April 2020


Activation (1) 11/4/20: 5.5m runabout broken down, 2 POB

Wanting to do the right thing and stay at home, I (Ken) was nevertheless keen to ‘play around with my boat’ so I began the task of giving her a good clean. I actually had the scrubbing brush in my hand when I heard the emergency tone on my phone.

I quickly put down the scrubbing brush and headed for Coral Sea Marina VMR1. Ryan was first to arrive followed by Shane G, and they had preparations well under why by the time I got there.

We departed at 11:45am. Apparently our target vessel, a 5.5m single (inboard) engine runabout with 2 on board, had broken down in Fitzalan Passage.

The sea conditions were mild to calm which made for a fast, smooth trip to the given coordinates. Best of all, our target vessel was right where he said he would be.! This is always pleasing, as quite often we are given incorrect coordinates and waste time (and fuel) looking around.

It was 12:37 as we came along side. Shane G got into his PPE and asked all the required questions relating to COVID-19, completing all the necessary paperwork. While this was happening, Ryan had organized Tom’s hook and the tow line was attached and ready to go. We set off for Coral Sea Marina with the vessel in tow.

Conditions were perfect and we brought them along side at the entrance to CSM at 13:30. Fifteen minutes later we were refueling and cleaning VMR1, ready for the next activation (which was coming up shortly, although of course we didn’t know that at the time)

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Shane Gosselink
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation 11/4/20 (2): Medivac from Hayman Island

The “Help” ring tone went off at 1405. Dewi at the radio base advised me (Mal) that we’d been called for a medivac from Hayman Island. The island has been closed to guests for a couple of weeks, but some staff were still there and one has suffered a bad laceration and required evacuation. The paramedics were going to meet us at the boat at 1500. No problem apart from the fact that the Hayman Marina was closed off to all vessels, and we would have to contact them en route to make sure we could get access.

We had Coral Sea Marina VMR1 ready to go on time, and with the paramedics on board we departed just after 1500. We noticed Ronnie getting Whale Song VMR2 ready to go out on another job – which would make it 3 for the day.

Conditions could not have been any better, another beautiful day in paradise with a very light nor’easter and a calm sea. Only problem was that we had trouble raising Hayman to make sure the way into the marina had been cleared, and after a number of fruitless phone and radio calls to numbers previously supplied, Whitsunday VTS came to our assistance and made radio contact with Hayman, finally getting us clearance to enter.

VMR1 was tied up at the marina by 1550, and was underway again as soon as the patient came aboard. A smooth run back saw us discharge the patient and the paramedics at our berth about 1645 before we moved across to the fuel berth, refuelled, and moved back to our own berth to do the paperwork, and cleaned and secured VMR1 ready for the next job.

Nice job by Michel and Shane, and I think we all appreciated the chance to get out on the water and away from home for a bit.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Shane Newell
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation No 3 11/4/20: Assist 4.5 metre tinnie broken down off North Molle

The timing couldn’t have been better. I (Ron) was on my way home after a bad morning playing mechanic on a jeep motor when my phone burst into the cacophany of my VMR Rescue ring. Excellent, I can do something useful! Dewi at the base gave me coordinates for a 4.5 metre tinnie with 4 POB, broken down at Hanna Point, North Molle Island.

Apparently they were anchored and in no danger, with a motor that didn’t want to play anymore. I could relate to that! VMR1 was being prepped for departure on a Medi-Vac as I arrived at Whale Song VMR2 at 14.30. Light breeze and flat seas would have VMR2 in her element, so with preparations complete, crewmember Paul and myself entered coordinates on the plotter and headed out from Coral Sea Marina Resort into a beautiful afternoon.

Locating our target vessel was a cinch, so we began the process of supporting while they got their anchor up, paper-work done, life-jackets donned, towing hook and line secured and underway back to Whisper Bay boat-ramp – it all took less than 10 minutes.

It was a simple drop-off but the boat ramp was very busy. We made the short journey back to Coral Sea Marina fuel dock and then secured ourselves on our floating pontoon by 17.00, all ready for our next activation.

Great work from Paul, VMR2 was faultless and our assisted vessel occupants were grateful for our assistance. That counts as a good day.

Crew: Paul Martin
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 18/4/20: Assist a vessel broken down outside Harold Island

The show I (Mal) was watching on Netflix had just ended when 24/7 phone holder Bill Harrison set off my Help ringtone about 2210 – a 6.8 meter vessel with 2 POB had broken down and was drifting on the other side of Harold Island, about 30 miles from Airlie Beach. Will I go? Sure, another chance to get out of the house even if it is probably going to be a long night.

Tony, Paul Chris and I assembled on board and prepared Coral Sea Marina VMR1 ready for a night activation, dimming all instruments for the long trip to Harold Island and back – entering the waypoint provided actually put them closer to Edward Island which has a beacon on it to mark the edge of the shipping channel. VMR 1 departed at 2255 under a star-filled sky that got more spectacular the further we got away from the lights on shore, with very light winds on a dropping tide, and excellent visibility if you could see a light.

We were unable to make contact with them by phone or radio so were not able to get a revised position, and if they were still drifting the question was what would have more effect, the light north to nor’westerly or the tide running out against the wind? Might be interesting.

It was as dark as the inside of a cow facing north – with its tail down! The plan was to approach the given position from upwind and uptide while keeping a close eye on radar and the FLIR. We had planned to go outside Petrel Islet before aiming straight at their reported position, but before we got to Petrel we could see a faint light more or less at the reported position and a good radar return, so we altered course for that, hoping that it was in fact our target.

Yes! They were very glad to see us as we pulled alongside about 0030, and had an anchor down that was more or less keeping them in place. We started the tow back to Coral Sea Marina about 0045 by the time we completed the paperwork and had the tow line hooked up. The return was a bit slower at a comfortable 18-20 knots with a slight chop now evident, but that flattened out once we entered Hook Passage. We shortened the tow off the marina, took them alongside after we had entered, and deposited them on the public boat ramp pontoon at 0230.

By the time we refuelled, undimmed all the instruments, cleaned and secured the boat it was 0300 before we could head home to whatever night there was left. Nice work by the crew on a night with little sleep.

Crew: Tony McNeill, Paul Martin, Chris Williamson
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation: 19/4/20: Medivac from Hammo

It was ‘maintenance day’, and Ryan, Paul and myself (Ken) were in the middle of a vessel test on Coral Sea Marina VMR1, when Ryan’s phone went off. He glanced over at us with a “you know what that means” look. 😊

It was a Medivac call, as QAS needed our help with a patient on Hamilton island. We returned to our dock to collect the Ambulance Officer and were soon on our way, departing at 11:25. The wind was from the North at 15 to 20 and the tide was dropping. Sea conditions were still fine although a little bumpy at times.

Paul, our Comms officer, contacted Hamilton island to get permission to enter, as the island is in lock down. They confirmed that staff and patient would be awaiting our arrival. We were instructed to stay onboard while our patient was loaded. This all went according to plan and we set off for the return trip to Coral Sea Marina at 12:35.

Unfortunately conditions for the return trip turned out to be a little more boisterous however the Ambulance Officer confirmed that the patient was comfortable. On arrival at the marina, another two Ambulance officers met us with a stretcher for the patient.

We then refueled and completed the paper work departing for home at 13:55. It turned out to be a busy day with all the maintenance on both vessels, topped off with a Medivac. At that point we didn’t know that this wasn’t the last activation for the day…… 😯

A big thankyou to the crew – well done on all fronts.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Paul Martin
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation 19/04/20 (2): Assist stricken jet-ski with 2 POB

Sometimes the timing is spot on. It was 15.10 and I (Ron) was about to tip the chemical poison into my 20litre backpack sprayer and go and talk to some Guinea Grass, when Neil called from VMR Base. You just never know what will follow when that special ring-tone goes off.

Two people on a Jet-ski had broken down in Bauer Bay, so with Whale Song VMR2 approved for the task, Neil was asking if I could go out and see what could be done to assist. “Certainly” I said, “I’m on my way”. I met Michel at the boat after doing our boat checks, we headed out from Coral Sea Marina|Resort into a rising North-East breeze and short choppy seas.

Our information was that a sinking Jet-ski(rigged for fishing) with 2 pob had been dragged up onto rocks and their electronics were soaked. The stricken vessel was not holed but was taking in water, thus the rocky perch was chosen to prevent total inundation. They had no radio but did have 2 wet mobile phones.

Michel and I discussed possible scenarios as we travelled, always planning for the worst, but hoping for the best. As it turned out, it wasn’t too bad. The 2 jet-ski crew had been slowly dragging the craft down the rocks with the falling tide and as we approached, they paddled out from the shallow rocky shoreline to meet us.

We achieved a fairly quick transfer of passengers and their gear, and then set about securing the tow-line. We hoped that with some speed we could keep the craft afloat for the journey back to Airlie Beach. Steady travelling speed was vital, so paperwork was done in transit, not without difficulty as the chop had picked up and wind direction meant that VMR2 wanted to keep surfing. Lots of throttle work and steering on this one, and a constant eye on the little boat being water-skied behind us.

All went well, and after a nervous five minutes at the Port of Airlie boat ramp as the trailer was positioned and the jet-ski loaded successfully, the 4 of us draw a sigh of relief. We had managed to get crew, vessel and fresh fish home safely.

Back then to Coral Sea Marina for re-fuelling, tidy up and paperwork and VMR2 was ready for her next assignment by 19.00 Thanks for your excellent work Michel, and also Neil and the team at the base.

Crew: Michel del Aguila
Skipper: Ron Roberts