September 2019


Activation 1/9: Assist a 12 metre Clipper Cruiser into the Marina

On Sunday afternoon I (Ray) received a call from the radio room that a person whose 12 metre 17 tonne clipper cruiser was on a mooring out from the Coral Sea Resort and had an engine issue.  He wanted to be taken into the Coral Sea Marina (Coral Sea Marina only allows VMR Whitsunday to bring broken down vessels into the marina) and could we do it on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, so I said that we will do now rather than later.

The crew and I had Coral Sea Marina VMR1 ready to depart at 1610 and as Skipper and VMRW training officer, I utilised this nice Sunday afternoon to complete some skipper training, asking Ryan to drive VMR1 out of the marina and raft up to the stricken vessel. He then proceeded to bring the vessel back in and place it on the end of Q arm, the whole operation carried out competently and efficiently, well done Ryan.🤗

After delivery of the vessel we returned to our berth and were finished at 1700.

Skipper: Ray Lewis
Crew: Ryan, Ken, Murray

Activation 2/9: A simple tow turned complicated

Angel Signs had just finished the new sign writing for Coral Sea Marina|Resort on our rescue vessel VMR1.  Ryan and I (Ray) had turned the vessel around and were walking up the ramp when our 24/7 phone holder called.

I was told that a 7 metre vessel with 2 POB was having engine troubles, and had anchored out from Chance Bay on the south side of Whitsunday Island. With that information, Ryan and I immediately turned around and started on our pre-start procedures all-over again. 😋

When Shane, Terry and Paul arrived we departed Coral Sea Marina at 1445 and headed out in perfect conditions.  When we arrived to what we thought would be a quick pick up it all went rather pear-shaped as the anchor was stuck on the bottom in 32 metres of water and the anchor winch was jammed.  The owner spent quite some time trying to get things to work to no avail so Ryan and Terry launched the tender and proceeded to the bow of the vessel to assist, eventually getting the anchor up.

We towed the vessel back to the CSM boat ramp and Paul drove the owner around to the VMR boat ramp to pick up his car and trailer as it was a very low tide and he would not have been able to get his boat out.

We refuelled, washed down and were finished at 1810 just in time to go to the VMR Whitsunday monthly members meeting.  Thanks to the crew for a great job. 😀

Skipper: Ray
Crew: Ryan, Shane, Terry (B), Paul

Activation 3/9/19: Assist a 6.8m runabout out of fuel 

I (Mal) had not too long come out of a couple of information meetings put on by AMSA when phone holder Bill called about 1645 and set off my “Help” ringtone. 2 persons and a 6.8m runabout had run out of fuel between North Molle and the mainland and were requesting assistance to be towed back to Port of Airlie. It was such a magnificent day – how could I refuse!  😂

Bill put together a crew of Michel, Kenny and Terry for me, and after pre-start checks and confirmation of vessel details with Bill, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 1715 with Kenny at the helm. Light winds, a setting sun – nice! It is not always like that, though.

En route we made contact with our target and thought we had them in our sights right between North Molle and the mainland – until that boat started to move, so it was back to plan B – make contact again and try for coordinates. Nope, could not give us anything, but after a couple of other calls we managed to locate them in the fading light, did the paperwork and set off with them in tow towards Port of Airlie. We noticed that they actually had a plotter on board but were unfamiliar with its operation hence no coordinates – a bit of practice would definitely help.

The tide was dropping as we took them alongside off the leads and made our way into the now darkened channel making full use of FLIR and the plotter. We were concerned that we may have difficulty getting them onto the ramp – it is very shallow and restrictive for VMR1 – but fortunately another runabout that was just departing the ramp agreed to take them in for us and we were able to transfer them in deeper water at 1835. Thank you for the assistance.

Kenny then took us back to Coral Sea Marina where VMR1 was shut down, cleaned and secured, before finishing at 1915 and heading off for a late dinner. Good work by Kenny, Michel and Terry, thanks fellas.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Kenny Bryce, Terry Brown
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 4/9/19: Assist a member broken down west of Hayman Island

I (Fin) got the call about 1445, Bill our 24hr phone holder was mustering the crew so I quickly headed to Coral Sea Marina.

After some pre-start checks and the associated paperwork we were on our way by 1525, it was a pleasant day on the water with the winds ESE 5-10 knots making it a speedy arrival on scene at 1555. After a quick raft up and some more paperwork we had our tow line attached and headed for home.

VMR1 easily towed the 7m motor boat and 3 POB back to Coral Sea Marina where we deposited our member’s boat onto the public ramp, refuelled and had VMR1 secured in our pen by 1710 hrs.

The whole activation was pleasant due to the crews competence and professionalism, and also because they are just ‘good guys’.

Skipper: Fin
Crew: Ken, Terry (B), Cameron

Ed: This was the 4th activation in 4 days by the 4th day of the month. 😁

Activation 11/9/19: Assist a 7 metre catamaran near Grimston Point

Phone holder Bill saved me from having to watch the Bachelor with a call just before 1930 saying that a solo sailor on a 7 metre catamaran had gone aground at Grimston Point, and had lost the use of his engine.  He was requesting assistance to pull him out of the mangroves and tow him back to Airlie Beach. Conditions were less than ideal with a south-easterly gusting over 20 knots, but at least the tide was running out with the wind.

The crew of Ryan, Michel and Terry C prepared Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for night work, and we departed the marina for Grimston at 1950. En route Michel managed to get in phone contact with our sailor, and was given coordinates that placed the target vessel inside Grimston in Woodwark Bay.

So that is where we went and found – nothing! Another call gave us similar coordinates but he then added that we had gone past him in the dark, and that he was in fact on the eastern – windward – side of the point, so we retraced our route while asking him to fire a flare so we could locate him. Whitsunday VTS was notified that we had asked for a flare and that we were already on site, in case it was sighted and reported by another person. VTS thanked us and advised that they were tracking us on AIS – nice to know!

We sighted the flare and moved closer until we got to a depth of 4 metres and held that position in a sloppy sea while Ryan (multi-tasking that night) and Terry took our tender in to see if they could tow the cat out of the mangroves and out to VMR1. They got quite wet but were able to do that successfully – well done guys – and the cat was taken in tow by VMR1. If conditions had been a bit more windy we would have been faced with the choice of simply retrieving the sailor and leaving the cat where it was on the lee shore until conditions improved , but happily we did not have to make that call.

After a slow tow back at about 6 knots – Ryan on the helm again – we were asked to tow the cat to the anchorage off Port of Airlie so he could anchor and then get a ride back with us to Coral Sea Marina. After one unsuccessful attempt the anchor seemed set and the sailor was happy, so we took him back to the marina, finishing about 2245 by the time we refuelled, secured and cleaned VMR1.

Nice work by the crew in difficult conditions, and a good result.
Crew: Ryan, Michel, Terry C
Skipper: Mal

Footnote 1: The owner contacted us late in the afternoon the next day to see if we could go back and check that his boat was there as he had been told it was not in sight. We were able to do that after we finished another activation from Grimston (see below) and could not locate the boat! We were subsequently advised that it had dragged anchor and had been taken by another boatie inside the breakwater at the Sailing Club, so all ended well.

Footnote 2: There is an Emergency+ app available that gives coordinates and emergency phone numbers, but only if you are in phone range. It does not take the place of your VHF which is the preferred means of requesting assistance at sea for the simple reason that a VHF call may be heard by other boats in the vicinity, and who may be able to assist. A phone call only goes to one person – if you have coverage. Have a look at Emergency + by National Triple Zero Awareness Work Group

Activation 12/9/19: Assist a 10m catamaran unable to get back to Airlie Beach

We had just finished doing some performance and engine tests on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and had just put her to bed and started on our way home when 24/7 phone holder Bill rang me (Mal) to say that a 10 metre catamaran with 2 POB was unable to make its way back to Airlie Beach and had requested assistance. They were near Grimston Point (Groundhog day – we had towed a cat back from there the previous night). It was SE to ESE winds gusting over 25 knots, and we had the luck of an outgoing tide that gave a slightly flatter sea.

The crew of Marti (2nd time that day), Michel and Terry B met at the boat, and with Marti at the helm proceeded around 1400 towards the coordinates of the cat needing assistance. The waypoint had them off the northern headland at Double Bay.

We had them in sight as we rounded Grimston, and by around 1430 we had them under tow for the slow trip back to Airlie Beach at 5-6 knots. It was too rough to go alongside so Terry did a nice job with our heaving line to get the towline across to be attached to their anchor bridle, which made it an easier connect and tow. We thought we had sighted two dinghies on the beach on the eastern side of Grimston but we could not investigate further with the cat in tow, so details were given to the Water Police to follow up.

They were taken alongside off the Marina, the paperwork was completed, and they were then able to make their own way to their mooring around 1600 after expressing their thanks for the assistance. After a quick dash down to Port of Airlie to look for the cat we had towed in the previous night (see our previous activation report) VMR1 was back at its berth at Coral Sea Marina just in time to go out for the third time today, this time for training with Captain Ron at the helm and a new crew.

Good work by Marti, Michel and Terry.

Crew: Marti, Michel, Terry B
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 15/9/19: Assist Overseas vessel with engine problems on the outer reef

VMR Whitsunday was tasked by the Water Police to go to the assistance of an overseas vessel manned by a solo sailor on the outer Great Barrier Reef. He was delivering a boat from New Caledonia to the Mediterranean, and was bound for Darwin when he encountered engine problems, and altered course towards mainland Australia.

With a crew of 5, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed for his last reported position at 11:15 am in nice conditions. wind 10 knots SE and slight seas.

Water Police were able to communicate with the vessel by Satphone, and a couple of amended sets of coordinates were passed on to the crew on VMR1. VMR1 was able to pick up a faint radar image of a vessel on the northern side of Hardy Reef and had altered course to investigate when the Police advised a new set of co-ordinates for the target vessel, north of Oublier Reef. He was still under sail, but with no local charts on board he was understandably reluctant to go further into the reef system.

VMR1 located him around 2:30 and Paul was able to throw a heaving line across so he could take our tow rope – with seas of 1-2 metres at times and more wind, it was too dangerous to attempt to come alongside. The tow started around 2:30pm, and it was not until about 2.5 hours later that Line Reef afforded sufficient shelter to allow VMR1 to come alongside to transfer Ken (thanks for volunteering/being volunteered/delete whichever is inapplicable 🤣) on board with our jump starter to assist. After about 15 minutes the two on the target vessel were able to start the generator on board, and that was used to start the main motor. Under its own power the vessel was able to motor at 8.5 to 9 knots, much better than the 5.5 – 6 knots under tow. The skipper was able to get some much needed sleep as Ken took the helm for the trip to Airlie Beach.

With VMR1 in the lead, course was set for Airlie Beach. As both vessels were approaching Airlie Beach in the very late evening Ken advised that the engine was now overheating, so VMR1 again took it in tow alongside and positioned them to anchor safely off Coral Sea Marina. Police and Border Force were advised accordingly, and VMR1 finally returned to its berth after refuelling and was shut down at 11:35 – a 12 hours and 20 minutes activation with a total distance covered pf about 140 nautical miles.

A marathon effort by the crew of dedicated volunteers.

Crew: Ryan, Ken, Murray, Paul
Skipper: Mal

Activation 16/9/19: Another long one to Cobham Reef and back – maybe

It had been a busy morning for me doing an unexpected Bare-boat brief, so I had already spent some hours on the water when Bill (our volunteer phone holder) called me to do a rescue tow.
‘Of course’ I said, then asked where we were going.‘Just past Double Cone Island to Cobham Reef’ was the reply. I did some quick numbers and came up with about 120 nm for the return trip 60 of them towing a 23 foot fishing boat. 6 to 8 hours so I had better take an apple to eat.

My arrival at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 timed in well with Fin and Dominique already doing the preparation and Terry walking down the dock beside me. Bill supplied us with more accurate vessel location data and it seems our target was only half-way out to Cobham. A pleasant surprise but on this beautiful day for an afternoon on the water, not cause for enormous celebration.

Another surprise as we departed the leads and were about to throttle up for the trip out, Bill calls again with a brief diversion. A small fibre-glass runabout lost power and would like a tow, just outside Coral Sea Marina, more information to come.

Okay, so a quick look around us and about 200 metres to seaward is a runabout with all his fenders out and at anchor. Yes, I will go over for a look. A day of surprises, verbal confirmation from the skipper, just as the boat phone rings to give us the assisted vessel phone number. Found in record time!

He was just moving to his new berth at Port of Airlie so this was to be a short tow. Quick conversations and we were tying him close along-side, doing the paperwork for the brief trip and planning the manoeuvering in close quarters into a berth he had not seen before. To the surprise of the watching surrounding berth-holders, all went well and we slotted the vessel neatly into his berth and waved goodbye.

Meanwhile, our disabled vessel near the outer reef had managed to restart his engines and proceed under his own power. We had been stood-down.

So that is the story of the long and short 1.5 activations. And sorry, no whale photos.

Thanks again to the crew of Fin, Dominique and Terry, and our phone holder Bill for your time and efforts.

Crew: Fin Forbes, Dominique Noire and Terry Brown
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 18/9/19: Medivac for injured camper

We were just settling in for the night on our boat anchored off the Marine Club near the VMR Base when 24/7 phone holder Bill called about 1850 – a camper had apparently suffered scalds from hot water at Steen’s Beach near Hook Island, and required a medivac. No problem, I put on a uniform and hopped in my dinghy to head over to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at its berth.

Tony arrived shortly after and we proceeded to get the boat ready to go, dimming instruments, Murray arrived to help, then Tayla the paramedic. Then Bill rang again just as Tayla also got word that we had been stood down and CQ Rescue would be doing the medivac. So it was shut down the boat, and head back to our respective homes.

The steak was just about done when Bill called again – we had been tasked to assist the chopper in case they had difficulties extracting the patient. So it was back in the dinghy with a steak sandwich in hand to eat on the way back to VMR1. Tayla was waiting at the gate, and then Tony and Ken arrived to get the boat ready to go again. There was a little confusion over the exact location – the coordinates we were given were not valid and the caller had told QAS they could see Hamilton Island which was at the other end of the Whitsundays. Tayla was able to give updated coordinates which indeed had them at Steen’s Beach at the northern end of Hook, opposite what was in fact Hayman Island.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 2025 and headed at 26-27 knots into a very dark night across the Whitsunday Passage to Steen’s. En route we could see CQ Rescue heading for the area from the northwest, and they were on scene about 15-20 minutes before we arrived at 2115 after a quick trip. We had seen them circling and going lower, then coming up again and heading south. We were able to confirm that they had winched the patient on board and were en route to Mackay Base Hospital, and we were that asked to pick up the patients partner for transport back to Airlie Beach.

Note: This was our 35th medivac so far this year compared to 32 for the whole 2018 year and 17 for 2017. Might get to 50 at this rate!Ken took the tender in to pick up our passenger and their gear, and 10 minutes later we were on our way back to the marina, arriving at 2220.

After dropping off the paramedic and our passenger, VMR1 was refuelled, washed and tucked away for the night about 2245. Many thanks to the crew, and to Bill who had to make numerous phone calls for this one. Well done to all.

Crew: for stand down: Murray, Tony,
Skipper: Mal
Crew for reinstated Medivac: Ken, Tony,
Skipper Mal

Activation 29/9/19: Assist a non-member who made a teeny mistake 😋

“Just a quick one” said Roger on the VMR emergency call out phone at 18.30. I (Ron) turned off the flame under the wok as he gave me some early details, while wondering what would develop from a ‘non-member in a 4.5 meter tinnie who needs a tow back from part-way to Double Cone Island.’

This sounds easy” I intoned as I put on the shirt and drove down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1. Together with a crew of Ray, Ken and Peter aboard, we were soon underway and heading to a set of coordinates just North-East of Bluff Point. Our FLIR unit and the Radar had them pinpointed even as we spotted their anchor light in the distance. Their location was precise, and we were soon tied along-side for paper-work and the ‘what happened’ question.

The little tinnie was immaculate, the whole set-up had that new boat look, even the galvanized reef anchor didn’t have a smudge on it. “Okay gentlemen, you are allowed to say that you have run out of fuel.” 😁 Yes….with all the excitement of the first run in a brand new boat, they had forgotten to check the tank. Oh well.

After a quick tow back at 15 knots we had them at the Coral Sea marina launching ramp and had refuelled and washed down by 20.15 and then home for my beef stir-fry. Thanks to the crew and team.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Ken Bryce and Peter Beaumont
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 30/9/19 (1): Rescue a 44ft yacht with no propeller

Late Monday morning and I (Ron) am hanging out the washing when the VMR ring tone goes off. Of course I’ll go out to Butterfly Bay to tow a member who has lost his propeller. No problem. Heading across the passage on a fine and calm afternoon to rescue a 44ft yacht sounds much more fun than washing. 😊 Need to watch out for whales though.

With a crew of Ryan, Terry and Ken aboard and all our pre-run checks done we departed Coral Sea Marina at 11.45 for a fast run to the Northern end of Hook Island past Hayman to our port. Locating him was easy in the calm conditions but getting his dinghy back in it’s davits and his foredeck cleared and tow-line attached took a little time, during which we completed the necessary paper-work.

This was all followed by a tricky bit of manoeuvering to get him out from among the moored boats but we were then away for the 8 knot journey back to Port of Airlie marina. On a dropping tide we were pushing a bit of current, and as the towed vessel drew 2.1 meters, we knew that negotiating the shallow marina entry might have to be well timed. Not much depth was not the only worry, as once inside the marina we were faced with a tight squeeze to turn the now close-coupled yacht and get it into a small berth beside a large power-boat in a swirling breeze.

We had lots of onlookers as is usually the case in tight situations,😋 and there was
a collective sigh of relief as the now released 44ft yacht slid beautifully into place without a scrape. Excellent work and timing from the crew. Well done.

The owner was a VMR member from Brisbane who thanked us for our efforts as he waved us goodbye. After a short trip back to refuel then to our berth for a wash-down we closed VMR1 ready for the next activation….. which turned out to be only an hour or so later, but that is another story.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Terry Clarke and Ken Bryce
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 30/9/19 (2): Broken down vessel west of Hook Island

I received a call from our emergency phone holder late in the afternoon advising that a small vessel with 4 people on board had broken down west of Hook Island, and required our assistance.   By the time I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 the crew were completing the pre-start checks and we departed Coral Sea Marina at 1710, heading out into fine conditions.

Due to the vessel drifting it took a couple of phone calls to locate them but then it was a straight forward job to get the 4 people on board VMR1, connect the tow rope and tow them back to Airlie.

As it was low tide at the council ramp near the VMR base, we towed the boat to the Coral Sea Marina boat ramp and one of our crew drove the owner around to the VMR base to collect his car and trailer.

We refuelled, washed down and were completed by 1900. Thanks to the crew for an efficient job.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Michel del Aguila & Marti Davy
Skipper: Ray Lewis

Here is your direct link to the SAMSON POST NEWSLETTER. Be in the know! 😃


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).