June 2020

ACTIVATION 2/6/20: A looooong trip for VMR2!

It was a beautiful Whitsunday winter day and I (Ken) was leaving Hawkes Boat yard where Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was receiving her yearly make over. I’d just gotten into the car when I heard the emergency tone on my phone. Oh-oh….that means an activation. “It had better be close by,” I thought to myself, “we only have Whale Song VMR2 operational.”

Bill Harrison, our 24/7 phone holder, quickly broke that little bubble of hope! The destination was on Hook Reef, which is a 90 mile round trip! The vessel in distress was a 6.2m trailer boat with 2 POB and they had been out there all night, hoping to flag a tow back with another boatie. As non-members this was their preferred option, to save on the cost. By morning however, they had given up the wait and contacted Whitsunday VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) who asked us to help.

VMR1 would normally be the vessel for a voyage of that distance however as the target vessel was only a small one I thought VMR2 should be able to make it. I rang President Mal though as this was going to be outside of our normal operations. Of particular concern was the fuel consumption for that distance. Given the extenuating circumstances of VMR1 being on the hardstand, Mal made the call that we would go out, but would take an extra 60 litres of fuel with us….just in case. We practice what we preach!

By now it was 10:05 and together with Richard and Shane N, we departed Coral Sea Marina for Hook Reef. Fortunately the sea conditions were fantastic however the forecast was supposed to deteriate in the afternoon so the plan was to make haste and also conserve fuel.

We arrived at Hook Reef to find our target vessel exactly at the GPS Position given. Our efficient crew made short work of the paper work and after hooking up the tow line, we were heading back by 13:00. With the weather worsening we were keeping a close eye on our fuel usage but fortunately, the size of the trailer boat meant that it was able to come up on the plane, so that made a big difference.

The long trip back went well, and VMR2 arrived back at Port of Airlie boat ramp at 15:25…right at the bottom of the tide. Never mind though as the outboard tilting engines made it all easy work. Back to our berth a quick wash down and off home.

This was an exercise that clearly demonstrated the value of having a second rescue vessel. We would not normally have attempted to take VMR2 out that far, but it is great to know that the vessel can do it, should similar circumstances ever arise again. A big thank you to the crew.

Crew: Richard Atkinson, Shane Newell,
Skipper: Ken Bryce

ACTIVATION 14/5/20: Jetski broken down outside CSM…or not

Mark from the radio room called me (Geoff S) at 12.50, just as I was finishing lunch. “Just a little job,” he said, “A jetski had broken down outside Coral Sea Resort, about 500m to sea.”

When I got to Whale Song VMR2, Richard and Shane were already there and chatting to Ken and Paul as they had been doing some maintenance on the boat. There was a bit of a debate about who would like to go out, but lunch time was calling for Ken and Paul, so they left and the rest of us set off.

Arrived at the point where our jetski was supposed to be….but alas, there was no jetski in sight. After a phone call we found out they were in fact off Pigeon Island, so we changed direction and headed that way. Woohoo! We found them.

Apparently their engine had made some horrible noises before stopping and the owner was pretty certain it was terminal. While Shane sorted out the paperwork, we hitched up quickly when all was in order we set off back to Coral Sea Marina.

Dropped the folks off on the ramp finger then back to the pen to finalise the paperwork and do a quick wash down after notifying Mark of our return. We had used a whole 8 litres so didn’t bother re-fuelling.

Thanks to a great crew with a sense of humour. Makes it all worthwhile.

Crew: Shane Newell, Richard Keane
Skipper: Geoff Smith

Activation 20/1/20: The Wiggles save the day!

Only one number would dare call me (Ryan) at 5:37am on Saturday morning so there was no need to read the screen. With my eyes still shut I answered the call with “I will be at the boat in ten minutes”.

Bill, our 24hr phone holder, sounded as awake as me and started with the “sorry but” spiel, but then went on to explain that QAS needed us urgently to pick up a patient from Hamilton island.

I got down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and met Michel and Shayne N who were glancing at the weather and discussing what the sea conditions might be like with the forecasted 20+ south easterlies. No choice though so as soon as our QAS officer Chris arrived, we set off for Hamilton Island.

Pioneer Bay wasn’t to bad but oh dear…as we turned the corner we found what we had expected! A rough and sloppy sea slowed us down quite a bit but we still managed to arrive at Hammo marina around 7:15.

We were met by our young patient, her parents and one of our former VMR crew members who is now enjoying his QAS posting on Hammo. Nice to catch up again. 🙂

Given the weather and sea state, I discussed the return trip with QAS officer Chris, and it was decided that our young patient was to be strapped onto our striker stretcher for her own safety. Her parents were given the normal safety briefing and seated in the nice dry cabin.

Our patient was a little uneasy with it all but Chris found the Wiggles on his iPad and everything became instantly better! 🙂 As it turned out we found our return trip was a little easier as the wind had dropped and we were able to travel with it at around 16 knots,

It was a little damp on the flybridge but VMR1 proved its worth yet again returning our patient to CSM with relative ease. A quick refuel and wash down completed, and we were all done by 9:00….ust in time for breakfast.

Skipper: Ryan Cunningham
Crew: Michel del Aguila, Shayne Newell

Activation 21/6/20: Another call for a Medivac from Hammo

It was 13:00 on Sunday afternoon and I (Marti) was coming home from a quick shop in Bunnings when I got the call from Numero Uno (that’s our President, Mal Priday). The mission, should I choose to accept it, was another medivac to Hamilton Island…second medivac to Hamilton in 2 days. I accepted and promptly turned around and headed back into town.

Michel was already at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 when I arrived, and Chris followed shortly after. We carried out the pre-departure checks and had the vessel ready to rock and roll a little after 1330hours.

Our ambulance paramedic arrived at 1340 and so we were on our way, departing CSM at 1344hours. Sea conditions were moderate, SSE 18kn. We maintained about 20knots on the way over and the crossing of Whitsunday passage was mild compared to yesterday’s activation to Hammo I believe.

We arrived at 1447hours and docked adjacent to the Fuel dock at the Hamilton Island Marina. It didn’t take long to load our patient although we did need to get out the Striker stretcher again.

At 1507hours we departed Hamilton Island and cruised back to CSM at a little over 20knots, this time in a following sea. Arriving at CSM at 1605 the patient was disembarked without too much ado and once free we refuelled, washed down and put VMR1 to bed.

The job went well with no incidents thanks to a great crew.

Crew: Chris Williamson (Comms), Michel Del Aguila – Senior crew
Skipper: Marti Davy

Activation 22/06/2020: Medivac from Hamilton Island for QAS.

CommCo.                        –  Bill Harrison
Time of Contact.             –  2135 hrs

Conditions   – Weather – Clear (with no moon);   Seas – less than a metre;   Wind – SE  5 to 10 knots;    Tides – H @ 2348 hrs of 3.2m;   L@ 0616 of 0.99m;   Visibility – less than 100m, B.P – Steady @ 1016 mb.

We left CSM at 2205 hrs with one QAS Paramedic on board. We were tied up at the Hamilton Island jetty at 2255 hrs. We were loaded with the patient and one carer and departed by 2315 hrs and unloaded, and refuelled and back in our pen by 0035 hrs. Bill and Whitsunday VTS were advised that our task was completed.

Many thanks to the crew for their competence and dedication. A special thanks to Bill (Emergency Phone Holder – undoubtedly the most important, vital role in VMR. It has been quiet for the last 3 months for the rest of us – but the phone holder remains on duty 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week).

Crew: Paul Martin (Snr Crewman) – Shane Newell (Crewman – and acting as Coms Officer for the activation) –
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 27/6/20: Assist member broken down, Tongue Bay

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and just as I (Ron) was getting the whipper-snipper out to do some heavy gardening, the VMR duty ringtone blared from my mobile. It was John in the Radio Room, asking if I would head to Tongue Bay to tow a member home whose motor had failed.

“Oh, OK” I replied quickly as I put the machine away. Getting out on the water is 1,000% better than lawn maintenance anyway! 😋

A callout like this one is often perfect for a training opportunity so I asked the radio room operator to see if a couple of newcomers were available. New trainee Thomas was logged in to our availability app so he was summoned for what turned out to be his very first activation. Excellent.

By the time I got to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 the crew had done the pre-departure checks,
received all the necessary details, and we were ready to go. We hardly noticed the light choppy seas on the trip across Whitsunday passage, but the incoming cloud cover had our attention and we were hoping that we would be back in our berth before the rain arrived.

Locating our stricken vessel was easy as there were only 2 craft in Tongue Bay, and only one of them was a 6metre RIB. Good team-work had us quickly rafted up alongside, paperwork done, towing line hooked up and us underway back to the public boat-ramp at Coral Sea Marina/Resort. We had a brief wait at the ramp while another vessel was loaded onto it’s trailer, then we deftly executed a text-book placement of our towed vessel to the ramp pontoon and it was time for us to refuel and get back to our berth.

We were hosing VMR1 down just as the rain started. Perfect timing. Great work by the crew, Chris, Paul and our first-timer, Thomas. Time to go home, sadly too late for gardening.
Cheers from your skipper, Ron.

Crew: Paul Martin, Chris Williamson and Thomas Dahmin
Skipper: Ron Roberts