December 2020

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Activation 2/12/20: Medivac, Hamilton Island, middle of the night

24/7 phone holder Bill phoned at 21.45 for a standard Hammo Medivac. The roadworks on Shute Harbour Road, west of the Reece Roundabout, took a little negotiating as the huge searchlights were directed straight into the eyes of the approaching traffic. Not really the idea as it made it hard to see the lollipop man standing in the shadows.

Michael was already at the boat, Shane and Thomas arrived soon after and the checks were done and boat ready when the Paramedic arrived. Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 22.10 in perfect conditions. Top of the tide, full moon, little wind and nice and warm.

We were alongside at Hamilton at 23.20 and took a little time loading the patient, who has suspected broken ribs from a table tennis accident (thought that was a non-contact sport 😉). 23.40 saw us on the return leg and the conditions were near enough identical apart from it started to rain. Not a lot, just enough to get me wet.

We arrived back at Coral Sea Marina at 00.35 and carefully unloaded our patient onto a stretcher, and he was in a lot of pain whenever he moved. We fuelled up at 00.55 then a wash down and off home.Thanks to a great crew, Thomas has decided he will become a champion dock line thrower.

Crew: – Shane, Michael, Thomas
Skipper: Geoff


Activation 5/12/20: Airlock creates fuel problem

I (Ken ) received a call from Judith in the VMR Radio room. “We have an activation out to Macona Inlet.” “Ok!” I replied, “Please organize a crew, I am on my way. Thank you Judith.

The crew arrived and Whale Song VMR2 was off to Macona at 08:10. The sea conditions were fantastic – another beautiful day on the water in paradise! We arrived at our target vessel at 08:50.

The skipper had just purchased the vessel and unfortunately thought the tank was full. It was only an airlock, so they were stuck, out of fuel. At 08:55 we departed for Whisper Bay with the 5.5 metre vessel in tow. The crew shared the helm on the passage, enjoying the conditions. We arrived at Whisper bay at 10:00, placed our rescued vessel alongside the dock and we were off to Coral Sea Marina and our berth. All washed down, paperwork complete 11:00.

It pays to be a member!  The skipper was eligible for his free tow for this membership year. He had wisely taken out a VMR Whitsunday membership just 4 months ago and this tow would have cost him $727 if he had not joined.  His new membership only cost him $100 (including the $20 one-off joining fee).

Tell your friends – it pays to be a member. 😊

Senior crew: Paul Martin
Comms : Shane Newell
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 6/12/20: Assist a vessel taking water at Heart Reef Pontoon, outer reef – 3pob

The ”Help” ringtone sounded at the unusually civilised time of 1055. It was Li in the radio room advising me (Mal) that a 7 metre Mustang with 3 pob was taking water out on the outer reef, and had requested assistance to get back to Coral Sea Marina. They did not think they could make the 40 miles back to safety, and had wisely sought assistance.

“Okay, I am on my way” I said, “Put a crew together for Coral Sea Marina VMR1.” I knew it might have to be a smaller crew than usual as we looked light on for available crew, and so made the decision to leave one other crew still on the roster in case there was another call out before we got back. We thought this might be a long one. It was.
(Ed’s note: We’re often short of crew so if you’d like to volunteer, start HERE)

The vessel had said that they were at Heart Reef Pontoon, but we were not given a GPS position, and we did not think that there was a pontoon at Heart Reef so we had to make a few phone calls before we left, The mystery was solved with a call to Cruise Whitsundays – yes, Heart Reef Pontoon is one of ours, 200 metres south of Reefworld, in the “river” between Hardy and Hook Reefs – it is actually over 7km from Heart Reef. Even better as this meant we would not have to pick our way into the reef to recover the boat.

VMR1 departed at 1135 into a chop raised by a 15-20 knot NW-NE wind on a rising tide. It smoothed out a little once we cleared the islands after going through the narrows with Paul on the helm, and we made our way past Bait Reef to port and Barb reef to starboard before approaching Reefworld and the Heart Pontoon, pulling alongside the stricken boat at 1330.

We pulled alongside and decided to get the boat off the pontoon as it was quite bouncy so we could do some pumping to get some water out of their boat – they had damaged the chine. Cruise Whitsundays had put one of their divers down to try and plug the leak using bilge pads, and that had stemmed the flow somewhat but would it be enough to let us get them back to Airlie Beach? Hmmm…

While we used our portable pump to get more water out we took 2 of their crew on board to both lighten their boat to reduce the load, and if it was not going to make it we would rather be pulling one person out of the water instead of 3! With the water at a more manageable level we towed them slowly out to the open sea until we had a better angle on the chop. We started the return journey in earnest at 1355. We had asked them to keep their motor going to keep the battery charged and to allow the bilge pump to run continuously.

Optimistically, we tried them on the plane to see if that lifted the damaged are out of the water, but after just 10 – 15 minutes the boat advised that it was taking more water. We stopped again, got our pump going again to help their bilge pump get rid of more water, and after 10 minutes we were underway at 7-8 knots – and facing a tow of about 5.5 hours to go!

The skipper wired in our pump to his boat, and the two pumps were able to keep the flow more or less under control as long as we took it easy. Paul and Bill took turns on the helm, and the autopilot made the long, slow passage a lot easier than it could have been otherwise – it was very hot coming back into the setting sun.

If we were able to keep them afloat until we reached the islands, our worst case scenario (Plan B) might have to be to beach the boat at Langford if we were losing the battle. Luckily that was not necessary, and in smoother waters we even managed to get it up to 12-13 knots while the two pumps did their job.

Finally pulled into Coral Sea Marina at 1905 after a 5 hour tow. It was 1930 by the time we refuelled and cleaned VMR1 ready for the next one, after almost 8 hours on the job. Well done to Paul and Bill. Nice work fellas.

Crew: Paul Martin, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 8/12/20: Medivac for a stinger incident

It was 10:40 when I ( Ken ) received a call from Bill Harrison our 24 hour emergency phone holder. “We have an emergency medivac from Daydream Island.“ It was a marine sting, so haste was vital.

Bill organized a crew and we were able to depart on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 with two QAS officers at 10:57. Conditions were reasonably good and we arrived at Daydream at 11:25. The Queensland Ambulance officers first had to stabilize the patient before we could make our return journey, and as this was one of the young family members, we brought the entire family of four onto VMR1.

At 11:40 we departed Daydream island for our return trip which luckily was quick and uneventful. The VMR crew assisted the QAS officers and patient to the waiting ambulance. Meanwhile, VMR 1 was washed down, paper work completed and we were off home by 13:00.

Excellent crew work. You make my job very easy.

Crew: Lance Robins, Shane Newell & Michael McQueeney
Skipper : Ken Bryce


Activation 9/12/20: Sinking Vessel in Chance Bay (Part 1)

It was 01:45 when the emergency tone on my phone went off, was waking me (Ken ). Bill Harrison our 24 hour emergency phone holder was on the line, and he said “We have a very urgent activation. A vessel is sinking in Chance Bay with 6 people on board, four children and two adults.”

[Ed’s Note: The stricken vessel had set off their EPIRB. ( Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon ) which alerts the RCC ( Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra ). They then contact Queensland Police, who task rescue services like VMR and the helicopter, to conduct the rescue.]

Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 departed at 01:57 in the dark hours. The conditions were moderate to rough but VMR 1 revels in these conditions so all good. During the passage the wind was howling and we had lightening flashing all around us, lighting up various headlands and rocky out crops as we sped by.

Bill advised that a helicopter was also on it’s way to assist but we were making good time and it was not long before the helicopter was stood down as our arrival was imminent. Bill then rang back to tell us that VMR 2 was now also tasked to assist. (More about that in Part 2 below).

Anyway, the crew of the sunken cat had abandoned ship in their tender, and made for another boat nearby. By 02:50 we were rafting next to them and our crew launched the tender so that an inspection could be made of the half sunken vessel. Thomas and I motored over to have a look and I went onboard and looked inside to check the water for signs of pollution….but at that stage nothing was visible.

Satisfied we returned to VMR1 to take the stricken crew on board for the return journey, departing Chance Bay for Coral Sea Marina at 03:23. Knowing that VMR 2 was heading our way we soon had her on radar. We stopped to update them on what we knew of the situation. Underway again VMR 2 decided to sit in our wake to flatten the seas for her.

Shane took over the helm while I studied the Radar for a change, and by 05:00 with light appearing in the east, our passengers disembarked to be debriefed by the QPS ( Qld. Police Service ). Meanwhile, Bill had been on the phone arranging accommodation for this family of six.

Mantra Club Croc had generously offered to give them free breakfast and accommodation….but as it turned out the family were a little confused with the date and realised that they had a prior booking at Peninsular apartments. We offered to transport them but they chose to walk.

Still dressed in their yellow rain jackets and orange life preservers they were marching single file across the grassy flat area of Coral Sea Marina. The sprinkler system came on which would have washed the salt from them.

[Sidenote: The scene reminded me of the Sound of Music movie. Six yellow clad people in life jackets, marching along , not really knowing where they were going, only a general direction.]

VMR 1 crew did a fabulous job, and a big thank you to Bill Harrison for his continuous support throughout. Time to catch up on some sleep!

Crew: Shane Newell, Chris Williamson and Thomas Dahmin
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 9/12/20: Sinking Vessel in Chance Bay (Part 2…VMR2 assists)

When the Help ringtone goes off loudly just before 2 am it cannot be a good thing. Phone holder Bill advised me (Mal) that VMR1 was already out and had been tasked by the Police Search and Rescue coordinator, on behalf of AMSA in Canberra, to assist a vessel that was taking water in Chance Bay at the southern end of Whitsunday Island.

We were now being asked to send our second rescue vessel, Whale Song VMR2, to assist, and was I (Mal) free? Well , yes, now that I was almost awake I was free, and I was on my way soon after while Bill organised my crew.

We departed at 0225 heading towards the remains of a big storm that had passed through an hour or so earlier. The lightning flashes were frequent, spectacular, and scary! Wind gusts were as high as just under 40 knots as the storm passed, and they left behind a confused and rough sea.

After a run at 30+ knots towards Pioneer Point we soon came down to earth (sort of) as we ploughed through short, sharp seas that had us down to 10 knots at times, we were lucky to get up to 15, and at times VMR2 was jumping from wave top to wave top – no other way to describe it other than bloody rough! It was like that until we got closer to Unsafe Passage, but it all turned ugly again as we went through Unsafe, and it stayed that way until we got past Reef Point on Whitsunday Island, and could open up again as we went past Henning and through Fitzalan, when it roughened up again.

As we turned the last corner into Chance Bay we saw Coral Sea Marina VMR1 heading our way, and after a short discussion we received the update that thankfully, everyone was safe and on board VMR1. Unfortunately the starboard hull of the target catamaran was flooded up to the saloon floor level though. Any attempt to pump out the cat and get it afloat was ruled out and it was now a job for a salvage company who would stand a much better chance of being able to keep it afloat if they could get it off the rocks.

We followed VMR1 back while it knocked the top off most of the waves for us, and after refuelling and putting Whale Song back on the floating dock we were able to head home at 0530 for some well-deserved catch up of some sleep.

It was not the night for a pleasant jaunt around the Whitsundays, and a loud shout out must go to 24/7 phone holder Bill and the 7 volunteer crew on our two boats for assisting in what can only be described as very trying conditions. Great commitment by all.

Crew VMR2: Bill Hopton, Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 10/12/20: A timely escape from cleaning the deck!

It was right on 1230 hours and I (Marti) was gurneying the pool deck and in my own little world, when I heard a voice “Hey Marti”. Startled, I swung around to find Mal at the garage door with phone in hand. “A medivac to Hamilton Island if you can do it.”

Twenty minutes later I was dockside to find Dave and Lance carrying out prestart checks on Coral Sea Marina VMR1…. and the QAS paramedics were also onboard. Paul turned up not long after and with the usual notifications to the phone holder and VTS, we departed Coral Sea Marina at 1300 hours.

At the bottom of the tide with SE winds 20 knots the ride over to Hamilton was reasonably comfortable without sacrificing any speed. Clearing Unsafe Passage we maintained a course ESE until we were in the Lee of Whitsunday Island and then made the track for Hamilton passing Reef Point, Henning and onto the marina. The trip took 64 minutes.

The pickup was quick and efficient. Paul briefed the passengers and he then took the helm and departed G arm dock. An uneventful journey home more or less the same route on the way out. 60 minutes in this direction. Passengers (Mum and Dad and 2 young children) and QAS people disembarked at 1515 hours and we were thanked for our efforts and service. Nice.

Usual stuff from here on, refuelled, paperwork completed and back along side ready for training at 1535 hours. Good work guys. A slick operation.

Crew: Lance Robins
Comms: Dave Richter
Senior Crew: Paul Martin
Skipper: Marti Davy


Activation 15/12/20: Uneventful medivac from Hammo

I (Geoff F) had just finished my game of golf and was off to see my insurance broker when the phone rang. It was Ray asking me if I could do a medivac from Hammo. “Sure” I said, and changed my direction.

The crew had almost finished the pre start checks when I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1. After a short wait for the Ambulance Officers, we left CSM at 12:25. We had fresh northerly winds and a short chop, but VMR1 rode it beautifully and we arrived at Hammo by1315.

It didn’t take long to get the patient boarded and then we were on our return trip. There was a bit more chop on the way back (wind against tide) but we still made good time and we had the patient unloaded, refueled and washed down by 1445. Great crew work

Crew: Fin Forbes (Senior), Bill (Comms) and Paul (Crew)
Skipper: Geoff Fitzsimmons


Activation 17/12/20: Medivac trip to Hamilton Island

Thursday around 13:15 Ray was on emergency phone duty. He called me for a medivac to Hamilton island. While Ray organized a crew I set off for VMR 1 to commence the startup procedures.

We departed CSM at 13:40 with the paramedic on board. The sea conditions were not perfect with a northerly blowing. However we arrived at Hamilton island at 14:35. Ten minutes later we had the patient on board and we departed at 14:45 for Coral Sea Marina.

15:35 saw up back in our berth with the patient and paramedic off to the ambulance. Paul took over the control of VMR 1 for the refueling and the return to our berth. We were just in perfect time to set up for the regular Thursday Training.

Well done to all the crew.

Crew: Ryan Cunningham, Paul Martin, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 19/12/20: Assist 7.5 m vessel broken down in the Molle Passage, drifting towards Pioneer Rocks. Wait – a medivac!

I (Mal) received a call from Chrissy at the radio base just before 1400 – a member in a 7.5 metre vessel , 4 pob, had broken down between North Molle and the mainland, they were drifting towards Pioneer, and was requesting assistance back to Port of Airlie. Chrissy put a crew together for me while I was on the way in, and Paul and Ron helped me get our bigger boat, Coral Sea Marina VMR1, ready to go. We has chosen the bigger boat as the target vessel was an inboard, and likely to be a bit heavy for a quick tow behind our smaller rhib, Whale Song VMR2.

Just as we were preparing to depart, Chrissy rang again – the QAS had requested a medivac from Hamilton Island for a young lad with a fractured leg. After talking to QAS again and confirming that the medivac was “semi-urgent”, Chrissy confirmed that QAS were happy that we could do the drifting vessel first, and that we would be ready to head to Hamilton in about an hour. We set out for the Molle Channel at 1445, rounded Pioneer Point, and found – nothing!

After a phone call we eventually confirmed their position as a couple of miles north of North Molle in line with Double Cone – a bit different to the first report. They were drifting, and the water was getting deeper and land was getting further away. We had them in tow by 1515 but lost a bit of time when the tow hook gave up, and we had to circle back to pass across our bigger hook. We than asked if we could take them to Coral Sea Marina as we had to do a medivac straight after we dropped them off, and that would be a lot quicker than the slow journey in and out of Port of Airlie. They were happy with that suggestion.

We had them on the CSM ramp pontoon at 1545, then moved into a nearby berth to change skippers for the medivac to Hamilton by 1550. I drove the owner around to Port of Airlie to pick up his car and trailer. Thanks to Paul and Ron for a great job for just two crew.

Crew: Paul Martin, Ron McCall
Skipper: Mal Priday

Ed Note: The vessel was not able to give us a GPS position, and it is important for any vessel to give us as much information as possible, latitude and longitude included.

PART 2 – the Medivac
I (Geoff F) received a call from Chrissie in the Radio Room….could I do a medivac from Hammo when VMR1 gets back from a tow job? No worries, so off to CSM, arriving on board at 1550 where I took over from Mal.

Ambo arrived and we were underway at 1608 to Hammo. Ebb tide , light northeaster, lovely conditions for a medivac. When we arrived the patient was transferred onto backboard, & then onto the stretcher. Left Hammo for a quick trip back to CSM, arriving right on 1800.

Thanks to crew Paul & Ron as a bit of heavy lifting was involved with this one.

Crew: Paul Martin, Ron McCall
Skipper: Geoff Fitszimmons


Activation 23/12/20: New trainee gets a free trip to Hammo (for a Medivac) 😋

We left CSM @ 1308 hrs with one Paramedic on board. The weather was clear with seas less than half a metre, so it was a pleasant trip over to Hammo. We were alongside in Hamilton Island Marina @ 1356 where we (carefully) loaded our patient and his father (as carer).

We left Hamilton Marina @ 1407 hrs and were back in CSM and unloaded, refuelled and washed down and back in our pen by 1540 hrs.

The patient’s father expressed his gratitude for VMRW’s assistance – on behalf of himself and his young son. I assured him it was what VMRW is there for – helping the community in time of need.

Thanks to the crew for making it pleasant due to their easy going ,calm competence. Special mention for Nick – on his first activation and prepared to give up his time (even over Xmas/New Year) to help the community – Hope you enjoyed your first one Nick. 😉

Crew: Ron McCall (Snr Crew, Michael McQueeney (Comms) & Nick Beecroft (Trainee)
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 24/12/20: Was it Santa? 🎅

It was Christmas Eve, and a mysterious track appeared on MarineTraffic.com. Perhaps it was Santa? But no….. it was the Volunteer Marine Rescue boys and girls on another mercy mission from Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island, for a medical evacuation.

Here is Skipper Ron’s report:

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except the emergency callout phone from VMR. It was about to get dark and was also bucketing down from a great height and blowing. “Can you please take Coral Sea Marina VMR1 over to Hamilton Island for a Medivac?” Yes….of course I can.

“Dashing through the rain, in a twin hulled wonder sled, to pick up some poor bloke who needs a doctors bed? (Okay, so you do a better rhyme!)” 😋

But back to the job in hand. It was18.58 and with our crew of Ron, Shane and Nick plus a paramedic on board, we headed out into the rain for an hour motoring to Hamilton Island Marina. Once we had our patient comfortable and with the go-ahead from our paramedic it was a steady return journey to Coral Sea Marina with the wind from behind us, so not quite as wet.

It was thankfully an uneventful trip and we dropped the paramedic and patient onshore, then settled VMR1 back safely in her berth ready for our next callout. Good work from the team had us all heading home to the Xmas Tree at 21.45. Thank you all for your efforts

Crew: Ron McCall, Shane Newell, Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 26/12/20: A (daytime) medivac from Hayman Island

It was one of those rare occasions…a medivac in daylight…so when Bernie rang from our emergency radio room I (Ron) was happy to oblige.

As we departed on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 heading for Intercontinental Hotels Hayman Island, we ran into heavy rain with winds gusting to 15 knots at Hamilton Island Airport. It was an easy trip but more comfortable when using VMR1’s lower helming station.

On arrival at Hayman Island Marina the on-island nurse had us all laughing as she enquired via phone if we could pick up the patient from the medical centre so that she didn’t have to get wet in the rain. At least…we hope she was joking. 😂

We waited at their marina berth while the patient was assessed and some treatment given before we got the Paramedic’s nod to proceed back to the waiting ambulance at Airlie Beach. We had a slightly bouncy trip across Whitsunday passage while the rain once again did our boat wash-down for us.

Our crew of Michael and Ron M. did a sterling job throughout.

Crew: Ron McCall, Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 29/12/20 No 1: Assist a non member at anchor in Sawmill Bay

I (Fin) received a call from Ray, our current 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder, at 0800 hrs. He quickly informed me that a non-member was having mechanical problems with his 7.33m (4 tonne) power boat, at anchor in Sawmill Bay (Cid Harbour), and there were two on board. Could I help? Sure!

We left CSM @ 0835 hrs travelling in heavy rain which reduced visibility to less than 50 m. We were therefore relying heavily on GPS, Radar and the FLIR plus the help of a couple of posted lookouts.

We had trouble locating the vessel in Sawmill Bay but finally located the target vessel at 0925 hrs and immediately rafted alongside to do the paperwork. We had him in tow by 0945 hrs and towing at 2200 rpm at 11.8 knots – using Tom’s ‘big’ hook. We rafted him alongside to take him into CSM and dropped him at the public jetty where a relative would meet them with the car and trailer.

We were advised by Ray that a medivac was needed immediately we returned to our berth – and that 2 relief crew would meet us there (Shane and Nick from our crew chose to remain as crew for the medivac activation). Hence we did not refuel but did inform Whitsunday VTS of our completed task – We were at our berth by 1125 hrs.

My thanks to these guys for giving their time and skills – and under difficult situations at times today.

Crew: Shane Newell (Snr. Crew), Terry Clarke (Comms officer & Crew), Nick Beecroft (Trainee)
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 29/12/20 No 2: Not one…but two medivacs!

When I hear that specific ring-tone I (Ron) always know it is a VMR call-out. It was right on midday and it was Ray on the 24/7 emergency phone. “VMR1 is just coming back to the dock with a rescue tow in place. As soon as they are refuelled and ready, can you take her across to Hamilton Island for a double Medi-vac?”

Certainly can, Ray” I replied, “I’ll just wash the Rav4 engine oil off my hands and I’m on my way to Coral Sea Marina.” Ray assured me that two of the crew from the current activation would stay on board, and he would find the extra crew person for me. The Paramedic would also be there asap.

With departure checks done and Medico on board, we set off between rain squalls for Hamilton Island Marina. Amazingly, even on the direct route we managed to dodge the many rain showers and stayed quite dry.

It didn’t take long to get our stretcher patient as well as our walk on patient settled on board, and with a nod from the Paramedic we began a “swift but smooth” journey back to Coral Sea Marina.

The crew made the afternoon flow easily, and we were refuelled, washed down and ready for the next activation by 15.10. Thanks to all.

Crew: Shane Newell, Nick Beecroft & Marlene Manto
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 30/12/20: Double medivac…at night….in the rain….and more!

To cut a long story short, “It was a big night for VMR Whitsundays”. There is no way to make this into a short story, but here are just a few of the details.

The saga began at 21.30 when Ray, the emergency phone holder rang me (Ron) to ask if I could do a quick medivac from Hamilton Island for a walk on patient. OK, that sounds straightforward (but little did I know what was ahead!)

It was wet and windy outside so I donned my uniform and drove down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and helped the crew do our pre-departure checks. Our Paramedic arrived, but just as we were casting off, Ray called again with a high priority medivac from Sawmill Beach, and told us to hold station until a second Paramedic is aboard. Next we hear the sirens and see the lights of the approaching ambulance, so yes, this could be serious. We had one of our crew waiting in the carpark to assist carrying kit as the ambulance skidded to a stop, while two crew stood ready at the mooring lines to make for a rapid departure.

We were between squalls at that time so we had good visibility as we sped across Molle and Whitsunday Passages towards our priority callout. Unfortunately the GPS coordinates we had been given put the vessel up a big hill and we also had no details on the vessel we were searching for except a name, and no means of communication with them except patchy mobile phone due to the area they were in,. Yes…all quite normal so far. As we were getting closer, we received a call from the vessel as they thought they could see us – they were probably closer to Dugong Inlet and they would flash a light at us.

We were in 4 metres of water, tied to an anchored 30metre, 3 story, near new motor yacht on the outgoing phase of a 3metre tide. Their skipper had just asked if we had a spare skipper on board to take their boat back to Airlie Beach straight away as he was actually just a family member, didn’t know the area and couldn’t work the navigation gear or communication equipment. We had about an hour to ponder these thoughts while our patient was stabilised enough to transfer her to VMR1 for the journey to a hospital. Once we had her aboard, more on the spot treatment was needed as she was a very unwell lady.

Following some patchy phone calls it was determined that our patient was to be transferred directly to Hamilton Island for an emergency Helicopter evacuation to Mackay. Now it is raining and squally as we carefully worked to windward and around islands to our original destination. So far so good, and all is still fairly normal as we tie up at Hamilton Island, with the helicopter on it’s way and the island ambulance arriving to meet us at the dock.

Alright lads, lets look over that way for a torch flash.” But no…we saw nothing. Back over nearly on the beach at Sawmill I could see a strobe-light under a canopy on a large power-boat. “Lets try that,” I said …and YES! Once we had rafted up along-side and both our Paramadics were on board with the patient, we could take proper stock of the boating situation.

But then it gets interesting. The gurney being wheeled down to meet us had a patient in a neck-brace firmly strapped to it. With this being the only gurney on the island, we had no choice but to move this patient from the trolley onto VMR1. Unfortunately the only feasible temporary location was on our back deck (in the rain). Then we moved our current stretcher case (also out into the rain) and onto the gurney for the ambulance journey to the Island airport for the helicopter transfer, accompanied by one of the Paramedics. Next step was to move our new patient inboard and out of the rain, and get her dry and comfortable.

At this stage Michael from our crew offered to make everyone a tea or coffee. Brilliant idea. What a team. Our paramedic was very appreciative and so were the rest of the crew. During the wait we all watched the progress of the chopper on “Flight Aware”. Did I mention the rain and squalls? The chopper pilot certainly noticed them and after about 1 minute flying time toward us from Townsville, the screen displayed ‘Flight Aborted’ and he returned to base. Immediately we got a call from the airport that the ambulance, patient and Paramedic were returning to VMR1 for immediate transfer to Airlie Beach by boat.

VMR1 is only set up for one stretcher patient at a time, but now we needed to quickly figure out how to accommodate two stretcher patients as well as our crew and the Paramedics. This took some creative thinking but it was eventually worked out, so with both patients repositioned in the minimum time frame and as comfortable as possible, we set off for Coral Sea Marina and 2 waiting ambulances.

With speed and smoothness both being high priority for the trip, concentration levels were stretched in the now blowy conditions and boisterous seas. An hour later and we were home in our berth, and helping to get both our patients up the marina ramp into ambulances for the next part of their journey. We then moved across to the fuel dock for a fuel fill up, and back to our berth for hose down and to put the boat to bed. The paper work for tonight’s efforts was quite involved as you can imagine.

I cannot praise the crew of Michael, Shane N and Bill H highly enough for their efforts on this activation. Their cohesion as a team and professional approach and behaviour throughout was faultless. During our crew debrief that night we could not find anything we could have done differently in those circumstances that would have resulted in a better outcome. Thanks and well done team! Our evening went from 21.30 until just after 04.00 the next morning. That’s a huge effort for volunteers who might otherwise be cosy in their beds.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Shane Newell & Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ron Roberts


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