October 2019


Activation 3/10/2019: Assist a motor cruiser with no steering in rough seas

I (Ray) had checked the weather report mid morning – Hamilton island was getting 25-30 knots of wind and I could see the cruise ship covered in cloud and rain and I thought to myself “this is not a good day to be on the water”. Sure enough, an hour later the 24/7 phone holder called to advise that a 44ft motor cruiser with 3 POB has lost steering in rough seas between Turtle bay and Hamilton island and was drifting. Oh well… somebody has to do it.

I headed down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 to meet up with the crew, and we departed in rainy conditions at 1224, making our way towards the vessel in distress. When we hit the Whitsunday Passage we had to slow down to half speed 12 knots because the seas were so rough! It was going to take longer than expected to get to them, so we and Hay Point VTS sent out a “Securitee” message asking for vessels in the area to assist until we arrived on the scene.

When we finally did arrive an inflatable RHIB from Hamilton Island was assisting the vessel stay out in deep water. We attached our tow line but as the rudder of the boat was jammed to one side we could only travel just above idle speed because the boat would veer off to one side.

We were lucky that the vessel was from Sydney and wanted to be taken to Hamilton Island for repairs as it would have taken many hours to tow it to the mainland.

We deposited the vessel on a berth at the Hamilton Island marina and returned to CSM cleaned up and were finished at 1523 hours.

My thanks to the Hamilton Island crew and our crew members for a job well done.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Ken Bryce and Shane Gosselink
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Activation 7/10/19: Assist a 25 ft half cabin experiencing engine problems

It was 0957hrs and I was just doing the dishes when the phone rang. It was Geoff Smith (acting as 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder) and he quickly filled me in on the issue.

Apparently 2 people on board a 25 ft half cabin were experiencing engine problems. They were located 2 nm North Hannah Point and were requesting assistance. Right-O! I’d love to stay and finish the dishes, but I must run. 😋

I met up with the crew on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and by 1030hrs we were heading out into a lovely morning. The weather was clear and sunny with seas less than half a metre and wind ENE at 0-10 knots. Perfect day for an outing.

It was only 25 minutes later that we were pulling up alongside our target vessel, and after attaching a line we towed them back to the public jetty at Coral Sea Marina. By noon we were all washed down and back in our berth.

I headed home, hoping that the dishes were all done. 😀 As always, thanks to the crew for their time and skills.

Crew: Ken Bryce, Paul Martin and Terry Brown
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 7/10/19 (No 2): Tow a vessel from outside Hamilton Island Marina

I thought I’d already had my outing for the day (see above) but right on 1658hrs, the phone rang again. This time it was Celia Smith who had taken over as 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder.

Just a quick one” she promised, and explained that we were being requested for a tow from just outside Hamilton Island Marina. It was a VMRW member, and they were in a 25ft vessel with 3POB. “No worries” I said, “I’m on my way“.

I met Murray, Shane and Peter on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and we got through the pre-checks quickly then pointed the bow toward Hamilton Island, leaving at 1725hrs. The weather was still clear and calm with seas less than half a meter.

By 1815hrs we were rendezvousing with the target vessel just outside Hamilton Island Marina and with some expert throwing from the crew, got it attached and on the tow quickly.

It was dark when we rafted him alongside just outside the leads to Port of Airlie and towed him alongside to the Public jetty – dropping him off at 1925 hrs.

We were refuelled and washed down and back in our pen by 1955 hrs, Our Phone Holder and Whitsunday VTS were advised of our safe return. Big thanks to the crew.

Crew: Murray Storey, Shane Newell and Peter Beaumont
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 11/10/19: Assist a 6.5 meter runabout with a broken out-board

Celia’s timing was pretty good, as the VMR emergency call came in just as I (Ron) was hanging up the last of the washing and eyeing the approaching clouds. A member with a broken out-board needs to return to Airlie. No worries.

According to Celia (24/7 phone holder) he had been out by Whitehaven Beach and lost power when he tried to return to the boat-ramp…but luckily, he had a mate who towed him to Hamilton Island so we could meet him there and bring him home.

Just as we rounded Henning Island, there was our member coming into view from Fitzalan Passage. Sometimes it is all about the timing. 😎 A quick change-over in the calm waters between Plum Pudding Island and Hammo saw the paperwork done, VHF communication established and under tow heading into some squally showers. Not good for my washing, but saves some hosing down when we get back to our berth.

Towing the 6.5 meter runabout at a comfortable 18knots saw us home quite smartly but low tide meant that we couldn’t get him to the ramp at Port of Airlie, so we took him
straight to our preferred Coral Sea Marina, secured him to the pontoons at the boat-ramp, and had one of our crew drive him round to pick up his car and trailer.

I love it when a good plan comes together. 😀 Great crew-work by Michel, Chris and John, and Michel also takes some good photos.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Chris Williamson and John Walton
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 12/10/2019: Non-member with engine issues

I (Ray) received a call from the radio room that a non-member had called in and stated that he had engine problems and needed a tow into Coral Sea Marina.

He had dragged anchor across a mooring that he had picked up. I asked the radio operator to explain our costs, advise him to book a berth at Coral Sea Marina, and then if the caller was happy with all that, to contact our SARCO to authorise the activation.

It was a go ahead, so I met up with the crew on Coral Sea Marina VMR1, and we departed at 1320hrs. The waters were pretty rough as we made our way out to his vessel near the entrance leads to the Port of Airlie marina. We drove past him and threw a heaving line attached to our towing line and then proceeded to tow him into the CSM basin…. it was way too rough outside to raft up beside the vessel.

Successfully placed the vessel on a berth and then returned to fuel up and shut down. Thanks to the crew for a smooth operation in rough water.

Crew: Kenny Bryce, Paul Martin and Shane Newell
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Activation 17/10/2019: Assist stranded vessel outside Nara Inlet

It was just our usual Thursday training session and I (Ray) had planned on running a lesson on navigation in the training room. I literally opened my mouth to start talking about the first topic when my phone rang. Yep…a callout. A 6 metre vessel with 2 people on board was broken down outside of Nara Inlet.

With a room full of volunteers keen to learn it was pretty easy to gather a crew! 🙂 Ann, Ken and Paul put their hands up first so we headed down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and departed at 1640hrs.

Seas were moderate as we set course for Nara Inlet (on the job navigation training) and before long our vessel in distress was just ahead of us.

Got a tow rope attached and the relieved couple opted to come on board VMR1 for the tow to the Port of Airlie marina boat ramp where we gently deposited their vessel. It didn’t take long to get back to Coral Sea Marina and by 1900hrs we had refueled, washed down and were left for home…and dinner. Thanks to the crew.

Crew: Ann Cleghorn, Ken Bryce and Paul Martin
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Activation 21/10/2019: Help Charter boat aground on a reef

It was Monday morning and I (Ray) was just tinkering in my shed when our 24/7 phone holder called to advise that a 16 metre Bare Boat with 2POB had run aground on a reef. They were expecting to be able to float off with the afternoon tide though, so this was just a ‘hold that thought’ notification. 🙂

It was well after lunch and I was starting to think that all had gone as planned when the phone rang again. O-oh. Apparently they had floated off the reef OK but the anchor winch was not working. They also had a prop wrap but were confident that they could dive down and clear the obstruction.

Clearly they needed some help though, so with a crew of Ken, John and Lance we departed Coral Sea Marina at 1445 and headed out on the water in 25 knots of wind and plenty of white caps.

When we arrived at the scene we were informed that they had managed to fix the prop wrap and were floating on the edge of the reef so we launched our tender, and two of our crew took the tow line across while I held VMR1 in deeper water. We managed to take some load off the anchor chain but unfortunately could not raise it.

After spending some time trying to locate the winch isolator switch, we were able draw some chain up and I did my best to manoeuver the vessel around. Communication proved challenging however as with 25 knots of wind blowing across the hand held radio, messages were difficult to understand.

Nevertheless, after some time and a great deal of difficulty we managed  to raise the anchor and I towed the vessel over to the calm water under Baird Point where we completed the paper work. At this point we were assured that the vessel was OK and did not require any more assistance so we returned to CSM to fuel up and wash down and were finished at 1730, just in time for beer’o’clock. 🙂 My thanks to our crew who performed well in difficult conditions.

Crew: Ken Bryce, John Walton and Lance Robins
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Activation 20/10/19: Assist a non-member with engine issues

What could possibly go wrong on a day like this…..10knots of breeze from the North-East, no swell and a warm sunny Sunday lunchtime. Right on cue the phone rang. It was the VMR radio officer calling.  He explained to me (Ron) that we had a non-member who was drifting with engine trouble between Pentecost and Lindeman Islands. 

With a crew organised and our pre-departure checks done we headed out just after 13.00, making excellent time to our rescue coordinates. 

Our main worry was the number of vessels we had to avoid. While travelling south down Molle channel, I counted 32 vessels, including jet skis,  in one circular sweep from the bridge-deck of Coral Sea Marina VMR1.  There were also schools of large tuna everywhere and we had difficulty avoiding them. There were big schools feeding on the surface, and our close proximity while doing 26 knots didn’t upset them at all.

But I digress. 🙂 Our coordinates were very accurate and we had the stricken vessel on radar at about the same time as we got visual sighting, just a flash from his windscreen, but good to locate.

We came alongside and got the paperwork underway. It turned out that the issue was caused by the wake from a passing passenger ferry. As our non-member was travelling, he bounced off the bow-wave and his engine cut out. He could only assume that the jolt had disconnected something electrical which he couldn’t find. He also had a mate in another boat in the area, but that vessel had no VHF radio and was out of phone coverage. A couple of expensive co-incidences.

We soon had our tow in operation, 18 knots and a smooth ride, as we headed back to the boat-ramp adjacent to the VMR radio base. Timing was going to be close as this ramp can be quite shallow at low tides, but our towing speed had us in there and back out safely.

A big thank you and a promise to become VMR members accompanied the wave good-bye as we headed back to refuel, wash-down and get ready for our next task.

Great work from the crew as well as the team in the radio room. 

Crew: Chris Williamson, Paul Martin and Shane Gosselink
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 27/10/19: Member broken down south of Craig Point

I (Geoff S) got the call from Di in the radio room at 15.05. A 26’ half cabin with 6 POB, south of Craig Point, was drifting westwards to Hammo. Di had got a crew together and we all met up at Coral Sea Marina VMR1, quickly readying the boat for departure. We set off at 15.50  into perfect conditions – clear skies, slight wind and little tide.

We arrived at our target (who had drifted NW towards Crayfish Bay) at 16.50. As the
conditions were so perfect, we rafted up and did the paperwork there and
transferred 3 of the passengers aboard VMR1. It transpired that his engine had
overheated and when he investigated, the skipper found the accessory belts off his
engine were in the bilge!!! 😮

We were on our way home by 17.04 and after a totally uneventful trip we dropped
our tow off on the ramp finger at 18.30. Fuelled up and we were into the pen for 18.50.
Thanks to everyone for making it such a nice day out, Terry C. for doing comms and
Terry B. for driving.

Crew: Ken Bryce, Terry Clarke, John Walton, Dominique Noir, Terry Brown
Skipper: Geoff Smith

NOTE: A couple of important things to note from this activation.  Our Target didn’t know how to operate his VHF radio or anything about radio protocols.  Both the latitude and longitude positions he gave us put him in the middle of Whitsunday Island! 😄 Fortunately for him and us, his phone worked where he was, and his position description was very accurate…so he was lucky. Safety shouldn’t rely on luck though.

VMR strongly recommend that all boat owners complete a Radio course.  Information about appropriate radio channels can be found on our website page Boating in the Whitsundays.

Read about these activations soon after they happen….and see more photos taken from VMR1… PLUS read other people’s comments on the incident (or comment yourself).