March 2021


Activation 3/3/21: Medivac for a small child in distress

It was 22.30 and I had just climbed into bed when Ray from VMR rang me (Ron)…”We have an 18 month old child who needs a medivac from Hamilton Island. Can you do the call-out?” “I’ll put a shirt on and I’m on my way,” I replied.

By 23.00 and with winds 20knots gusting to 25 from the South/East, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was rounding Pioneer Point with our crew and a Paramedic on board. It had stopped raining and a rising moon broke through the cloud as we headed into a lumpy sea towards Hammo. Our medico had advised that it was not a dire emergency, so we opted for the slightly longer, but considerably flatter trip through Un-Safe Passage.

It was right on midnight when we tied up alongside the berth in Hamilton Island Marina and prepared for our young patient to arrive. The Paramedic asked us to try and keep the trip home as smooth as possible, so with Mum, Dad and our small patient aboard, we departed Hamilton Island and headed for home.

It seems this one was by the numbers as once we were docked and all passengers ashore, our usual routine followed with the move across to re-fuel, then back to our berth for a wash-down and paperwork. All finished by 01.35…..and then back to bed!

Crew: Shane Newell, Michel del Aguila and Jeramie Scarborough
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 6/3/21: Assist a 5.5m runabout at North Whitehaven

It was Saturday afternoon, and I (Ken) had a call from Lee in the radio room. “There is a 5.5 metre runabout with 2 adults and 1 child on board, at North Whitehaven.” “Ok, I am on my way.” We had a brief discussion on the crew which I left Lee to organise.

I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 to find Shane N explaining the tasks and start up procedures to our trainees Bruce and Debbie. We were soon ready to depart. Senior Crew Member Paul had the crew cast off our lines and we were on the way to our target vessel. Paul then took over the helm for the remainder of the trip.

Our target vessel’s VHF radio was not working, and they were also out of mobile phone range. Lucky for them a nearby vessel was able to call the VMR base and so organise this rescue. The wind was 20 knots from the North making for a lumpy sea…but VMR1 revels in these conditions. 😀

As we approached the position given, we received a call from a vessel who had commenced towing our target vessel, and shortly we were along side. Shane commenced the paper work, while Paul supervised Debbie and Bruce setting up the tow line. Our target vessel wanted to go to Port of Airlie boat ramp and I suggested they could come on board VMR1 if they wished. Either way they were to put on life jackets.

It was nearly 4pm when we dropped the rescued and very thankful crew on the dock. Unfortunately they were not members. As we are often told, they had meant to join but ‘hadn’t gotten around to it yet’. So….what might have been a small investment in VMR membership, instead turned into approximately $1000 being a non member.

My thanks to the crew & the radio officer – you make my life easy.

Crew: Paul Martin, Shane Newell, Debbie Simpson & Bruce Dahl
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation 12/3/21: It pays to be a member…and some people agree!

Mick Arkwright definitely agrees. After rescuing him when things went wrong on a recent outing, he sent us this lovely message: “I’d like to thank you all for your efforts yesterday. The rescue was highly professional and clinical. The crew were extremely reassuring and communicative the entire time, the cheeky buggers in the end wouldn’t even accept an extremely cold beer for their efforts! 😁

All in all I’m extremely impressed with the VMR outfit, the volunteers are just so dedicated and the end product is great to watch. So thanks again.”

So what happened?

It was 12:30 and the emergency tone was ringing on my phone. It was Ray Lewis , one of our 24hr. phone operators. “We have a member broken down near Hannah point in a 7 metre power vessel, 1 POB.”

Ok, I am on my way”, I (Ken) replied, “We will take Whale Song VMR 2 so could you please organise two additional crew.

On arrival at the marina I met up with David Richter who was going to be crew member number one, and I told him that I had just seen Ray in his ‘hi-vis VMR shirt’ so I guessed that Ray had decided to be the second crew member. David had the start-up procedures under way when Ray arrived.

We departed Coral Sea Marina at 13:10 en route to Hannah Point. Our target vessel had given Ray a Lat/ Long which David plotted on the Furuno. We were at the point, looking all around with no vessel near by. Ray called the owner on his mobile as his VHF was not working.

“Sir please ensure that you are not giving us your cursor position.” Ah! new position. 😁 This time it was way to the West, some miles away. David plotted this new position and we were on our way. By 13:42 we were along side the stricken vessel, preliminary paper work was completed by David and Ray and I set up the tow line.

Now to see how Whale Song can handle this 7 metre fully stocked with a weeks food, drinks and 200 litres of fuel! Well this vessel was certainly heavy as Whale Song struggled to get above 7 knots. I slowed down and prepared for another attempt. Full throttle, a change of direction and she was now operating in her power band. Soon we were towing at 19 knots and heading for CSM.

What a great job Whale song did. Thanks also to the crew.

Crew: David Richter and Ray Lewis
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Ed’s Note: Mick is a visitor from the Sunshine coast, and he was very happy that he had membership with VMR Whitsunday which he only took out a week ago. This would have cost him $861 without a membership. Smart move, Mick! 👍

Activation 14/3/21: Assist 4.5m tinny, 3 pob, broken down, Pig Bay, Eastern Solway Passage

Ray called me (Geoff S) at 18.30 with a possible SAR (Search and Rescue). The Townsville police had received a 000 call from a small vessel with poor phone reception. They were broken down and said they were near Pig Bay, Whitehaven Beach and Chalkies. Okaaay….may need a couple more eyes for this one!

With 4 crew onboard Coral Sea Marina VMR1, we left into a light E.N Easter and a very dark night. We had a relatively uneventful ride and Ray was able to contact the target as we were passing Fitzalan Island. They gave us a definite position of Pig Bay and sure enough that’s where they were when we arrived at 20.20.

They were anchored adjacent the reef drop off on the Northern side of Teague Island so we puttered in head first, gave them a short line, then towed them backwards into Solway Passage to do the paperwork. We left the skipper on the tinny to monitor the tow and with the other 2 crew on board VMR1 we were off to Hammo. We put them alongside us, outside the leads, and dropped them off at the employees’ finger at 21.30.

We had an easy run home, although it was still very black, and were back at the CSM fuel dock at 22.30 for 290L, then into the pen for a wash down and tidy up. Thanks to a great crew and the weather Gods.

Crew: Shane Newell, Michel del Aguila, Nick Beecroft, Ray Lewis (Comms)
Skipper: Geoff Smith

Activation 16/3/21: Broken down vessel requiring tow to port

It was 1409 hours and I (Marti) heard that blessed VMR ringtone coming from my phone. I answered, and talked with Ray, our 24/7 phone holder. He explained that he had received a job to retrieve a broken down 6.6m power vessel around the Pioneer Rocks, and could I do it? Sure….no worries. With 3 POB, wind E at 12 kn and a short distance from home, I elected to take VMR2 for this exercise, so with that plan Ray organised 2 crew only.

Arriving at Coral Sea Marina I was greeted in the carpark by Deb and Bruce. Dockside (after sorting my access card) we launched Whale Song VMR2 and were underway at 1502 hours. Bruce entered the waypoint provided by the client onto the plotter while Deb steered a course for Pioneer Rocks.

The waypoint location was beyond Pioneer Rocks and more between Almora Islet and Hannah Point, so we continued past Pioneer to look for the target vessel. With an outgoing tide and a easterly wind we all agreed in this water the vessel would be drifting roughly north. We called our client via mobile and he confirmed that he had drifted north north west and was about 2 miles north of Pioneer Rocks.

Looking at the Marine Traffic snapshot of our track it looks like the vessel had drifted roughly 2.5 miles in a space of an hour. All good though, and we turned and made our way to the vessel, came alongside and carried out the paperwork. With that done we took the vessel into tow heading for Port of Airlie Marina. At just under 20 knots we were at the channel to POA in 15 minutes, it then took us another 15 minutes to raft up and get to the marina via the channel.

Without incident we discharged the vessel to its marina berth, bade farewell and travelled back to CSM where we refuelled, washed down, flushed the engines and completed the vessel log.

Crew: Deb Simpson and Bruce Dahl
Skipper: Marti Davy

Activation 19/3/21: Out in the weather for a middle of the night medivac

When the phone woke me (Ron) at 01.22, I knew 2 things immediately. Firstly that it was Ray from VMR because he is the only person who rings me at 01.22 and secondly, that it was raining (I almost couldn’t hear Ray because of the noise the frogs were making! Ray said “We have a Medivac from Hamilton Island, can you skipper?” “Sure” I said, “I’ll get dressed and I’m on my way.” I took the time to grab my wet weather jacket as I went out to the car.

With pre-starts done and crew and Paramedic on board, we departed on Coral Sea Marina VMR 1. It was a pitch black night and fully persisting down from a great height, with visibility reduced to metres. Steering from the open flybridge and using the Flir and radar simultaneously was what had to be.

This could have been a cold, wet, miserable trip but with Bill H. and his sense of humor up top with me watching the ‘forward looking infrared’ and a temperature around the 25 degrees celsius, the trip was only wet…very wet. A big bonus was very flat water, thank you very much. After the standard 1 hour journey to Hamilton Island we got our passenger settled and comfortable on board then set off for a slightly less damp return trip of about the same duration.

Once we were berthed at CSM our passenger and Paramedic went on their way and we crossed to refuel at the fuel dock, then returned to berth for paperwork and tidy up. Mother Nature continued the washdown so we left her to it as we headed to our respective beds at around 04.30. Great work from our crew.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Michel del Aguila and Ray Lewis
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 19/3/2021: A wet run to Hammo

Ray called me (Geoff F) at 12:15, “could I do a medivac from Hammo?”. “OK, I’m on my way”. I arrived at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 12:45 and found the crew busy with prestarts. Unfortunately, Ken our maintenance guru was on the vessel setting up the camera system, when asked nicely he packed up and asked us to ring him on our return, so he could complete the job.

Our Ambo arrived and we left Coral Sea Marina at 1300 for a comfortable ride to Hammo. Calm seas, top of the tide, great conditions until we rounded South Molle when we were hit with “a bit of rain” This made us stop and zip up the clears. This increased the time required for navigation due to reduced visibility. Radar, GPS, Flir, and a good old look out of the side clears were needed to see where we were going!

The rain cleared as we approached Hammo. When heading into our usual pick-up point, a large vessel was maneuvering into the fuel wharf. The marina office called us on ch16 and asked to hold back until he was moored. After the vessel had moored we tied up to our usual pontoon and picked up our patient, this was complicated by the need to transfer the patient onto VMR1 using the backboard and then on to our stretcher.

We left Hammo at 14:24 and had a trouble-free return to CSM. The patient was carefully transferred from VMR via our backboard with assistance from the Hayman Ferry crew (Thanks Guys!!) to the ambos stretcher. We did not refuel as Ken and the electrician wanted to complete their task.

Crew: Paul Martin, Terry Clarke, Deb Simpson and Bruce Dahl
Skipper: Geoff Fitzsimmons

Activation 21/3/21: – Hayman Medivac

The Radio Room called at 12.45 with a Hayman Medivac. Nice and straightforward so a good opportunity to let the trainees have a run.

Everyone arrived promptly so we got away at 13.20 into a nasty NE chop, dead on the bow. After an uncomfortable trip we got to Hayman at 14.14 and we entered the marina and went into a berth while Bill and our Paramedic continued trying to raise someone to bring our Patient to us.

The on-Island Paramedic arrived with a young chap, our patient, coming along behind him. Shortly afterward and with the patient now in the care of our Paramedic we got away at 14.25. After waiting for the Hayman to Airlie ferry to depart and after a much more comfortable ride home with the following sea we arrived at Coral Sea Marina just after the ferry – but if QAS are satisfied that a medivac is needed along with an onboard Paramedic, that is what we do.

A few seconds after docking, our passengers departed, and we went to the fuel dock, then back for a wash down and paperwork at 15.35.

Thanks Guys, VMR values your efforts and respects the inconveniences you willingly undertake to help others.

Crew: Shane Newell Snr Crew, Bill Hopton Comms, Tony Bell, Stuart Scarborough, David Spiteri

Skipper: Geoff Smith.

Activation 20/3/21 An Interesting Rescue in Trying Conditions.

Around 19:15 my emergency phone was ringing. It was Ray, our emergency phone holder “We have a vessel drifting at 20-08.559S 148-50.144E, with 4 POB, a 6.6 metre White Poly craft.

The crew were quickly assembled and we departed Coral Sea Marina at 19:40. This was going to be a rough trip as the wind was increasing and the sea conditions were rapidly deteriorating. Rain was coming down in sheets as it swept across us. In this complete blackness we ploughed on heading for our target vessel. Navigation was entirely via our radar and plotter as the visibility was zero.

A small break in the rain and at last I had a visual on a light in the position we were given. The light kept disappearing as the squalls swept through. A second later a very bright red light appeared slightly off my port bow. I immediately turned to starboard and then again to put some distance between us. As we flashed by there was nothing to be seen in the total black. The red light was gone, just nothing.

We could no longer see our target vessel’s lights as the conditions had further deteriorated. I slowed, as we waited for a glimpse. “There they are”, was the shout, they had turned on a lot of canopy lights. Due to the sea state rafting up was completely out of the question. Their vessel was beam on to the sea and was being tossed sideways by the sea. It was now 20:15.

The first job for the crew was to remove the fish that had appeared on deck then Bill organised the heaving line which was caught by a damsel clad in clothing which was a little inappropriate for the weather conditions. The skipper of the vessel was seen to be laying on the flat of his back dressed only in shorts. The other male crew was (eventually) passed the tow line and progress was being made. Michele was trying with difficulty due to the wind noise, to explain where the tow hook should be placed. Bill was telling everyone to put on a life jacket. At last, we were ready to tow at 20:30.  8.5 knots was all the sea conditions would allow.

The wind was now around 35 to 40 knots and the continuous rainsqualls swept over us. 22:00 saw us arrive outside CSM to bring the vessel alongside. All bar the skipper were now lined up to jump aboard the more stable Coral Sea Marina VMR1 as the return tow had been a bit rough. Firstly, let us make sure all the necessary paperwork is complete. David S was given this job. After the paperwork was completed, we moved to the public boat ramp where we left the vessel and returned to our berth to drop off our passengers.

Finally, now to refuel, clean up and head for home. 

What a mission!

Thank you to the team under difficult circumstances.

Crew: Senior Michele Del Aguila, Comms Crew Bill Hopton, Trainee crew David Spiteri
Skipper: Ken Bryce

Activation 23/3/2021 A Trouble-Free Medivac Hamilton Island

At 01.49 this morning, I said Yes into the phone before I had woken up. From the ring tone it had to be Ray at VMR with an emergency call. Coffee in hand and uniform on I jumped in the car and drove into a very dark and quite moist morning headed for Coral Sea Marina/Resort and VMR1.

With crew and Paramedic on board we left the berth and found a smooth, dark and damp trip on the way to Hamilton Island Marina. The very unwell staff member and her traveling companion settled on board, and we were off on the return leg to our berth for the waiting stretcher, then a refuel and washdown while we completed the paperwork.

No surprises tonight, and the crew and I were headed home to our beds by 05.00.
Thanks to our volunteer crew, for another job well done.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Nick Beecroft and Ray Lewis
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 23 Mar 2021 Vessel Breakdown

My neighbourhood friend, Ron calls me this morning to say, “I’m out in the boat but I can’t get the engine restarted!”. Do you think I should call VMR for assistance, he asked? Of course, that’s why you are a member, just for when this sort of thing happens. Call VMR and make a request. He said, yes you are right that’s what it’s for, I’ll try to get her started one more time and if no success I’ll call VMR. Right you are Ron, good thinking.

I called VMR with Ray answering just to give him the heads up there maybe call for assistance and tow to Shute harbour from South Molle island. Sure enough I get a call few minutes later with Ray at 0827 hours confirming a request for assistance from my neighbour. Knowing the vessel we will be recovering, a 4.8m tinny and looking at the weather conditions, this is a job for Whale Song VMR2

Arriving dockside at 0845 hours, I find Dave and Mal getting VMR2 ready for launching. And with the paperwork sorted, launched and VTS notified we were on our way out of the Coral Sea Marina in Whale Song VMR2 at 0900 hours.

Dave took the helm on the trip out and having contacted our clients once again I confirmed with him his location. North East of Roma Point tucked in a small bay at position 20 17.06, 148 49.91.
At 0930 hours we rounded Roma Point and spotted our boat and proceeded to come along side to get the paperwork sorted.

At 0945 hours we had our boat in tow headed for Shute Harbour and had our client despatched at Grubby Bay at 1010 hours where there is a temporary boat ramp. Said our goodbyes and whizzed back to CSM at 23.5 knots @ 4200 revs.

Back at the marina, we refuelled, washed VMR2 down ready for the next activation, completed the paperwork and notified VTS and base we had returned.

A very pleasant morning out on the water. Dave did a great job in doing the Comms as well as being the one crew.

Crew: Dave Richter
Skipper: Marti Davy

ACTIVATION 27/3/21: Standard, textbook medivac to Hammo

I (Ron)heard the phone ringing somewhere in the back of my consciousness. A glance at the clock said it was 02.00 and of course the phone was blaring away with VMR emergency ring tone….nobody else rings me in the wee small hours!

I wasn’t feeling that conversational but managed to get out “Yes, I will skipper a medivac to Hamilton Island.” The sound of the rain on the room made me grab clothing for wet and windy conditions, and then I headed quickly to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and the waiting crew.

With all pre-departure checks done and a Paramedic aboard we set off at 02.35. Low tide and light winds made for a quick trip and a walk-on patient allowed us a fast turn-around followed by a smooth return journey.

With our patient safely ashore and in the ambulance, I moved to the fuel berth for a top up and then returned to our berth for paperwork and a washdown. We were off the boat by 04.50 and then it was home for some more sleep!

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Shane Norton, and Bill Hopton
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 29/03/2021 Medivac for a patient with anaphylactic shock, Hayman Island

24/7 phone holder Ray called just on 2130 – we had been tasked by QAS to conduct a medivac from Hayman Island for a patient showing anaphylactic symptoms. I made my way in while Ray put together the rest of the crew, but we had to wait for the paramedics to get back from Proserpine, must have been a busy night for them.

With our two paramedics on board, Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was underway at 2245 into an E/SE wind gusting 23-25 knots at Hamilton, but we were lucky that it was the top of the tide and we had just a moderate chop to contend with, under a very bright moon. Taking a slightly longer route via Pioneer Rocks before we bore away with a better angle on the waves, we made our way to Hayman at 22-23 knots, coming alongside at the marina around 2330. 10 minutes later we were underway again, using the lee of Hook Island for a while until we bore away to head for home running more or less across and down the chop.

After disembarking our patient and the paramedics and helping them to the waiting ambulance around 0040, we moved to the fuel dock to top up, then back to our berth for the wash down and completion of paperwork, securing the boat and stepping off at 0100.  Thanks to the crew for another dedicated and professional activation in the middle of the night.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Bill Hopton, Jeramie Scarborough
Skipper: Mal Priday

Activation 29/03/2021 Yacht with engine problems at Grimston Point

At 11:35 Ray, the 24/7 phone holder notified us of a 49-foot yacht having problems with their motor just North East of Grimston Point. Fortunately, the owner was a member of VMR and had contacted the 24-hour phone holder for assistance. WE prepared Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and departed at 12:08. The trip over was uneventful and our target yacht was where they said they were. The sea was a bit too rough for rafting up so a heaving line and monkey’s fist was used to get the tow line to the stricken vessel.

The return trip was a little slower at 6 knots due to the size and shape of the recovered yacht but we were outside of Coral Sea Marina in good time. The next tricky manoeuvre was to position VMR1 next to the yacht so we could raft up and guide her back into the marina.

With everything secured, Paul carefully steered the two vessels back into the marina which required a lot of concentration as the wind was still quite strong and the yacht being somewhat bigger and heavier than VMR1 took a little persuasion to go where Paul wanted her to go.

Finally tied up in her berth at 14:20. With the paperwork completed VMR1 was refuelled and washed down ready for the next activation.

Crew: Paul Martin, Nick Beecroft and Bill Hopton
Skipper: Fin Forbes