November 2020

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Activation 1/11/20: 5m plate boat broken down off Cid Island

Janet called me (Geoff S) from the Radio Room at 12.55, to say that a possible member had dead electrics and was stranded near Cid Island. She had asked all the right questions, so I headed for the Marina whilst she got a crew together.

For once, I was the first there so I began the pre-start checks. Dave and Tony soon arrived and took over and Ron from Proserpine, was only minutes behind. We departed on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 13.35 at the top of the tide with a lightish northerly and plenty of sun. Beautiful. You feel guilty accepting the pay cheque, especially when it’s double-time on Sundays.
(Ed’s Note: Geoff is making a joke here! We’re all volunteers. 😆)

The Latitude and Longitude we had from the target vessel put them at South Moll which is some distance from Cid, so Dave called them for more details. A new Lat/Long put them at Cid so that’s where we went….and found them exactly where they said they were.

By now it was 14.25 so with paperwork done and a quick pick up, we were off to Muddy Bay. On the way we had a look at the new pier for South Molle Resort. It looks about the same place and length except it has a floating pontoon and ramp at the end instead of the big rusty nuts and bolts plus those horrible slippery steps of the old one.

We pulled our new friends alongside and right forward as the tide was dropping and we didn’t want our props close to the bottom of the ramp. Off we went again, this time to CSM for fuel and a wash down. We were in the pen for 16.10 and off home shortly afterwards. Thanks to the crew for a lovely afternoon on the water.

Crew: Dave Richter, Tony McNeil & Ron McCall
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 5/11/20: Hammo Medivac in the darkest hours

It was 22.50 when Roger Wodson called me (Geoff S) to say that a small child had breathing problems and needed transportation with Mum. Luckily I wasn’t in bed yet so I grabbed the keys and headed down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1.

Once everyone, including our Paramedic, was on board we were on our way by 21.20 into a ¾ moon. The wind was NNW about 15knots, seas smoothish, little tide plus it was nice and warm. We got to Hammo at 00.25 (Hammo seems to have shrunk, it’s much tighter
manoeuvring than I remember) and transferred our passengers quickly.

We headed back to CSM. The seas had built a bit by now and it got quite rollie at times once into Pioneer Bay. We arrived at the marina 01.40 and were met by 2 more Paramedics so we didn’t need to get involved with helping our passengers to the ambulance.

We re-fuelled and into the pen at 02.00 for a tidy and washdown. Thanks to a great crew and especially Bill for stepping up to Snr Crew. [yawn] Home and bed!

Crew: Bill Hopton (Snr Crew), Michael McQueeney (Comms) & Grant Ford (Trainee)
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 6/11/20 (1): Yacht, 2 POB with a broken prop shaft

Our Emergency 24hr Phone Holder Roger called me (Geoff S) at 12.47, explaining that a 38′ yacht with a broken prop shaft was on a mooring in Sandy Bay, SW South Moll Island. He assured me that there was no rush as they were quite safe, so we departed at 13.40
with Marlene, our ‘all things online’ hero, on board taking photos for the VMR archives.

The trip over was bouncy but uneventful and I grabbed the opportunity to eat my hastily-packed sandwich lunch while Shane and Grant sat at the upper helm station and kept us heading in the right direction.

We arrived at Sandy Bay at 14.10 and transferred Shane across to do the paperwork. Shane finished and, back aboard, we got underway at 14.25. The Northerly had kicked up a noticeably short chop, so we went through to the west of West Moll (Daydream). The route was a little smoother and it gave us a better angle on the chop crossing to Pioneer Point.

The vessel we were assisting was a solid, displacement boat so as we were punching into the chop our speed was only around the 7’s. When we got to Coral Sea Marina, we shortened the tow, went in, and tied them alongside in the calm water. They had been allotted a berth on either A or B arm but as there is no room between the two arms for two 40′ boats alongside each other to manoeuvre safely, we dropped them off on the end of B arm.

Off to the fuel dock and into the pen for 16.30 and the paperwork which our magnificent crew had pretty well already completed.

Crew: Michel del Aguila (Snr Crew), Shane Newell (Comms), Grant Ford, Marlene Manto
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 6th November (2): When Rescuees rescue themselves

VMR1 had been out twice on this day, once for a middle of the night Medivac and then to tow in a yacht that had lost his prop and needed to return to Coral Sea Marina. The crews had shut down and were almost home and ready for an ale…when all hell broke loose on the 24 hour emergency phone.

A concerned member of the public who was a Firie (an emergency services volunteer himself) reported that a large tinny with 4 people was being bashed by the waves on rocky Pioneer Point. The people were safely ashore in the wash, but the northerly wind and wakes of passing boats made for a rough tumbling swell on the rocky area. He wisely decided to sit offshore and call for help. We at VMR have strict rules to follow in these circumstances and immediately called Whitsunday Water Police who ordered our immediate activation – ASAP!!!

Right! – our next trick was to turn around our previous crew, but some could not be contacted so substitutes were urgently found. In the meantime, 24 hour phone holder Roger was having trouble getting an open phone line as an absolute barrage of calls were coming in (in all, 32 phone calls were recorded within an hour!!). Back at the scene, our Firie volunteer was relaying updates. He also tried to warn another passing boatie who rushed straight into the same rough shore break.

On this occasion everything turned out OK, but it could have easily ended up in a double disaster. He took the boat and stranded four off the beach and they proceeded back to Airlie under their own steam. He was pleased to see that they were all wearing life jackets. In the meantime, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 had set out to ensure that the tinny was OK but by the time our crew had turned around, the situation had solved itself. The result for VMR1 was a hasty activation, but luckily we were not needed.

Our Skipper Marti reported: “Nuffing to report; we went out, we looked and saw nuffing. So we returned home.” 😊

The truth is, the vessel in distress sorted themselves out and returned to the marina. Thankfully the location was nearby, around Almora Islet. The crew of Marti, Michel, Shane N and Bill H had arrived at the target destination at 1755 hours but turned around after a quick look around and then receiving a message that all was good with the vessel in distress and they had made it back to their departure point.

A few lessons to be learned:

* Be careful in fast flowing areas – even if you can get onto a beach, beware of rough tumbling shore breaks and rips
* Wait for help to arrive
* Always wear a life jacket
* If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim yourself

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, Shane Newell, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Marti Davy


TWO Activations 7/11/20: First a flare sighting then a Medivac

It was 19:40 when I ( Ken ) heard the emergency tone on my phone. It was Roger, one of our dedicated 24 hour emergency phone holders. “There has been a flare sighting, and we have a Search and Rescue mission,” he said, “I will gather a crew. Can you leave now?” “Absolutely! I am on my way” I responded, and headed out the door.

We departed on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 20:00 with Geoff Smith, Shane Newell and Michael McQueeney onboard. Our mission was to search Mandalay then move on to the Beak (Shute Harbour) then to the Molles to cover their Western coasts. While Geoff scanned the FLIR night vision infra red camera screen, both Shane and Michael used our spot lights and LED high power torches to sweep light across the dark coastline areas

I concentrated on the Radar and chart in the black night…but the origin of the apparent flare sighting was not to be found. After searching all these coasts we returned to CSM at 22:00. With the paperwork and clean up completed we all headed for home.

The only time the Aussies beat New Zealand and I am out gallivanting about the ocean! Oh well, off to bed and I will watch it on replay tomorrow. 😁

I had just got to the stage where I was really enjoying my bed when the phone rang. Yep. Roger again. It was 00.22 so who else calls at that time of night! He did apologise though. “Sorry, but we have a medivac from Hamilton island. Can you handle this?

Well, I wasn’t yet asleep so OK…on my way. When I got to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 I met up with Michel who blearily said “Where is the coffee?” Tony and Grant arrived followed by the Ambulance crew, so with all checks completed we ready to go.

We departed CSM at 01:30 the sea conditions weren’t too bad. Arrived Hamilton island 02:20 and had a short wait for the patient to arrive on a stretcher before we headed back Coral Sea Marina at 02:50. With the South Easter now behind us, we were surfing and the conditions were very comfortable. On our arrival back the crew helped with the stretcher while I started the shut down.

Back in our berth for wash down and paperwork. I finally got to go home at 04:35….hardly worth going to bed.

Thank you to the crew for your dedication.

Search & Rescue Activation
Senior: Geoff Smith, Comms: Shane Newell, Crew: Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Medivac
Senior: Michel Del Aguila, Comms: Grant Ford, Crew: Tony McNeill
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 11/11/20: Medivac from Cid Harbour…..actually no, scrap that…

It was a Medivac from Hamilton Island. No, wait – assist helicopter medivac from Cid Harbour. No, wait – medivac from Hamilton Island! Confused? Yeah….us too!

The first call to me (Mal) from 24/7 phone holder Roger came just after 1230. Roger said “We have been tasked to do a medivac from a vessel in Cid Harbour, for a person or persons injured in a battery explosion on a power boat. It’s potentially a pretty bad situation.”

While I hurried to get to Coral Sea Marina VMR1, Roger was arranging a crew, and by the time I got there Michel and Shane had started to get the boat ready. Lance arrived just as the phone went again – we had been stood down and a chopper was being used. “Okay guys…UN-prepare the boat and shut everything down.”

We had just finished when the phone rang again, and we all stopped doing what we were doing. This time we had been tasked again to do a medivac, but from Hamilton Island. Luckily the crew were still with me – just – so we got VMR1 ready to go again. Michel went up to meet the paramedic and help him bring his gear down.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed at 1330 onto a choppy sea whipped up by an 18-20 knot E/SE, and the tide had just started to flood.

As we approached Unsafe Passage we heard the chopper on VHF asking any boats in Cid Harbour for assistance to recover the patient. We responded and asked if they would like us to alter course to assist, and the answer was “Yes please!” We were about 30 minutes away.

Then another call from Rescue 412, advising that we were no longer required at Cid as other boats had responded, so we continued on to our Hamilton Island medivac, arriving at 1420.

After a delay of 40 minutes, we had our patient and her partner on board and set course for home at 1500, and were able to disembark our passengers and the paramedic. Then a delay of about 10 minutes or so waiting to get onto the fuel berth before moving back to our own berth to complete the paperwork, and clean and secure the rescue boat ready for the next activation.

Thanks to the crew, nice job.

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


Activation 13/11/20: A trip to Hammo on a very dark night

It was just on 2300hrs when I (Marti) arrived at CSM where the crew were already preparing VMR1 for departure. Everything was done by 2310 and our paramedic arrived around 2330.

With only a crescent moon above, it was very dark as we headed out the marina channel and applied speed to about 20 knots. There was a bit of a roll coming in from the north as was the wind, probably NE at 10 knots. Forecast was ENE 8-10 knots. Rounding Pioneer Point and Almora Islet we maintained about 20 knots but as we cleared Unsafe Passage and Deeds Point on South Molle Island, our speed was reduced to 18 knots to maintain comfort. A big runout tide with wind against it.

The trip to Hammo took 68 minutes and as we approached, Michael made the necessary calls to make contact with Island Manager. No fluffing about…our patient and their friend/partner boarded VMR1 and within 7 minutes we were underway for Airlie Beach. Departure time was 0045 hours.

Well, we felt the effect of wind against tide BIG time on our way back. So much so that our speed was reduced to 8 knots, particularly nearing Almora Islet. I’ve seen the standup waves during the daytime but last night was pitch black and thanks to the FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared camera) you could see the immensity of the sea, particularly around the points.

It took a while to clear Almora Islet and Pioneer Point (and Pioneer Rocks) but eventually we were able to increase speed for the final mile or 2. Arrived at Coral Sea Marina at 0205 hours…this time the return trip took 80 minutes. Berthed, we disembarked the patient, partner and paramedic and proceeded to refuel. The yawning crew disembarked at 0220 hours.

A great job by all crew and of course those excellent line handling skills always makes the helmsman look good when berthing. Thanks.

Senior crew: Tony McNeill
Comms: Michael McQueeney
Crew and Comms supervisor: Bill Hopton
Skipper: Marti Davy


Activation: 15/11/20: Medivacs…they keep coming! A broken leg this time.

The VMR maintenance team had been working since 08:00, and I (Ken) was working on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 when my emergency ring tone went off. It was Adam from the VMR radio centre. “We have a medivac from Hamilton Island, can you assist?” “Yeah sure,” I said, “Send the Paramedics now as we’ll be ready to go when they get here.”

As we would be taking VMR1 for this mission, Paul went to make sure VMR2 was in a ready state in case of another activation while we were away. Meanwhile, Grant, Michael and I prepared VMR1 for immediate departure.

We set off at 09:05 for Hamilton Island , the conditions were great and nearing the top of the tide. Arriving at Hamo at 09:55 we had a short wait for the ambulance but that gave time for our crew to prepare the stretcher onboard VMR1. Manoeuvring a patient with a broken leg was a bit tricky! Thank goodness for a strong crew.

Departing Hamilton Island with a few small bumps along the way, the patient’s smile was getting bigger. When we arrived back there was another Paramedic on the dock ready to assist with the manoeuvring so I let the crew help the paramedics with all their equipment while prepared VMR1 to head to the fuel dock.

And then….back to the maintenance for another two and a half hours. The ‘maintenance team’ enjoyed a well earned beer once we were finished for the day! Thank you to the crew for their dedication. Great work.

Senior Crew: Paul Martin
Crew: Michael McQueeney ,
Trainee: Grant Ford
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 18/11/20: A medivac to Hammo is better than gluing pipes!

I (Marti) was flat on my stomach with a pot of pipe glue in one hand and the glue brush in the other, reaching over the new decking and applying the glue to the pool pipe. I was at a crucial stage when the VMR ringtone went off. Committed now to continue, I fixed the pipe into position, secured the pot of glue, rolled over and then fumbled for my phone in my shorts in the horizontal position.

Finally (seemed to take forever) I answered the call while looking up at the blue late afternoon sky and a voice on the other end said “Bill here, are you available to carry out a Medivac to Hamilton island?” “Of course” I said, “I’m not doing too much at the moment.” 😋

It was 1700 hours when I arrived dockside to find Shane and Grant busily carrying out the prestart checks and preparing Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for departure. Our paramedic was also onboard when I arrived. A few minutes later Paul arrived and 15 minutes later Paul had us underway. With 20 knots SE we punched our way to Hamilton island through Unsafe Passage past Reef Point and north of Henning Island and onto the marina. With the bottom end of the runout tide we didn’t experience too much chop across the passage and around Pioneer Rocks.

Paul had us berthed on G arm, our regular spot and our paramedic jumped off to assist the resident paramedic in preparing the patient for the trip home. Only 15 minutes later, we had our patient secured onboard on the stretcher and we started the journey home.

It was an easy ride home the same way we came, and with a following sea we reached 24.8 knots in the passage at one stage. With light fading rapidly the FLIR and radar got more attention, particularly as we approached Pioneer Point and Airlie Beach as we needed to keep a watch for small boats (and big boats of course).

Back alongside at the Coral Sea Marina both patient and paramedic disembarked without too much ado. We then refuelled, returned to our berth and gave VMR1 a washdown, completed the paperwork and we all stepped off at 2000 hours. Good line work by Shane and Grant in particular and the job went smoothly without any incidents to report. Well done to all.

Senior Crew: Paul Martin
Comms: Shane Newell
Crew: Grant Ford
Skipper: Marti Davy


Activation 22/11/20: Medivac almost interrupts my pizza making!

It was right on 1930 hours and I (Marti) had just pulled my home made pizza out of the oven when……. I heard the VMR ringtone from my phone. Yes, it was Bill who had the 24/7 phone, and he said he was needing a Skipper for a medivac to Hamilton Island. I headed to the marina and wolfed down a large slice of pizza on the way. I wasn’t going to miss out on that!

Dockside the crew and two paramedics were all on board and were almost ready to depart by the time I arrived. (Good work you guys.) After finalising all the predeparture checks and log sheet entries we departed on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for Hamilton Island at 2005 hours. Some minutes later after rounding Pioneer Point and lining up for Unsafe Passage, Shane climbed up to the fly bridge to let me know that our paramedics were expecting to go to Hayman Island not Hamilton Island. Hmmmm…

A bit of discussion and a phone call later, it was confirmed that they were correct and it was indeed a medivac to Hayman. Still on course for Unsafe Passage we maintained our heading because it was the shortest route now to Hayman compared to doubling back. With a ESE 15-20 we had a good angle for crossing the passage to Hayman on the waves to say the least.

With only a few minutes lost going the scenic route, we arrived at Hayman in quick time to receive our guests for the journey home. At 2120 hours, 15 minutes later we were on our way home. At least we know where home is! Ha ha. It was a beautiful moonlit night with a smatter of light rain here and there as we steamed back to port and came alongside at 2220 hours.

After tying up, the paramedics and patients were gone in a flash and we did the usual refuel, tidy up and clean. A big pat on the back to Shane for sorting out the destination issue so expeditiously and again to all, for the great line work berthing in particular. Whilst the circumstances were confusing at first, I commend everyone on the level headed approach in getting it sorted.
Unfortunately the Garden Bar Restaurant was closed at that time of night so I couldn’t buy everyone a beer. 😋

Crew: Bill Hopton (FLIR and backup watch)
Comms: Shane Newell
Senior Crew: Michelle Del Aguila
Skipper: Marti Davy


Activation 24/11/2020: Assist QAS in a medivac from Hamilton Island

We left CSM @ 2100 hrs with one Paramedic on board. We were directed to the fuel wharf in Hamilton Marina to collect our patient and we were tied up there at 2150. We loaded our walk on patient and were clear of the jetty by 2200 hrs – returning to CSM. We were unloaded and refuelled and back in our pen at 2315 hrs.

Crew: Shane Newell (Comms), Michael McQueeney & Grant Ford
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 26/11/20: Hammo Medivac with all hands on deck!

It was the middle of a relaxing afternoon when I (Geoff S) got a call from Fin who was looking after the 24/7 emergency phone. He explained that QAS would like us to transport a Paramedic over to Hamilton Island to retrieve a patient. It crossed my mind that if the current rate of medivacs continues, it may be worth building a road to Hammo! Nah…just kidding. [grin] I grabbed the car keys and headed down to our specialist medivac vessel, Coral Sea Marina VMR1.

Michael went to meet the Paramedic to give them a hand down to the boat and we got away at 14.52. It was a totally uneventful trip which had us alongside at 15.55. Our patient was waiting on a stretcher, with a suspected broken femur, and in a traction splint! There were lots of bodies around to assist though, and we used our back/spine board to manoeuvre the patient from the Hammo stretcher, onto our stretcher which had been set up in the cabin.

We were on our way back to CSM, with our patient and 2 family members by 16.10, and enjoyed another totally uneventful trip back. We pulled into our berth at 17.15 and were met by VMR’s Thursday Night training crowd, and more of our patient’s family. This was great as it meant we had plenty of help to transfer our patient onto the ambo’s stretcher and help them up the ramp.

After the fuss died down, Trainer Ken (who had been biding his time by doing some training on VMR2) continued with the training, this time on VMR1, showing everyone how to handle our towrope and Sampson post. After the training session concluded we were able to fuel up and wash down. During this process we found a pair of shoes belonging to the patient and Paul offered to drop them off at the Hospital…thanks Paul.

In fact, thanks to everyone (and there were lots), including those at Hammo, for making a potentially difficult job, easy.

Senior Crew: Bill Hopton
Crew: Michael McQueeney & Shane Newell
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 26/11/20: Medivac…Daydream this time

I (Ken) had a call from Fin who was the 24 hour emergency phone holder. “We have a medivac from Daydream,” he said. I replied “OK, I am on my way.

We departed on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 22:00. Conditions were good and we arrived at Daydream at 22:30. The patient was boarded and we departed at 22:35. We headed for CSM with Shane on the helm, arriving at 23:10. Bill and Michael handled the deck work as Shane brought VMR1 alongside. The patient and Ambulance Officer disembarked while we finalized the paperwork and washed down.

Thankyou to the crew.

Senior Crew: Shane Newell
Comms: Bill Hopton
Crew: Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 27/11/20: Assist a non member in a 4m tinny, gearbox problems (hit rocks), NE end of Long Island, 4 POB.

Time of Contact – 804 hrs.
Conditions. – Weather – Clear, Wind – E at 10 to 20 knots, Seas – 1/2m

We left in Coral Sea Marina VMR1 @ 1830 hrs in daylight, arriving at the target @ 1900 hrs in the dark. A light on a mobile phone was used to attract our attention. We transferred 3 of the people to VMR1 and had the tinny in tow by 1910 hrs. He was taken to his requested drop off at Shute Harbour where all the paper work was done and the 3 people again transferred back to his boat. Drop off was at 2000 hrs. We proceeded back to CSM where we refuelled, washed down and were back in our pen by 2045 hrs.

Crew: Bill Hopton (also acting as Comms officer) & Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 27/11/20: Another Hammo Medivac

Bill phoned me (Geoff S) at 11.49 with a promise that it was definitely a trip to Hammo. We were organised and ready to go when the Paramedic arrived. A 12.25 departure led to a 13.32 arrival with no dramas en route.

Our Patient was ready for us and we left Hammo at 13.38 with a smooth run home to CSM. We unloaded the patient and Paramedic, returned to the fuel dock and back to the pen for a wash down at 14.55. Thanks to a great crew and the nice weather person.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Shane Newell & Paul Martin
Skipper: Geoff Smith



Activation 29/11/20: Assist 6m vessel broken down, near South Molle – maybe

After six months of being unavailable due to some work commitments I (Ryan) only yesterday put myself back on the available list, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear the VMR ringtone at 7:00 on a Sunday morning. After a quick chat with Bill our phone holder I was quickly making my way to Coral Sea Marina.

On my arrival I found Ron and Mal getting Whale Song VMR2 ready, and at 0735 we quickly headed for South Molle Island where our break down was last reported to be. Mal gave our radio room a call for an update and the newest position had us heading further south to Long Island.

An easterly 10 to 15 knot breeze had us dealing with a few small bumps but we managed an average 20 knot pace most of the way, and we quickly found our boat well down along Long Island, near Pine Island, we pulled alongside the 6 m glass boat at 0835 and gave some instruction to the nice couple on board, and quickly had them under tow and heading home.

We tied them up alongside just outside Coral Sea Marina and did the standard paperwork before towing them into the public ramp about 1010. Our couple visiting from Townsville had done everything right, but a 40 hour old motor had a major gearbox failure and ruined the great holiday they were having staying in the marina, Although not members of VMR they were grateful for the assist and will be joining before the next visit.

Skipper, Ryan Cunningham
Crew, Mal Priday, Ron McCall


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