April 2021


Activation 3/4/2021 Urgent Irukandji Medivac

I (Ken) was just carrying a cold carton to my car, it was around 16:50 when the emergency tone on my phone was calling. It was Debbie Simpson at the VMR radio base. “we have an Emergency at White Haven Beach. A young man is in extreme pain from a suspected Irukandji attack.”

I am on my way. please gather a crew. The cold carton had to wait. 

A few minutes later I had the engines on VMR1 running while the crew commenced the paperwork.  The two Paramedics arrived and we departed Coral Sea Marina as quickly as possible as this was a code one emergency.

While VMR 1 headed towards White Haven at full speed, Shane our comms officer was receiving updates from Debbie regarding the patient. The situation was changing, the Vessel “Settlement” had heard the emergency on the radio and had offered their fast tender to transport the patient and meet up with VMR1 at Nara Inlet.

As we blasted past Nara Inlet, I had Shane call “Settlement” to give us an update on their tender’s position. They had just entered Hook Passage from the North and we were coming around from the South. Fantastic, this saved us about an hour. We found a little patch of relatively calmer water for the patient transfer. The “Settlement” tender came alongside VMR1, with our crew securing her for the transfer at 18:07. Three minutes later we were on our way to Coral Sea Marina. The Para medics were both working in extremely difficult situation as we moved out of the sheltered waters and into the Whitsunday passage. To complicate matters a cannula had to be inserted into the patients arm along with many other activities that required very steady hands, this required us to slow down and find a relatively flat bit of water, (never easy!).

I watched this procedure. How good are these Paramedics? On a rocking and rolling deck standing up inserting a needle into a vein in the arm of a violently shaking patient. Amazing first pop.

Ok, came the call you can speed up. Time was precious.

We made good time and returned to Coral Sea Marina at 18:50.

The ambulance crew and their patient were helped to the waiting ambulance and we refuelled 228 litres washed down and it was time to track down that not so cold carton.


Apparently, the group of boys were only in the water for about two minutes when this happened. The patient had removed his shirt prior to entering the water.

The next day same spot there were approx.. 30 or more in various states of dress swimming and playing.

If you had seen this young man, as I did and the reaction from his body. You would definitely wear a protective suit.

A big thankyou to Debbie for standing by at the base radio.

A great job by the VMR Crew

Crew: Michel, Shane N, Stewart and Jeramie
Skipper: Ken

Activation 8/4/21: Medivac from Bareboat in Hook Passage

I (Mal) had been looking after the 24/7 emergency phone for a few days, and today it went crazy. The QAS called me about 1845 asking if we could do a medivac for a patient with deteriorating vision. The quick answer was “Yes”, for our third activation of the day.

I was unable to get another skipper so I needed to multi-task until I got to the boat and was able to hand over the emergency phone to Roger. The crew were waiting for me when I got to the boat. And then we waited some more. The paramedic that I was advised would be ready to go by 1915 was unfortunately running late due to work load, and Coral Sea Marina VMR1 did not leave the marina until 2024 (the time…not the year 😁).

Conditions were good, with a very slight chop and light winds on a very dark night. En route we had a faint radar image on a converging course but we could not see anything until we had crossed well clear of their bow and the port nav light came into view. Their starboard one was very faint at best.

By 2115 we were alongside our target vessel, and the paramedic got to work assessing her patient. Ten minutes later we were underway again and it was an uneventful trip back to the marina.

On arrival we discharged our patient and the paramedic before refuelling, returning to our berth, washing down, securing VMR1 and completing the necessary paperwork. Thanks crew, nice job.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Bill Hopton, Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 8/4/21: When radios, phones…and even flares don’t help!

Mal called me (Geoff S) at 15.20. He was looking after the emergency phone and had received a call about a broken down tinny with 3 POB. This had been reported via VTS, saying that the tinny was in Double Bay near the “hut”.

I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 to find the crew were hard at it. They’re a well-oiled team and were busily preparing the mighty VMR1 for sea. We departed at 15.45 and after a completely uneventful run, spotted our target in Double Bay East near the “Hut”.

Whilst doing the paperwork we learned they had been trying to attract attention for over 3 hours. They had a hand-held VHF on ch16 which hadn’t helped at all. They had tried their phones. They had tried shouting to a couple of boats and even fired a flare. Finally, a passing boat got through to VTS for them and VTS called Mal.

We set off for Coral Sea Marina, again in perfect conditions, with the normal speed bumps at Grimstone. After an extremely cautious approach to the ramp finger, we dropped our target off and headed for CSM and a re-fuel….and then headed off home for dinner. Thanks crew, top job as always.

Ed Note: It is important for our boatie community to understand that communications can be very patchy in the Whitsundays, particularly West of Pioneer Bay. Despite what the salesman says, Hand-held radios have severe limitations as do mobile phones. Also, flares only work if someone is there to see them.

Crew: Shane Newell (Snr Crew), Bill Hopton (Comms), Tony Bell (Crew)
Skipper: Geoff Smith.

Activation 9/4/21: 6m runabout broken down, 5pob, North of Langford.

Roger called me (Geoff S) at 14.10. A member’s 6m Whittely with 5 POB had broken down on the North side of Langford Island. 

On the way to the Coral Seas Marina, Roger called to say that we would have to take Whalesong VMR2, as Coral Seas Marina VMR1 was needed for a photo shoot. But the water was flat with no wind. When I got to the boat, our sensational crew were prepping VMR1 for sea and were slightly miffed when I explained that we were taking the little boat and had to put VMR1 back to bed.

We got away at 14.30 and Roger was right, conditions were perfect. We stoppeda couple of times on the way to try to raise our target and finally got themas we rounded Langford Island. They were at the Eastern end of One Foot Island, close into the beach. As we made a slow final approach, our target and VMR2 crew were all pointing out bommies. VMR1 would have had to launch her tender to make the contact. All went well and with our target alongside,we made our way out to deeper water.

The 6m Whittley was probably as heavy as we would be able to tow on a plane.It took some time to get there, playing with crew weight and motor trim before we could get to about 19 knots. 

On the way we saw a large black cloud over Airlie and heavy rain. Bother we thought, muttering dark things about Roger. Fortunately though, the rain went off to the north as we approached Airlie and again, after a cautious approach (it was low tide), dropped our people off on the Whisper Bay. Off to refuel and dock at Coral Seas Marina and finalise paperwork and an engine flush at 17.10. Thanks to a great crew for all their efforts.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Nick Beecroft, Tony Bell
Skipper: Geoff Smith

Activation 10/04/21: Medivac in the middle of the night for a sticky but potentially very serious problem.

I (Mal) think I had just gone to sleep when “Help” went off on the phone just after 11 pm. I was soon wide awake. Emergency phone holder Bill said we had been activated by QAS for a medivac from Hamilton Island. Departure at 11:30. On my way!

We had Coral Sea Marina VMR1 ready to go as the paramedic came down the ramp at 11:32. We then set course to Hamilton via Unsafe Passage on a pitch black night, with 10-15 knots of nor’westerly against an outgoing tide making for a bit of chop but nothing untoward. The plotter, radio and FLIR where watched closely all the way, it was really very dark.

The Hamo paramedic advised us that our patient was on a boat in the Hamilton Island Marina and there was a spare berth alongside. We pulled up just before 12:30 am. Our paramedic went to the other boat to assess the patient, who had apparently put glue used for sticking on false fingernails into her eye instead of eye-drops – the bottles were almost identical!

We were under way again at 12:55 with our patient and her friend safely on board, taking a different route around South Molle to try and get a better angle on the slop being generated in the middle of the tide, at times down to 18-19 knots for the comfort of our passengers. As we rounded Pioneer Point we got back up to speed, and were alongside at the marina at 1:55 am to meet another paramedic with a stretcher.

After we helped our patient disembark and onto the stretcher the crew helped them get up the ramp to the waiting ambulance. We were pleasantly surprised when the patient’s companion, realising that we were all volunteers, made a nice donation to VMR Whitsunday! Not necessary, but much appreciated.

We then moved over to refuel, then back to our berth for the shutdown, washdown and completion of paperwork. Finally heading home for some well-earned rest at 2:30 am. Nice job by the crew, as usual.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Bill Hopton, Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 10/4/21: Out of fuel south of Double Cone. It pays to belong.

I (Ken) was working on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 trying to solve an issue in theengine bay. I had advised the radio base that VMR1 would be out of action while this action was taking place. The job was now complete so I headed home. I had called Gay at the base to advise that VMR1 was ready to go.

At around 14:15 Gay called to say, “Guess what! You get your wish!” There was a vessel out of fuel south of Double Cone with 2 POB. They had just returned from the reef when the owner thought he was going to run out of fuel. So he anchored in the shelter rather than run the risk of actually getting caught in the open and drifting. There is a North Westerly blowing, it will not be a very nice sea, I was thinking. Never mind. For fuel efficiency I will take Whalesong VMR2. Can you arrange a crew please? The crew were on board VMR2, when I arrived.

We departed for Double Cone. It was rough going. Our target vessel was exactly where he said. That makes a change. A quick turn around then we headed back to base, arriving at 16:05. The return trip involved a little surfing and was relatively pleasant.
Thank you to the crew

Crew: Stewart Scarborough & Nick Scarborough
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation 11/4/21: Drifting Vessel with 7POB including 4 children.

Paul and I (Ken) were busy with maintenance on both Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and Whalesong VMR2. Everything was moving along nicely after an early start for a Sunday. 
It was 10:45 and the emergency tone was heard on my phone. It was David from the radio base. “We have a vessel near Langford reef, 7 Pob, broken down and drifting. Can you assist? “Yes, we will clear the decks. Please call Debbie and Bruce as crew.

The crew arrived and we set off. Despite rough sea conditions (to be expectedwith a North Wester blowing) VMR1 made good time. The adults on board asked if their four children could be transferred to VMR1. “Do they all have life jackets?” The answer was “yes”. My crew set about securing the vessel for the transfer. Everything looked good. “Ok Paul, transfer each child one at a time directly to the cabin.” Meanwhile, Debbie and Bruce had prepared the tow line.

It was a rough trip back. Debbie had more than she signed on for with some ofthe children needing sick bags. I happily remained on the bridge. 13:35 we were in the marina and transferring the children, before the parents could escape. 😂

By 14:10 we were back in our berth, refueled, washed down and ready for the next activation. The smiles on the faces of everyone is our great reward.
Thank you to the crew, in trying conditions.

Senior crew: Paul Martin had his hands full explaining our procedures. 
Comms : Debbie Simpson did a great job.
Crew : Bruce Dahl…..  took the pressure 
Skipper : Ken Bryce….. Chilled on the bridge 

Activation 12/4/21: Assist catamaran with mast down

It was 11:00 Monday morning, and I ( Ken ) was just heading to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for a routine check when the emergency tone rang on my phone. It was Bill Harrison our dedicated 24 hour emergency phone holder. ” We have a catamaran that has lost its mast, 2 pob, can you assist?” “I am on my way“. I replied. We had a brief discussion re crew experience.

When I arrived at VMR1, Bill Hopton was already carrying out the start up procedures and the Police Rib pulled along side to advise that they would go ahead to try and locate the stricken vessel as the position was sketchy. We departed into a sea up with the North Westerly conditions. All of the crew had been out in these conditions many times, with the exception of one trainee, so I was confident that whatever arose, we could handle it.

The Police vessel called us to report that they had located the stricken vessel and the 2 Pob on board were OK. We also had a visual on Radar and AIS. Fantastic latest technology…thankyou to our sponsors. We were soon alongside in very boisterous conditions. The Police had updated us with regard to the Mast and rigging in the water so I decided to send the tender with Ron and Paul to investigate the situation, as VMR 1 could be in a very dangerous position with rigging wire submerged.

The report came back that approximately one third of the mast and rigging wire sails etc. were under the stricken vessel. Ron, Paul and the owner did their best to secure everything so we could tow the vessel to a more sheltered position. Hopefully, without snagging on an under water obstruction. In the meantime a towing bridle was rigged and the tow line was ferried by the tender. The crew were then retrieved. The Police vessel, seeing that we had the situation well in hand, returned to base. Thank you guys.

By 12:40 we were on our way towards Pioneer Point. It was very slow going in these conditions with the sailing rig dragging along behind. Unfortunately Pioneer Point is also a high traffic area and I was constantly manoeuvring the vessel and broad casting Securite messages to advise the traffic that we required a no wash situation. Interesting to observe how many vessels either do not have a VHF radio or do not listen to The Emergency frequency! Two sailing vessels apparently didn’t understand the towing signal flag or the five blasts on the horn and they proceeded straight at us. I had to slow VMR1 while our deck crew heaved in the towline behind us to let them pass ahead of us.

Mean while Ron and Paul had managed via various means, to raise the rig and wire so that the vessel could proceed to their anchorage, more safely. We cast them free, retrieved the very wet and tired crew and followed them to their anchorage. By 16:45 we were refuelled washed down and debriefed, ready for home.

Many thanks to all the crew for their tenacity and vigilance over many hours. I’ll bet they slept well!

Crew: Paul Martin, Bill Hopton, Ron Roberts & David Spiteri
Skipper : Ken Bryce

Activation : 20/4/2021 Medivac from Hamilton Island

Bill Harrison called me (Fin) at 12.30pm. He was looking after the emergency phone and had received a call from QAS asking us if we could do a medivac from Hamilton Island.

The trip was uneventful and the transfer from Hamilton Island was reasonably comfortable and pleasant for all-(the patient, two paramedics and crew).

After returning to base and disembarking our patient and the paramedics, we signed off at 4.00pm. Thanks crew, for your skills and valuable time and to Bill for being there to answer the phone 24/7.

Crew: Shane Newell, Dave Richter and Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 21/04/2021: “You ran out of fuel!”

It is too late to become a member after you had just run out of fuel.

The emergency tone was ringing on my phone. It was Bill Harrison one of our dedicated 24 hour phone holders. 17:20 and I (Ken) was just packing away my tools for the day.

Bill had a call from a non member, who after two and a half hours of waiting for any passer-by to assist him had decided to bite the bullet, call VMR and pay for the tow. It is too late to become a member after you had just run out of fuel. $100 ($80 annual membership plus $20 new member fee) can quickly turn into $400 as a non member. That is a lot of fuel.

So Paul Martin and I set off in Whale Song VMR2, for a relatively short run in flat and beautiful sea conditions. It turned out we were saving a man and two dogs. After coming alongside, Paul completed the paperwork.

With this very substantial tinny in tow we headed for the Whisper Bay boat ramp. 18:30 Our tow was explaining to his mates on other vessels what had happened. “You ran out of fuel!!!!!” Yep a 140hp motor sucks a bit, however not as much as having to pay $400. Will not make that mistake again.

Back to fuel up, wash down in time for dinner 19:20. Thanks Paul, you made my life easy.

Crew: Paul Martin (Snr Crew)
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation 23/04/2021: Late night, 30 knots, rain squalls and a Medivac from Hamilton Island.

Snuggling in under the covers and discussing the need to break out the doona for winter should have given me (Ron) a clue. Yes, the VMR emergency call tone went off, “Yes Bill, I will skipper a medivac from Hamilton Island and yes, I will be putting on extra layers of clothing and a wet-weather jacket.”

Low cloud and showers with gusty winds greeted me as I boarded Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and helped the crew with our pre-departure checks. The Met-eye app told us that it was blowing 30 knots from the ESE at Hamilton Airport and our checks told us that we had a flat battery for some of our instruments.

Not happy news, so checking further we found a circuit breaker which had ‘tripped’ and disconnected the battery from the charger. Phone consultation with our maintenance guru Ken and a run-through of necessary actions already done and to be achieved, had our problem sorted and batteries charging with full instruments guaranteed for our trip tonight, so we set off a little later than hoped, but on the way.

At this point (21.30) so far, in this particular activation VMR had involved 3 shore based volunteers plus 4 boat crew, VTS Hay Point included at least 1 radio operator, Hamilton Island had involved at least 1 paramedic, 1 security plus an Island staff member. We had another paramedic on board VMR1, and we need to count at least 2 members of the Ambulance resource allocations team based in Rockhampton. At least 14 people in this so far and we haven’t left the dock yet, so we aren’t adding in the patient and his possible travel companions.

Sometimes people ask us if the trip across the Whitsunday Passage becomes commonplace, for me, never, and I am always ready to do it again. This night was one of the roughest trips across that I have done in years. Because of the gusty wind, tidal conditions and rain squalls it was total intense concentration for over an hour and a half, with steering to keep a proper course at the necessary 7 knots boat speed requiring rapid steering changes of 30 degrees of rudder angle. I firmly believe that our Noosa-cat 44 in this configuration is the ideal vessel for the conditions we had just experienced. The return journey took over 4 hours this night instead of our usual 2.

Our patient and passengers travelled dry, comfortably and safely.
The volunteer crew of Shane, Bill, and Nick all did a stirling job while getting cold wet and windblown. For us it isn’t just a ferry trip, it is much more of an adventure tour.

With the always necessary refueling, washdown and paperwork completed, I was back at home thinking about that doona by 02.28 Saturday morning.
Thank you team for your time and efforts, well done again.

Until next time, safe boating, from your skipper, Ron.

Crew: Shane Newell, Bill Hopton and Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 24/04/2021: Medivac from Hamilton Island.

Ready to assist 24 hours a day (and night 🙃)

The emergency phone holder Bill Harrison, called me (Fin) at 1.42 am – VMRW was required for a Medivac from Hamilton Island for QAS.

Coral Sea Marina VMR1 left with 1 paramedic and 4 crew on board (Shane, Stewart, Tom and myself) at approx. 2.15 am. We arrived at G arm in Hamo Marina, where the patient and Hamo paramedics were waiting. We immediately loaded the patient and one carer, and started our return to Coral Sea Marina.

On arrival we discharged our patient and the paramedic. We where refuelled, washed down and heading home by approx. 4.45 am.

Crew: Shane Newell, Stewart Scarborough and Thomas Dahmen
Skipper: Fin Forbes