October 2020


Activation 5/10/20: QAS Medivac from Daydream Island – and no need to phone around for crew!

We were just about to sit down and eat prior to our monthly meeting for our active members when 24/7 phone holder Roger received a call from the QAS despatcher – a patient on Daydream Island required evacuation for potentially urgent medical treatment. I (Mal)overheard his discussion and started looking around for crew to handle the medivac – pretty easy to find them when most of them are in the same (Covid-19 compliant) venue!

I drew the short straw as skipper as I had not had any alcoholic refreshment, and Bill, Shane and Michael were keen to join me. The first night time activation for trainee Michael. 🙂

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was ready to go when the paramedic arrived, and we set off at 1920 for the short trip to Daydream. It was a pretty dark night with an ESE wind gusting over 20 knots against an incoming tide, so conditions were a little bouncy en route.

We made full use of the plotter, radar, and infrared camera. The main things to look out for were moored and anchored boats and not running into Australia – both completed successfully – and we tied up at Daydream at 1950.

The island nurse, together with our patient and the security manager were waiting for us. While the patient came on board and was made comfortable the nurse briefed the paramedic, and we were underway again five minutes later.

We had them back at our berth by 2030 after a much smoother return trip with the wind astern. After they had disembarked for the trip to hospital we moved to the fuel dock to refuel, then back to our berth to secure and clean VMR1 and complete the necessary paperwork, stepping off at 2050.

Nice job by the crew, and well done Michael on your first night-time activation. Nice to see the keen youngies coming through! Anyone who would like to join Michael as a trainee can get started here.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Shane Newell, Michael McQueeney.
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 7/10/20: A medivac to Hammo is better than shovelling dirt

It was 1116hrs and I (Marti) had just finished backfilling a hole with 80 tonnes of crusher dust for our new swimming pool when…… yes you guessed it…the emergency ringtone went off. “Roger here, do you feel like a run out to Hammo for a medivac?”. “Ofcourse” I replied, I’ve got nothing else to do for the rest of the day.”

Truthfully, I had been thinking that I’d had enough of shovelling anyway, and might kick back and watch a couple of movies instead. Usually I fall asleep. But nothing beats getting out on the water as it’s a different world and I love it, so I grabbed the car keys and headed for the boat.

At Coral Sea Marina I found Bill and Lance had started the pre-start checks and Paul arrived shortly after. Not long after that the Ambos arrived, received their safety brief and we were underway at 1150 hours.

Clear of the rock breakwater, Paul took over the helm for the rest of the journey. The forecast was ESE 10-15 knots but as we entered via Unsafe Passage it was clearly a little more than the forecast. Steering to Reef Point we made our way to Hamilton Island around the back (east) of Henning Island. The Cruise Whitsunday ferry was in front of us but we were gaining so we allowed it to beat us to Hamilton as they took the more direct route to the west of Henning Island. As it turned out we were less than 1 minute behind them as we entered the marina.

Arriving at the normal pickup dock adjacent to the fuel we noticed the dock was fully occupied and so we manoeuvred Coral Sea Marina VMR1 to the other side of the fuel dock and berthed there. The ambulance officers went ashore to collect their patient.

By 1315 hours we had our patient and ambos back onboard so we made way for home. It was an easy ride home so we were soon back at CSM with our patient and ambulance staff. Once they had all disembarked we refuelled and completed the paperwork.

Paul had taken the helm from outside CSM on departure and carried out helm duties (under supervision) to the end of the operation including refuelling and final berthing. Well done Paul! And to the rest of the crew well done too. We made Paul look good with our line handling skills, hey?

Senior Crew and helmsman – Paul Martin
Communications Officer – Bill Hopton
Crew – Lance Robins (ex commercial prawn fisherman and skipper in his own right)
Skipper – Marti Davy

Activation 9/10/2020: Assist a non- member with engine problems in his 5.5m ‘tinny’ being towed back to Hamilton Island by another vessel.

Time of Contact- 1816 hours. Conditions – Weather – Clear, Wind – E – 10 to 15 knots, Seas – less than ½ m. Visibility – night – no moon, almost zero. Tides – H@1627 of 2.7m,L2 2346 of 1.34m. B.P. – 1012hPa steady.

We left CSM in VMR1 at 1850 hrs. We rendezvoused with the towed vessel at 1935, did the paperwork there, and were towing (using Toms hook) by 1950 hrs. We dropped the vessel at Port of Airlie boat ramp at 2050 hrs and were refuelled and back at our berth in CSM by 2120 hrs. Roger and Whitsunday VTS were notified of our task completion.

Tony, Shane and Michael were very skilled in all aspects of this activation – I thank them for that.

Crew: Tony McNeill (as Snr. Crewman), Shane Newell (as crewman and Comms officer), Michael McQueeney (crewman)
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 10/10/20: Assist an 8 metre vessel broken down north of Double Cone Island

Ray called me (Mal) from the radio room just after 1300, saying that he had received a call from an 8 metre vessel which had broken down north of Double Cone Island. They had 3 on board and were requesting a tow back to Coral Sea Marina. As I was the only skipper logged on, Ray was really hoping I would like to do it.

“Sure” I said…no problem. While VMR2 may have been able to handle the tow, sea conditions with the infamous Whitsundays wind against tide swayed my preference toward Coral Sea Marina VMR1…which turned out to be a good call in the end as our target boat was an inboard with a stern drive, and not light by any means.

We prepared VMR1 and departed at 1340 for the 10-11 mile trip to Double Cone. While it was blowing 13-15 knots at Hamilton, by the time we got to Double Cone the wind was gusting over 20 knots, generating a sloppy short chop as the wind fought the tide – I think the tide was coming out on top.

En route, crew member Bill managed to get in touch with our target and was given a set of coordinates, so we managed to find them without much trouble and were close by 1415. We waited while they pulled up their anchor so we could manoeuvre closer – they were hanging sideways across both tide and wind and the wind was just winning. We were able to get close enough across their bows to pass across our towing hook, then got clear while Bill and Michael paid out our tow line. Our target said they were cruising at 21 knots and the engine just stopped despite having enough fuel.

Conditions dictated that we head across the waves at an angle for a better ride and to stop both boats slamming into the waves, but we soon had them on the plane and took a wider but more comfortable ride back to the ramp at the marina, running at 14 knots initially but up to 16-17 as conditions flattened out.

After waiting for room at the ramp they were put alongside at 1520 while we moved off to refuel, clean and secure VMR1, and finish the obligatory paperwork. We were on our way back home at 1600. Nice work by Bill and trainee Michael who coped very well. Another body would have been good but not many were logged on at the time. If you’d like to train as boat crew (or help out with radio), go here.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 11/10/20 (1): Activation in the wee small hours

It was 0035 hours when I (Marti) heard the VMR ringtone in a dream. It took a while but eventually I woke up enough to realise that this was no dream so groggily I answered the phone to hear our 24/7 phone holder Roger (who had also been woken from a sound sleep). He said “I’m looking for a skipper for a medivac to Hammo. Can you do?”

I accepted and jumped out of bed, threw on my shorts and shirt and made my way to the marina. I must admit I was feeling a bit doughy but the drive in from Shute Harbour with the windows down livened me up… it was a cool 20 degrees.

I got to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 0055 hours to find Shane and Chris already carrying out the pre-start checks. Not long after, Ron joined us as the fourth member of the crew. With Ambulance Officers on board we departed at 0114 hours. It was low tide and the trip over was relatively calm so by 0208 hrs we were berthing in our usual spot and helping to organise patient transfer.

Departing Hamilton Island we made haste for CSM at good speed, arriving at 0337 hours. With the patient disembarked we proceeded to refuel and put VMR1 back to bed. Once she was washed down and the paperwork completed, we were out of there by 0415 hours giving me just enough time to get home, have a coffee and watch the sunrise.

A good job by the crew – Ron threw a beautiful line onto a cleat, first shot at 3 metres when berthing at the fuel dock. Champion!

Senior Crew: Ron Roberts
Comms Officer: Shane Newell
Crew: Chris Williams
Skipper: Marti Davy

Activation 11/10/20 (2): A long road for a non-member’s Jet Ski

It was Sunday and I (Ken) was busy doing maintenance on both Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and Whale Song VMR2 assisted by Michael and Paul…when the emergency phone rang. It was the Radio operator at the Base. “We have a Jet Ski broken down on Planton Island. Can you help?” I answered “Yes of course…I’m already here!”

At the time, Michael was topping up the oil and coolant on VMR1, Paul was closing down VMR2 and I had all the anchor chain and warp spread along the dock. Action stations and we soon had everything ship shape.

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We departed CSM at 11:50 Fabulous conditions had us arriving at Planton Island at 12:40 where Paul and Michael launched the tender to retrieve the Jet Ski and the Honeymoon couple.

The paperwork was under way as we motored along slowly. Unfortunately this is where the textbook plan ran into a glitch as the owner did not know about shutting off the water that would enter his engine and damage it. According to his manual, we could travel at 8 kph and as he wasn’t a VMR member, this was going to be very expensive.

His wife needed to return to a camping site on the South Western side of South Molle so she asked if we could drop her in Bauer Bay and she would walk. Not a problem. Michael launched the tender and they were off while we kept motoring s..l..o..w..l..y towards CSM.

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But then the owner found what he hoped was the correct water hose, applied some vice grips and said “You can now take me to Coral Sea Marina ASAP.” Okey dokey!

Michael was soon back on board so off we went with Paul on the helm. We dropped the Jet Ski at the ramp at 14:40 and Michael drove the owner to pick up his trailer from his home while Paul and I refuelled and returned to our berth to complete the shut down. Great job by the crew covering a variety of tasks .

Senior Crew: Paul Martin
Trainee: Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation 11/10/20 (3): A medivac outing on a gorgeous night

Literally as my dinner landed on the table in front of me, my phone went off. How’s that for timing! It was VMR emergency phone holder, Roger, who was ringing with the news that we had another Medivac from Hamilton Island, and could I go out.

“Hmmm…” I thought, “It couldn’t have been the patient we picked up from there earlier this morning as she wouldn’t have had time to get back to the Island yet.” Must be another person in touble….so I left my delicious-looking meal and headed to the boat.

As we headed out on Coral Sea Marina VMR1, the moon hadn’t yet risen so it was quite dark although the air was cool and crystal clear. On rounding Pioneer Point we could clearly see the Dent Island light, the Beak light at Shute Harbour, the floating Lights in Unsafe Passage and the light to the North on Eshelby Island. Most unusual levels of visibility…incredibly beautiful!

But enough of the gorgeous night views….to the job in hand! We were getting 15 knots of S/E breeze and the start of a run out tide gave us a low swell and great travelling conditions. By 2125 we were tied up on Hamilton Island and our Paramedic was ready to receive the patient.

Once he was happy and the patient settled aboard, we headed back to Coral Sea Marina, once again having to tear our eyes away from the stunning water views to concentrate on the instruments that warned of other travellers on the mild swells this night. With our patient safely transferred we refuelled, completed our paperwork, washed down VMR1 and had secured for our next activation.

I headed home and found my dinner in the microwave. Marvellous. 😋

Crew: Shane Newell, Bill Hopton and Thomas Dahmin
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 16-10-2020: Medivac from Hamilton Island for QAS.

Time of contact – 0018 hrs
Conditions- Weather – Clear, Wind – ESE 10 – 15knots, Seas – less than a metre, Tides – H@ 2136 of 3.86m L@ 0350 of 0.15m, Visibility – almost zero (no moon), B.P. steady at 1010hPa.

VMR1 left CSM @ 0105 hrs with one Paramedic on board, arriving at Hamilton Island Marina @ 0200 hrs. The patient was brought on board and we started our return journey to CSM at 0215. We were unloaded, refuelled and washed down and back in our pen by 0320 hrs.

Crew: Paul Martin (Snr Crew and tonight’s helmsman), Chris Williamson (crewman and Comms officer), Thomas Dahmin
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 14/10/20: Another Medivac from Hamilton Island – and in the daytime for a nice change!

It was just before 0700 and I (Mal) was sort of awake and starting to think about what I was going to do for the day, when my “Help” ringtone put an end to those thoughts. It was 24/7 phone holder Roger, calling to say that we had a Medivac request from QAS for a walk-on patient from Hamilton Island, and was I available?

Sure – the other things rattling around in my head would have to wait. While I made my way in to the boat Roger put a crew together, and after we all prepared Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for sea and our paramedic was onboard, we cleared the marina at 0730.

The wind was ESE and gusty at 20-25 knots, but luckily we were almost at the top of the big 3.5 m tide so were able to maintain 22-23 knots most of the way, and it was not until we got nearer to Henning Island on the other side of the Passage that we had to throttle back a bit and bear away across a bit of swell.

We were tied up at Hamilton at 0830, After setting up our QAS stretcher for the patient and transferring him on board, we departed Hamilton at 0850.

It was a slower trip back to keep it as comfortable as we could for our patient, and we ran at a sedate 16-18 knots with the seas and through Unsafe Passage and the smoother waters on the inside of South Molle, and had the boat back in its berth at 0950. Two more paramedics arrived with a stretcher, and once the patient and paramedics were assisted up the ramp with all their gear we moved to the fuel dock to refuel, than back to our berth to clean and secure and do the paperwork.

All finished at 1030 – good teamwork by Bill, Terry and Michael. Then it was back to trying to work out what I was doing for the rest of the day!

Crew: Ron McCall, Terry Clarke, Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 17/10/20: Medivac from Long Island

Yes another medivac, but this time somewhere different….Paradise Bay and the Ellysian Resort.

Around 0930 hours, Skipper Mal received a call from Janet in the radio room, relaying a QAS request for a medivac to the Long Island resort. I (Marti) was with Mal at the time, sorting out few minor repairs on his boat. Good timing because there was a crew shortage and I was going to be next in-line anyway to get a call to help out.

We both accepted the invite to attend and Mal graciously volunteered me as skipper for the job (which means I get to write the report). Smart man. 😄

It was 1000 hours by the time we got to Coral Sea Marina VMR1, and Bill was there already with the ambulance officers, carrying out the prestart checks. Not long after, Michael turned up as the 3rd crew member.

As we made our way out of the marina the wind was ESE 19knots gusting 23, and even Pioneer Bay was a little lumpy on the way out. Rounding Pioneer Point and Almora Islet we set more head on to the wind with not much cover of a lee shore approaching the Beak, north of Shute Harbour.

Fortunately it was top of the tide (3.94m) so we easily punched through the chop until our destination. We arrived at 1110hrs and despatched the tender to take the ambulance officers ashore so they could carry out an assessment of the patient. Michael took the QAS officers ashore with ease and the rest of us picked up a mooring and just waited.

Not 15 minutes gone we get a call from them to say they are on their way back to VMR1 but the need to ferry both the patient and friend plus Medicos onboard meant it would need two trips. No problem. We dropped off the mooring to get a little closer to shore and also to try and get VMR1 in a position to provide a lee side for the boarding personnel.

Michael managed the transfer with skill and agility, and got everyone back to our boat safely.

With all onboard and tender retrieved and secured we departed Paradise Bay at 1145 hours. With the tide turned (outgoing) and the wind pretty much behind us we had a relatively smooth ride home. As we passed “The Narrows” of the Long Island Sound I noted we increased SOG from 24 to 28 knots. The tide was racing through now.

By 1145 hours we were back in the marina with all passengers disembarked and proceeded to refuel and then back to our berth for the paperwork and a wash down.

It was an interesting activation for all. Michael McQueeney gets the “The Best Mate” award for his work with the VMR1 tender. Well done mate. 🏆

Senior Crew: Mal Priday
Communications: Bill Hopton
Trainee: Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Marti Davy

Activation 18/10/20 (1 & 2): Double header – both VMR boats get an outing

It was Sunday morning and my phone was ringing with it’s special emergency tone….must be a call from the radio base. There was an 8.5 metre power vessel with 3 POB broken down near Mandalay. “OK” I said, “Can you please arrange a crew? We will use Whale Song VMR2 for this job.”

Paul Martin and Bill Hopton joined me (Ken ) and we were soon on our way departing CSM at 10:00, and only ten minutes later we were along side our target. While the paper work was being done I asked where they would like to go.

They replied (looking very hopeful)…. “Whitehaven Beach thank you. We have the fridge full of oysters and prawns along with some beverages.” I replied “What is your second choice?

Hmmmm…” they responded “Oh well, perhaps Coral Sea Marina.”Good choice,” I said with a grin, “That I can manage.”

We had them along side the Public dock at 10:40. They would spend the rest of the day on a deck by the pool.

As for the three of us, Bill had a pre-arranged lunch date so Paul and I cleaned up and washed down Whale Song, finishing by 11:30. We were all set to leave when…..

….the emergency phone was ringing again. “Are you still available?” was the question. “We have a 7 metre power vessel with 3 pob drifting at 20-14-310S 148-48-362E. I decided to take our Coral Sea Marina VMR1 so I asked for a couple more crew.

Meanwhile, Paul and I did the pre-start up checks on VMR1 and we were all ready when Shane Newell and Michael McQueeney arrived at 12:50. It was an uneventful trip out and VMR1 was along side our target vessel at 13:15. Shane took over the paper work.

The owner announced that it was too soon for him to be a Grandfather. Huh? I asked him what he meant by that statement, and he pointed to his daughter. Apparently this was to be her very last voyage before giving birth. 😄

The crew were quite excited to be part of a pending new arrival! “Sir, how would you like us to proceed?” I asked. “Very carefully at a comfortable 10 knots” was his reply.

Back in the berth after refuelling, we washed down VMR1 and headed for home. What a great day. Always happy to help people in distress.

Crew for Activation 1: Paul Martin, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Crew for Activation 2: Paul Martin, Shane Newell & Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation: 25/10/20: Assist 23ft motor vessel with 3 pob, broken down close to Coral Sea Marina. A boring story – not really!

The call from Richard Keane at the radio base tripped the ‘Help’ ringtone at 1430 – a member had broken down near Coral Sea Marina and needed assistance back to the boat ramp. As I (Mal) was the only Skipper logged on to our scheduling app at that time, I was asked if I could do the job. “Sure,” I said, “I’ll be there in 20 minutes. We’ll take Whale Song VMR2 so I’ll only need a couple of crew.”

By the time I got to the boat, Dave had already done some of the pre-start checks, and we had them all but finished when Paul arrived. Then it was a case of backing off the pontoon, loading Paul and Dave, and heading out just past the channel to the marina.
It was blowing about 15-20 knots from the N/NE and as a result there were short, steep waves in the channel…the worst part of the trip. Once out of the channel we were quickly on location, although it was still very rolly.

We had assumed our target had dropped his anchor as he was on a lee shore not far from some anchored boats, but no, that was not the case. [Note: We strongly recommend you drop your anchor early if you have power problems – don’t leave it too late or you might make the situation worse.]

We prepared Tom’s hook, and manoeuvred alongside to pass it to the owner. When that was done we let out more line and tied it off for the short tow into the marina. It was too rough to stay alongside until we got into the marina itself. We had them on the ramp jetty by 1525, stepping off about 1545 after completing the paperwork and cleaning and securing Whale Song back on the pontoon. Good work by Paul and Dave.

Crew: Paul Martin, Dave Richter
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 27/10/20: Assist 6m boat with engine problems

I (Geoff F) had just walked out of the Newsagents in Proserpine, when my phone rang. It was Roger who was holding the 24/7 emergency phone. “Could you do a tow from Stonehaven?” he asked. I thought about it for two whole seconds, contemplating the light northerly breeze and bright blue sky. “Sure!” I replied, “Why not.” 🙂

At 1515 I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 where the crew were already carrying out prestart checks. We left the marina in beautiful weather for the run to Stonehaven to pick up a 6m hire boat which was experiencing engine problems.

We arrived at the vessel at 1610, rafted up and assisted them to pull up anchor & attach the towline. We also took two passengers on board, leaving two on board the tow. Heading for Coral Sea Marina, we were towing nicely at 21knts. Rafted up outside of the marina and towed the vessel to the boat ramp where we were met by the owner. Paperwork completed, refueled & back to berth by 1730. A job well done by all crew.

Senior crew: Michel del Aguila
Comms: Lance Robins
Crew: Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Geoff Fitzsimmons

Activation 30/10/2020: Medivac for QAS from Hamilton Island.

Time of Contact- 1420 hrs. Conditions- Weather – Clear, Wind- NNE 10 to 20 knots, Seas – 1m., Visibility – 10nm, Tides – H@ 1003 Of 3.2m, L@1557 of 0.88m., B.P. – Steady@ 1012hPa.

VMR1 left CSM @ 1450 hrs with one paramedic also aboard. We arrived at Hamilton Island Marina @ 1540 and immediately loaded our patient and her carer and then left Hamilton marina at 1545 to return to CSM. The trip back was slower due to the nature of the sea and in consideration to our passengers on board. We were back in our pen and unloaded and washed down by 1705 hrs. We did not refuel (see below). Whitsunday VTS and Roger were notified of our completed task.

Crew – Ken Bryce (one of our Skippers acting as Snr. Crew for today and also acting as trainer for our trainee Michael, who was on the helm for much of the time), Dave Richter (Crewman and Comms Officer for today), Michael McQueeney (trainee)
Skipper – Fin Forbes

The crew today must be thanked for making the whole exercise pleasant, not just a necessary service to the community. Much appreciated.

Activation 31/10/20: Assist 4.5m plate boat, 2 pob, drifting south of White Rock

Dewi rang me (Geoff S) from the radio room at 10.14. “A member is drifting SE of White Rock (SE of Shute Island) with a dead engine,” he explained. “He needs to go back to Shute. Can you help?”

“Sure,” I said, and headed down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 where the rest of the crew were busy getting ready. I have to admit that this was to be my first activation since July, so I was wondering what I would forget! 😋

The checks done, we departed at 10.45 into a nice 15-20 knot Nor’easter (20 knots at Hammo). Pioneer Bay was choppy as you would expect, and we carried the chop all the way to our target…lovely.

On arrival at our target vessel, we noted that the boys had the anchor down and were waiting patiently for us to arrive. Rather than risk bumping in the horrible sea, we passed the tow across and were quickly under way.

We set direction for Shute Harbour, looking for flatter water and a drop off at the Sunsail Wharf. Just off Sunsail we stopped for the paperwork and the lads mentioned that their problem was only a flat battery. Well, we can help with that right now!

We passed over the jump starter and seconds later they had their trusty Yamaha running nicely. [Note to self: That’s what I forgot…should have asked “Hey fellas, what’s the problem?” 😋] Anyway, they didn’t need us anymore so we returned to CSM at 12.30 for fuel and were back in the pen by 12.50.

Thanks to a great crew for hiding my mistakes, making it all so easy and a pleasure to be out there.

Crew: Ken Bryce, Bill Hopton & Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Geoff Smith

Ed Note: Our rescuees sent a nice text from Muddy Bay thanking us for our help. Always nice to get a thank you.
This was the 127th activation for the year, a new record, and with 2 months still to go! We did 166 in all last year, which was also a record at the time.