June 2021


Activation 3/6/21: EPIRB set off at the reef.

An EPIRB being set off out at the reef means many people and organisations become involved – including the Police SAR coordinator, Whitsunday VTS, Search and Rescue aircraft, VMRW and even private and commercial vessels that may be able to assist.

This is what happened when VMRW became involved.

It became obvious that this was a simple mechanical breakdown of a 5.5m runabout with 2 fisherman aboard – anchored between Circular Quay Reef and Ross Reef.

So everyone else was stood down at 2pm except VMRW and the Search and Rescue Aircraft which was circling overhead the target vessel until Coral Sea Marina VMR1 arrived. We arrived at the vessel at approx. 3.45pm and took them in tow to return them to their chosen drop off, Port of Airlie. We then returned to CSM where we washed down and refueled and went to our own berth by 7.30 pm.

Highlights of the trip were seeing a couple of whales in the shipping channel (maybe the first for the ‘Whale season’) – and also having the Search and Rescue aircraft above us. The crew also saw the antics of a large Spanish mackerel ‘showing off’ his out of water skills only metres from the boat. Hearing that another vessel at Whitehaven was needing assistance from VMRW and the activation of VMR2 for that job was interesting also.

The crew were superb – Shane (as Comms Officer for the day) was very busy dealing with a range of different people and organisations – especially when communication out there is very difficult – mainly relying on relaying messages through VTS. The other 2 crew (Michel and Bill) shared duties during the 6 hour trip. Thanks guys. We should also remember the crews families, who ‘put up with’ their partners being away for long periods of time with no contact – and having family and meal times etc totally disrupted.

Crew: Shane Newell, Michel del Aguila and Bill Hopton.
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 3/6/21: Assist 30 foot vessel broken down near Whitehaven Beach.

A group of keen volunteers had gathered for the regular Thursday training session, already without Coral Sea Marina VMR1 which was on its way to an EPIRB activation on the outer reef, when 24/7 phone holder Ray fielded a call from Whitsunday VTS – a vessel had broken down at Betty’s Beach, near Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island, and had requested assistance. VMR1 was some hours away, so I (Mal) put my hand up to attend on Whale Song VMR2, with Paul, Debbie and Stewart as crew. We hit the water with Paul on the helm, and set off at 16.45 in the late afternoon for the 23 mile each way trip.

Conditions were a bit lumpy but we held an easy cruise of 20-23 knots, reaching our target vessel in the rapidly fading light by 1800, and Paul soon had us alongside for the paperwork and hook up. It was a heavy power boat, with a large Mercruiser that would not go, and they had lost nearly all battery power as well. By 1815 we were on our way at a sedate 6 knots, it was a hard tow for VMR2 of a vessel that we would have preferred to tow with VMR1, but it handled it well.

Getting them into their berth at Port of Airlie was another matter, a heavy motor boat alongside VMR2 makes manoeuvring interesting to say the least, but after a bit of judicious backing and filling (hard to get to starboard with all that weight on the port side) they were safely on their berth about 2215 and by the time we returned to Coral Sea Marina to refuel, put Whale Song back on its dock and finish the paperwork off it was 2300 before we could head home for a very late meal and a good sleep. Thanks crew, nice job even if it was a slow one that took 6 ¼ hours.

Crew: Paul Martin, Debbie Simpson, Stewart Scarborough
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 3/6/21: 5.8m vessel hits rocks at Pioneer Point.

As the crew were leaving Coral Sea Marina VMR1 (at 7.40 pm) after a long (6 hour) activation to the reef, Ray (Emergency Phone Holder) rang to say we were needed to assist a 5.8m vessel with 2 POB that had hit rocks at Pioneer Point.

So the same crew happily volunteered to go out with this activation too (Thanks again guys). It appears to have become a Police SAR – because the vessel had made contact with the rocks – so we were at times in contact with the Water Police during this activation.

We were at the target vessel by 7.50 pm – and as they described the reason for their predicament – the water went from deep to very shallow, very quickly. We very carefully got as close as we could (the depth gauge showing 0.8m) and then launched the tender to get a rope to them.

Our tender’s motor refused to start – but thankfully the owner of the target vessel had called a mate to also come out and help (in a small tinny). He arrived and took them in tow – so we retrieved our own tender – and ensured the towing and towed vessel were making safe progress – and then proceeded back to our berth in CSM arriving there by 8.40 pm – no refueling or wash down required.

Crew: Shane Newell, Michel del Aguila and Bill Hopton.
Skipper: Fin Forbes.

Activation 4/6/21: Medivac from Daydream Island for 29yo with chest pains

The HELP ringtone went off in half time of the league – 24/7 phone holder Ray had been asked by QAS for us to do a medivac from Daydream Island. “Okay, no problem”, making it two late nights in a row, and it was looking like the Panthers were going down for the first time this year, not that I follow them anyway.

The crew of Bill and Nick had already started getting Coral Sea Marina VMR1 ready. When we had completed the prestarts Nick went up to meet and help the paramedic down, while we moved VMR1 to a more convenient berth for the medivac. With our paramedic on board we departed for the 7 mile trip to Daydream and were tied up there half an hour later. SE 15/20 knots and a dropping tide, not too bad on the way, but another very dark night.

Half an hour later the paramedic had done her assessment and we headed back to Coral Sea Marina, discharging our passengers at 2320 before heading to the fuel berth, then back to our temporary berth for a wash down, paperwork and to secure the boat for the next one – hopefully at a more friendly hour! All finished just before the witching hour of 0000! Thanks Bill and Nick, nice easy one in the middle of the night.

That was medivac #38 for the year to date compared to 12 for the same period last year.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 9/6/21: Join in the search for an overdue vessel off Bowen, 1 pob.

The State of Origin in Townsville had just been going for a short time (about the only time the scores were level!) when I got a call from 24/7 phone holder Ray – we had been tasked to join a search off Bowen for a 68 y.o. male reported overdue in his 4m tinny. I was soon on my way in to meet the crew on what sounded like it was going to be a long night. The crew was in the middle of preparing Coral Sea Marina VMR1 for night time operation – lots of instruments to dim down – while they finished that, I made contact with the Water Police to get more information. All that was known was that the target had not returned from a fishing trip and that his car and trailer were still at the boat ramp. This did not sound good.

We set off at 2050 at a faster than normal cruise of 26-27 knots into a very dark and very cold night (by tropical standards, anyway). Once we had navigated our way through Gloucester Passage into Edgecumbe Bay – a challenging exercise by day, let alone at night with 2 vessels anchored in the narrowest part of the channel – we contacted the Water Police for updated instructions and were asked to go between the harbour and Stone Island and await further instructions.

VMR Bowen had started to search at 1900. We could see that the AMSA Challenger jet Rescue 330 from Cairns was overhead and searching as well. Whitsunday Water Police were on their way from Hamilton Island and VMR Burdekin had also been tasked to assist – this was serious. About half way to our next position we heard 330 calling Rescue Bowen to advise them that they had spotted a tinny at anchor about a mile SW of Middle Island and could they please investigate. There was no movement on the tinny. We quickly plotted the coordinates and saw that we were just over 3.5 miles from that location and closer than Rescue Bowen, so offered to investigate, which was accepted and we quickly made our way to the tinny.

After what seemed like a very long 5 or 6 minutes we could just make out our target on the FLIR and were soon close enough to see into what looked like an empty boat! All sorts of possibilities came to mind – until the man on board woke up and sat up – he had been lying down in the front of the boat, probably trying to keep out of the cold wind and had not heard us approaching. Whew! All sorts of contingency plans had been going through our minds but it seemed he had simply broken down. Without a phone or radio he was unable to contact anybody for assistanc. He was certainly glad to see us. After confirming that he was well and did not require any treatment by a paramedic, we had him in tow back towards Bowen by 2255, rendezvousing with Rescue Bowen inside Stone Island so they could take over the tow and take him back to the ramp.

By 2330 we were on our way back towards Coral Sea Marina, picking our way through the Gloucester Passage again and were alongside the fuel dock by 0115 before moving to our own berth for paperwork, cleaning and shutdown. We were on our way home at 0150 after 4 hours and 70 miles on the water. The Water Police asked us to thank all of the crew for their participation and for a great result. Good stuff, team!

Crew: Shane Newell, Bill Hopton, Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 13/6/21: Another night run. Medivac Hamilton Island -person injured in a buggy crash.

Another middle of the night medivac to and from Hamilton. Emergency phone holder Ray rang me (Mal) about 2030. A guest on the island had been injured in a buggy crash, requiring transport to Hospital. The paramedic would be meeting us at 2130. The crew were there in plenty of time. While David went up to meet the paramedic and assist her to get her gear down to the boat, we moved Coral Sea Marina VMR1 around to the main jetty to make it easier for them. We were underway at 2150, another very dark night with a light SE wind and a little wind against tide chop.

As we neared Unsafe Passage it was starting to rain, so after checking the BOM radar we altered course to go between South Molle and Long Island to try and miss the rain and that worked for us.

2240 saw us tied up at Hamilton. 10 minutes later we were on our way back with the patient and his friend and were back in the marina by 2345 to discharge our passengers. Then off to the fuel dock and back to our berth. By 0030 we were done and on the way home to bed. A pretty straightforward activation, nice and easy on the crew.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Shane Newell, David Spiteri
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 14/6/21: Drifting tinny, 2 POB

It was 12:45 when my (Ken) phone was ringing. Roger our twenty four hour phone holder was on the line. “We have a 6 metre Tinny drifting about 7 miles north of Hayman Island and about 22 miles from Airlie Beach”. “Ok, I am on my way”.

On arrival at Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 Bill Hopton was completing the pre start. He was soon joined by Shane and Tony.

“Ok, we are off”. The Lat Long position our target had given us was perfect. He was a member. That is always good. The paper work was completed by Shane. Bill and Tony had set up the tow line and all was ready for the tow.

The conditions were great. We were towing at 19 knots very easy. By 15:45 we were dropping our tow at the public boat ramp. They were very happy to be home. Although they had not caught any fish.

Back to our berth, a quick clean up and off home at 16:15. What a great day, rescuing 2 people and returning them to their loved ones.

It makes it easy for us when you give us an accurate location. Thankyou, you helped us help you.

Great effort by the Crew.

Crew: Shane Newell, Bill Hopton, Tony Bell
Skipper : Ken Bryce


Activation 19/6/21: Assist a 5m vessel broken down at Whitehaven Beach

I (Mal) was called by David at the radio base about 1020 – a request for assistance had been relayed by another vessel for a 5 m tinny broken down at Whitehaven. It was a cold but nice day, with SE winds of 15-20 knots and reasonable seas, so I decided that this was a job well within the capabilities of Whale Song VMR2, and it would leave Coral Sea Marina VMR1 available for any other jobs. David put a crew together while I made my way in, to find Ken and Paul doing maintenance on the boat. That had to take a back seat, as Shane, Paul and I got her ready to hit the water.

A quick check on the conditions at Hamilton showed SSE 13-17 knots as we departed with Paul on the helm. All good, until we got to the Molle Channel and Whitsunday Passage where we had winds more in the 20-25 knot range, making for a bit of a bouncy trip until we got through Hook Passage and the wind had dropped back to 15-20, making for a much better ride the rest of the way to Whitehaven. We found our target at 1230 anchored in shallow water, nosed in to pull them out to deeper water to do the paperwork (unfortunately he had not renewed his membership last year!), and get the tow line organised before starting back at 1245. There were two people in the tinny with lots of camping gear for their overnight on the beach, but VMR2 had no problem getting them on the plane for a return journey at 16-18 knots, to Port of Airlie. The wind behaved itself on the way back, much lighter than the way out.

We took them alongside outside the channel markers and made our way to the pontoon by the ramp. After a little delay waiting for other boats to clear the pontoon, we had them alongside at 1430 before making our way back to CSM to refuel, clean and secure VMR2, and finish the paperwork before heading home around 1525. Thanks to Paul and Shane for a nice professional job.

PS the call to use VMR2 was spot on as VMR1 was activated for a medivac from Hamilton Island (wow, in the daytime!😀) while we were on our way back.

Crew: Paul Martin, Shane Newell
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 19/6/21: Medivac from Hamilton Island (daylight hours)😎

It was Saturday afternoon around 14:10 when my (Ken) emergency phone was ringing. It was Dewi from the radio base. We have a medivac can you assist? “Yes, I am on my way”.

By 14:20 the crew and paramedic were on board commencing the pre start procedures. Coral Sea Marina VMR1 then departed for Hamilton Island.
A medivac in day light hours, this is different. Well babies do not stick to any schedule.

The sea was moderately rough for the trip with the South Easter blowing. We arrived at Hamilton Island at 15:35 The paramedic, along with the parents to be, were there ready to go. 15:40 we departed Hamo heading for Coral Sea Marina.

VMR1 was now surfing along with the wind astern, the ride was now more comfortable. 17:06 saw us at dock where the ambulance was ready and waiting. Everyone was smiling and happy to be on the mainland. The VMR crew were thanked for their prompt attention. Well done crew.

Crew: Michel del Aguila and Stewart Scarborough
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 21/6/21: Medivac from Hayman Island and sighting HMAS Brisbane.

At around 7.50pm last night, QAS made a request to VMRW to assist them in bringing a young person with an ankle injury from Hayman Island back to the mainland for treatment.

The experienced crew of Ken and Bill made the trip a routine ‘out and back’ event on Coral Sea Marina VMR1. Their skills make the ‘job’ look easy – thanks again Lads. One Paramedic also accompanied us.

The highlight of the trip was having the 147m (482 ft), 7000 tonne, Australian Navy guided missile Destroyer ‘HMAS Brisbane’ cross our path, at a distance of approx. 1nm, in the Whitsunday Passage.– Visually we could only see 3 of its running lights – so it was mainly observed using instruments (Radar etc.).

The total time on the activation was approx. 2 ½ hours (from 8.30 to 11pm)

Crew: Ken Bryce, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 23/6/21: Medivac to Hamilton Island.

It was 17:20 Wednesday when my emergency phone was ringing.
Roger one of our dedicated 24 hour phone holders was on the line.
“We have a medivac from Hamilton Island”. “Ok, I (Ken) am on my way”.

The pre-start procedures where completed on Coral Sea Marina VMR1.
The paramedic arrived, ably assisted by Michael. With the rest of the crew (Paul and Tony B) now on board, we headed off to Hamilton Island.

The conditions were fresh with a South Easterly blowing. It was going to be a little bumpy in the passage. As we cut through Unsafe Passage we spotted the HMAS Brisbane off to our Port. She certainly cannot pass through here. Now out in the passage conditions were lumpy as expected. We headed for Fitzalan passage for a smoother run.

By 18:45 we were docked in Hamilton island. Tony, as comms officer had called ahead to alert the paramedic and security of our pending arrival.
18:50 with everyone on board we were ready to depart.

Back out in the passage, this time with the sea on our port beam. I decided to return to Coral Sea Marina via the Molle Channel. Out of the very black wet night we saw Navigation lights dead ahead. It was the 147 metre Destroyer HMAS Brisbane. A slight alteration of our course to starboard as we flashed past each other. Brisbane doing 17 knots and VMR 1 at 22.9 knots. We could just imagine the bee hive of activity on board the Brisbane.

19:50 we were along side in Coral Sea Marina, paramedic, patient and family disembarked and safely off to hospital. While Michael helped the paramedic up the ramp we took the opportunity to refuel. Then back to our berth washing down, completing the paper work and close down procedures.

Well done to the crew. A great job.

Crew: Paul Martin, Tony Bell, Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 23/6/21: Medivac from Hamilton for patient with appendicitis (our 2nd medivac of the night)

I had just got home at 2100 after dinner at a friend’s house when phone holder Roger set off the Help ringtone – we had been asked by QAS to do a medivac from Hamilton Island for a patient with appendicitis, and that is something that can turn nasty if not treated promptly. We moved Coral Sea Marina VMR1 around to pick up our paramedic from L arm, and set off for Hamilton at 2145 into a 15.20 knot SE wind and approaching a very big tide of 4.08 m at 2215. There was a bit of a chop on the way across, but nothing untoward, and an hour later we were tied up at our now very familiar berth.

10 minutes or so later we were under way with Shane on the helm, after boarding our patient (obviously in some pain and discomfort) and her mother, and helped them and the paramedic off VMR1 back at Coral Sea Marina at 2355 before moving to the fuel dock to top up before going to our own berth for the usual wash down and paperwork. We were on our way home by 0030 for some well-earned rest – a good job by the crew as usual.

Crew: Shane Newell, Bill Hopton, David Spiteri
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 24/6/21: Investigate reported flare sighting NE of Hamilton Island

I knew I should have gone to bed earlier than 1030 after getting to bed around 0200 the previous night, following a middle of the night Medivac. This time it was for a Police instigated search following a reported flare sighting on the southern end of Whitsunday Island, between Hamilton Island and Craig Point. By 2320 the 24/7 phone holder Roger had organised a crew, and after the usual startup checklist and dimming of all instruments (there are a few!) we set off just after the top of the 4.15 metre tide, with a few bumps in the Passage thanks to the 15-20 knot E/SE wind, but nothing untoward. Visibility was excellent under a full moon.

An hour later as we cleared Fitzalan Passage we commenced our search along the shore line and to sea on the other side, using our searchlights and FLIR. After going close to shore in Turtle Bay we could see a yacht at anchor, but with no obvious signs of distress we moved on. There was another vessel close inshore to the east, but again all looked normal. When we cleared Craig Point we went out towards Surprise Rock, and in the distance we could see a vessel with a lot of lights, and anchor lights of a smaller vessel close to it, but they were both a long way away to the SE and not showing any signs of distress.

We were able to report to the Police SAR coordinator in Mackay, and it was decided that we should call it a night, so Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was headed for home at 0050. By 0145 we were at the fuel dock helped by the strong outgoing tide, and we then moved to our own berth for the usual shutdown, stepping off just before 0230. Good work by the crew, good practice for the real thing when it comes around. It did not take long to fall asleep when I got home!

Crew: Michel del Aguila, David Spiteri, Alan Curtis.
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 26/6/21: Medivac to Hamilton Island

It was 03:10 Saturday morning when my emergency phone was calling me (Ken) from my most pleasant sleep. Now, the crew and I have to take Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 on this emergency where ever it is.

On my way to the vessel I was thinking. The twenty four hour emergency phone holder may well have been woken several times during the night and the questions have not yet all been answered. So having thought this out, I just carried on being thankful that I was only called upon once, this night.

It was Roger on the emergency phone. We have a medivac from Hamilton Island. “Ok I am on my way bleary-eyed”. With the crew on board VMR 1 we headed for the pickup point for the paramedic. We then departed for Hamilton Island in probably the best conditions I have seen for some time. The moon was bright and beautiful, lighting our path. The sea was very slight. What a pleasure to be out here. With Shane on the helm we entered Hamilton at 04:20.

The patient and family were soon on board and settled for the trip.
We departed with Shane once again on the helm for our return trip via the Molle channel. Smooth conditions saw us in Coral Sea Marina at 05:35.
Paramedic and patient off to the waiting ambulance.

We were soon washed down, paper work complete and ready for breakfast.
Michel, picked up croissants for his breakfast.

Well done to the crew. Nice and easy is how we like it.

Senior Crew: Michel del Aguila & Shane Newell
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 26/6/21: Assist broken down tinny opposite Northerlies.

We had just loaded Whale Song VMR 2 on her trailer. She was packed up ready to go on show at the Proserpine markets the next morning. I (Ken), was standing in Whalesong VMR2 when my emergency phone was ringing. It was Bernard at our radio Base with an activation. “We have a 4.5 metre tinny broken down opposite Northerlies”. Well the ideal vessel for us to use would have been the one I was standing in, but…. Saturday afternoon trailers and boats everywhere. Parking and launching difficulties. Who knows what time we may return. Activations that seem simple have a habit of taking far longer than expected. Usually due to incorrect position supplied by their owners.

We departed CSM in Coral Sea Marina VMR 1. I had Shane and Bill as crew. Did I mention opposite Northerlies? Well, how about Bluff point. We were headed in the direction of Northerlies when one of our off duty crew members, Stewart called to ask what we were searching for. Lucky for the two POB, he had spotted them – the only vessel that could be seen was at Bluff point. Stewart also offered to assist with the rescue as the target vessel was on the rocks.

17:55 we arrived to find the vessel on the rocks with 2 POB standing next to it. Stewart and Shane proceeded to tow all off the rocks and proceed to deeper water where VMR 1 was waiting. We took the vessel in tow and had the occupants put on their life jackets and headed back to the boat ramp in Coral Sea Marina. Bill offered to take the owner and crew to Whisper Bay as their trailer was there. With the low tide VMR 1 could not go there.

Thankyou to the crew Shane and Bill. And also for off duty crew, Stewart. Always ready to assist. Great job.

Crew: Shane Newell, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Ken Bryce