the order of the day on the return trip in deference to our stretcher patient as we picked our way through the Passage, varying boat speed all the time to give the best possible ride. Again, the boat handled the conditions superbly and we arrived back at Abell Point for the transfer of the grateful patients to the Ambulance for the trip to Proserpine Hospital.

After refuelling and cleaning the boat, we were on our way home to a late dinner at 8:00pm. Thanks to the crew for a long job well done.

Crew: Roger Wodson, Ken Bryce and Rick Brown (trainee)
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 9/02/18: Assist 54ft Commercial Vessel with Engine Problems

HOW big did you say it was and HOW MANY passengers did you say?” That was my first response to phone holder Bill when he rang just after 4:00pm. Sounded like an interesting time may be on the cards. 🙂

‘Abell Point Marina VMR1’ had just been returned to her berth after showing her to visiting members from VMR Burdekin (they were favourably impressed) when Bill rang. He confirmed that a commercial motor vessel 54 feet long and with 36 passengers on board plus crew was having engine problems between Hayman and Hook Islands. Conditions at the time were pretty good, about 10-15 knots of SE wind and slight seas with an ebbing tide.

Departing Abell Point Marina about 4:30, we were unable to contact the vessel either by VHF or phone (no doubt the skipper had his hands full) but we were advised by a nearby charter boat (thank you Stardust) that they had just seen the vessel slowly entering Stonehaven anchorage. As we neared Stonehaven the skipper called me to advise us that he had managed to get the engine going and was under way at reduced speed, and that his passengers had already been transferred to other vessels and were en route back to Abell Point. Our offer to escort the boat back to the safety of Abell Point was gratefully accepted, and we started the slow return journey in convoy with them at 5:15pm after putting VHF communication in place.

That would have been the end of the story, but they got out attention twice on the way back. Firstly when they slowed to organise a better tow for their tender… and secondly when they started to emit LOTS of black smoke! “What the…!!!” 😨 With visions of an engine room fire – it was that imposing – we checked by VHF that all was okay. Apparently they were testing the response of the engine under higher revs and load and that there was no major problem. I don’t think it passed the test though! 😂 We briefly had visions of evacuating the crew and watching the boat burn and go down, but luckily that was not to be. Whew.

The vessel was able to make their way safely but slowly back to Abell Point, and after watching them berth without incident we then refuelled and moved back to our own berth. After securing and cleaning VMR1 we were all finished by about 7:30pm. The bonus for us was the beautiful sunset as we approached Abell Point.

Thanks to the crew, and it was nice to have an easy but slow activation for a change, even if there were a couple of moments where the heart raced a bit. 🙂

Crew: Stu Applegate, Rod Wilson and Steve Norton
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 21/02/18: Pick up a deceased person from Hamilton Island

Fortunately we do not get many of this type of activation, but when they occur we need to do our bit. A 70 year old passenger on a cruise ship visiting Hamilton Island had passed away due to an illness, and we were asked to collect the deceased person and return it to Abell Point. ‘Abell Point VMR1’ departed the marina at 2205 hrs with two undertakers on board, and after logging in with Whitsunday VTS, berthed at Hamilton at 2315. Conditions were SE wind of about 15 knots with a slight sea from the incoming tide. It was a very dark and stormy night, but luckily we did not get to try out our lightning rod as the storms were all around us but not where we were. FLIR was used and gave us much better awareness of what was coming up in front.

With our unfortunate passenger on board we departed Hamilton at 0005 and tied up at the fuel dock around 0115 and helped our passengers to the top of the ramp prior to refuelling and logging off with VTS. Back in O5 by 0130, and after securing and cleaning VMR1 we left the boat at 0145.

Thanks to the crew for their assistance and at times muscle on a not very pleasant activation – much appreciated fellas.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, Rod Wilson, Steve Norton
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 24/2/18: Medivac for Cruise Ship Passenger

It turned out to be a long day at the office! I (Ray) was completing a morning shift at the radio base and having a long chat with the person taking over from me….when we received a call from QAS (Queensland Ambulance Service) that they needed our assistance. A person on an overseas cruise ship which was anchored near Hamilton island was in some distress and we were required to take two QAS officers to Hamilton Island to assist the patient back to the Proserpine hospital. Okey dokey! I had been looking forward to some lunch but luckily we have ’emergency food supplies’ on board. 🙂

‘Abell Point Marina VMR1’ departed the marina at 1:20pm. The conditions were overcast but we made our way to Hamilton Island where we quickly collected the patient and his wife and returned to Abell Point Marina. We fueled up and were on our way home at 4:00pm. Not too long for everyone else but I’d been on radio duty since 7:00am so it was a 9 hour shift! 😀

As a side note,…the patient was on a four month cruise aboard the cruise ship Silver Whisper, and intended to re-join the cruise ship at Townsville. Thanks to the crew.

Crew: Ron McCall, Ken Bryce and Rick Brown
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Activation 24/2/18: Assist a non-member with a fuel problem

The salad was on the plate, the pan on the stove and the steak just about to go on….then the phone rings. Apparently a quick run to Nara Inlet to bring back a 21-footer with an out of commission motor. Easy job in a light Northerly so I (Ron) turned off the stove and headed out.

With the crew assembled and vessel checks done we were off at 7.15pm. At about 8.10pm we sighted a vessel anchored in the sloppy waters at the Southern end of False Nara, quite close to the reef and rolling badly. As this situation was now our responsibility, after a quick assessment and some gear preparation we got them to raise their anchor. As I predicted, the drift carried them out from the reef where we were able to secure a light towing line and take them back into calmer waters for the necessary paperwork.

To facilitate this, one of the 3 on board the vessel transferred to “Abell Point Marina VMR 1”. Michel did a passenger briefing and Marlene helped with the paperwork while Rod and Tim got us set up for the tow back to Abell Point Marina launching ramp.

A comfortable 1.5 hour tow into a 10-knot Northerly with a slight swell got us all home safely for a refuel and VMR 1 was home and hosed by 10.40pm. Another job well done by the crew.

NB: Apparently the driving trip up from Brisbane on a trailer, coupled with a fuel-fill from a local servo followed by their trip to the outer reef and back caused their fuel filter to clog at Nara Inlet.

Crew: Rod Wilson, Michel del Aguila, Tim Hearn & Marlene Manto (trainee)
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 25/2/18: A perfect example of what NOT to do

Sunday morning early and I (Ron) wake up to the sound of bells. It couldn’t be a church so it must be a callout! 🙂 Info provided was that a vessel had broken down and anchored at Black Reef. So….just enough time to make a quick coffee then head down to Abell Point Marina.

Crew member Ray received a rousing cheer when he arrived with a bag full of hot Brumbies pies. With the crew assembled and vessel checks done we were off at 6.40am. Dark clouds were looming and squally rain around us, and with a 10-15 knot Northerly it looked like it was going to be a long trip out to the GPS coordinates we were given outside Circular Quay Reef. The FLIR unit we have on board is of *major* assistance in these conditions and passed the test once again.

On reaching the coordinates, we find an empty ocean. Happens more often than you’d imagine! [sigh] Back to the radio to contact the vessel requiring assistance…and the fellow on board doesn’t know the boats name but …oh sorry… here’s a new set of coordinates.[double sigh] Only 8 nautical miles as the crow flies, but over the top of 2 reef systems and back the way we had just come. It was a rapidly dropping tide so we were dodging the reefs, but about 20 miles later we finally have him in sight, anchored 10 metres from the reef proper with about 5 knots of current but flat water and little breeze. A hastily rigged raft-up so we could push him against the current to assist in his anchor hoist, and we motored him out into clear space for the paper work and assessing the problem. And here’s where it gets REALLY interesting. Funny actually, if it wasn’t so serious!!

One man in a 16-foot boat with a single outboard, 50 miles offshore! Not sure if he had checked the weather forecast as it was for thunderstorms with heavy rain and strong wind gusts. What on earth was he doing out there in the first place! He apparently had a flat battery, but from my position on the fly-bridge I could clearly see 2 batteries in sight……and a stunned shearwater bird paddling around the cabin sole in a large puddle of water eating the blokes bait. 🤣

Okay, so Ray goes aboard with the jumpstart kit. The terminal nut for the engine lead is loose, so this is rectified in 2 seconds. The motor starts on the third attempt without the use of our battery booster. I wish I had a camera with me at the moment Ray looked up at me with the unused kit in his hand, the offending outboard running happily, a wild sea-bird eating bait at his feet and an unusual look on his face. Luckily Michel did!

The vessel elected to follow us back to Airlie Beach as his GPS was now without power, so we untied and powered up for a 23-knot drive home with the assisted vessel using our slipstream for flatter water. We refuelled, washed down and prepared ‘Abell Point Marina VMR1’ for her next activation.

I have seen one other battery lead which was more expensive, but it was on a Boeing 747B.  🙂 Good work by the crew.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Rod Wilson & Michel del Aguila
Skipper: Ron Roberts