May 2021


Activation 2/5/2021: Jetski broken down near Mandalay

Paul and I (Ken) were just finishing up moving Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 to her new berth when Judith from the radio base called with a Jet ski with 2 POB broken down near Mandalay.

“Ok, we will take Whalesong VMR 2”. We departed Coral Sea Marina and picked up Ryan along the way at 11:26 and arrived at our target shortly after.

Negotiating the shallows of Mandalay was relatively easy in VMR 2. Just what she was purchased for.

Paperwork was completed by Paul while Ryan set up the tow hook and we were off to Port of Airlie. By the time we had docked, family members had arrived to assist and we departed for CSM.

Thankyou to the crew,

Crew: Paul Martin, Ryan Cunningham.
Skipper: Ken Bryce.

Ed Note: The owner was unaware of the need to shut off his Ski’s water intake before commencing the tow.

Jetskis are different to standard boats in that they have a water intake at the front and we have been advised that damage may be caused by towing for some makes and models. We suggest that you check your operators manual or consult your dealer whether there is a recommended procedure to be completed before towing commences.

Activation 2/5/2021: Medivac from Hayman Island

Well this is different, daylight when my emergency VMR tone rings out from my mobile. Neil at our radio base asks if I (Ron) can do a medivac from Hayman Island. “Of course” I said as I put the empty shopping bags back in the car and reverse out of the Coles carpark.

This time I beat the crew to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and have some prestart checks done before they arrive. Then with our paramedic aboard we set out across Molle and Whitsunday Passages on a Southerly flowing tide and a stiff South-Easterly breeze. This gave us quite lumpy seas and made planning for our return journey important in regard to our patients comfort.

It was great to see the Marina at Hayman Island busy and full as we arrived and went astern into our temporary berth allocation.

Our patient pickup went well and after a brief wait while a high speed ferry departed, we were soon on our way back to Coral Sea Marina and our waiting ambulance. We took a longer route home so as to remain in the shelter of Hook Island until we could take the seas on our beam across the open water.

Safely back at our berth after getting our patient on land and doing our usual refuelling, we completed the necessary paperwork, notified base and VTS that VMR1 was ready to go again, and I headed back to do the shopping.

Another job well done by the crew. Thanks gentlemen.
Until next time, safe boating, your skipper, Ron.

Crew: Paul Martin and Shane Newell.
Skipper: Ron Roberts

Activation 3/5/2021: Assist commercial vessel with damaged drive gear

VMRW was asked to assist a 10m commercial vessel that was on a mooring in Hook Passage. It had damaged its drive gear.

We set off in Coral Sea Marina VMR1 with Tony (acting helmsperson), Michel (as Snr Crewperson), Ray (acting as Comms officer- he was also the 24/7 phone holder), Terry (crew) and myself (Fin).

We located the vessel, and towed it back to its mooring in Shute Harbour. We then proceeded back to our own berth in Coral Sea Marina. This took from 4.05pm to 7.05 pm.

Thanks to the crew for giving their valuable time and skills to help another boatie in need.

Crew: Tony Bell, Michel Del Aguila, Ray Lewis, Terry Clarke
Skipper: Fin Forbes

Activation 7/5/21: Breakdown, 3pob, Molle Channel. Early start to an action packed weekend.

We were all meeting at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and Whalesong VMR2 for the SAREX when a phone call came in from the emergency phone holder Bill Harrison. A member was broken down in the Molle Passage off Daydream and drifting with the flooding tide.

It took some time for Bill to convince me (Geoff S) that this wasn’t a joke, or part of the SAREX, it was real. He asked how many crew we wanted and I replied “we already had a boat full; 10 fellas ready for the SAREX”. A quick conference saw the 3 of us heading off and the rest heading off for the dinner at VMR Base.

We arrived at our target in perfect conditions. We rafted up for the paperwork and headed for CSM 10 minutes later. The target wanted to go to Muddy Bay, but the tide was a little iffy. We dropped them at the CSM ramp then back to the pen without re-fuelling or a wash because VMR1 was going out on the evening exercise.

Things change though, don’t they.
VMR2 ended up going to Langford to meet a boat being towed in from North of Hook and VMR1 was tasked to go to just south of Hook Reef. Off we went with Captain Ken in charge this time and a few more crew.
That’s Life.

Crew: Ken Bryce, Shane Newell
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 7/5/2021: Take over tow of 6.6m vessel being towed in from outer reef by another boatie.

What a weekend, but first for today. We were about to head out in the serious stages of the first combined search and rescue exercise with 6 other VMR vessels for the weekend. A call came in that was not part of our training, so Bill H, Michel D. and myself (Ron) swapped boats and out we went. A 6.6 metre vessel with 2pob had broken down near the outer reef, was being towed in by another boaty. Could we take over the tow after meeting up with them inbound around the Narrows between Hayman Island and Northern Hook Island. “Certainly”, said I, so off we went.

A perfect evening with light S/E winds and flat seas showed us what Whalesong VMR2 could do, and within an hour we had our targets in sight. Once we had moved out of the Narrows, VMR2 took over the tow, and with the paperwork done we set off for a swift return to Port of Airlie boat ramp for a drop-off point, then returned to our base at Coral Sea Marina/Resort to washdown, refuel and complete the paperwork so that we were ready for our next activation. Thanks again to Bill and Michel for another job well done.

A WORD OF CAUTION FOR BOATIES. Until the current ‘Blue Water Review’ is complete and finalised, please be aware that membership of one group may not mean you are automatically covered if you are in a different area. Some reciprocal rights agreements are in place at the discretion of individual groups, but it does pay to check before you venture out to sea. You can easily hold memberships in multiple groups simultaneously if you choose. This can be very cheap compared to the cost of a tow from the outer reef.
Until next time, your skipper. Ron.

Crew: Bill Hopton, Michael Del Aguila
Skipper: Ron Roberts



Friday morning, prior to the SAREX in the evening. Shane and I (Ken ) were busy adjusting a few last minute items on Coral Sea Marina VMR 1. We wanted her to be in top condition for SAREX.

The emergency tone was ringing on my phone. It was Bill, the 24 hour phone holder. We have an activation to the reef 48 nautical miles away. This was going to probably make VMR 1 late for the SAREX that had been in the planning for a very long time.

Well, we were saved. Bowen VMR were on route to Airlie Beach for this event. They called to say that they would pick up our member and tow them to Airlie Beach. This was 70 nm out of their way. Thankyou Bowen VMR.

Minutes later the emergency phone was ringing again. It was Bill.
We have a member broken down with engine failure. “Ok, give me the position”. I was hoping that it was not too far away. The position we were given was not exactly high in detail. Ok the sea was flat, we have a good Radar let’s go searching for a Bertram 23 footer.

Shane and I were soon joined by Chris R. and Ryan. We headed out and by 11.40 had located our target, thanks to the keen eyes of our crew.
Paper work all complete, vessel taken in tow. We were off to CSM.

Fantastic, we arrived at CSM placed the target vessel on the pontoon and went to refuel. It was now 13:25 the crew had washed down and prepared VMR 1 for the evening SAREX. Perfect timing just enough time to relax as the crew were to assemble at 16:45 on the dock by VMR 1 and 2.
Thankyou to the crew.

Senior crew: Shane Newell.
Crew: Ryan Cunningham and Chris Reinbott
Skipper: Ken Bryce

The Emergency phone was ringing again. Approx. 16:30 hrs
Geoff S had arrived early, he was busy receiving the details of this new activation.

Having returned to CSM with Geoff on the above activation. My (Ken) emergency phone was ringing once more. 18:10 hrs
It was Bill again. ” We have a member drifting, approximately 35 nm away. A 25 foot Bertram one POB”.

Meanwhile Ron had a crew assembled for an activation on Whalesong VMR2. (Also in a later edition)

Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 and her crew were definitely not going to join with the Visiting Rescue vessels for this evenings SAREX.

We departed CSM. The sea conditions were near perfect. We had been given a good Latitude and Longitude. This should make finding the 25 foot vessel relatively easy. Although he was drifting with the current.

By 20:00 we had a sighting, Don, a Mackay VMR skipper was on the bridge with me. He announced, I see a light. “Well done Don”. Moments later the crew had VMR 1 tied along side our target. With paper work completed, we were off to the Port of Airlie boat ramp. Arriving at 22:25 in very shallow water we deposited our target along side the ramp and headed for Coral Sea Marina. By 23:10 we had refuelled, returned to our pen and headed for home.

We had completely missed the start of the Long awaited Massive SAREX event.

However we had certainly saved another life and this is what we strive to do.

Many thanks to all onboard. Very professional. Makes my job easy.

Senior Crew: Shane Newell
Crew: Geoff Smith, Michael McQueeney
Visiting Mackay skippers: Don Bowden & Emanuel Darmanin
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 8/5/2-21: 6.6m power boat broken down and drifting.

Deep in the middle of our very busy Search and Rescue Exercise, the real world was still going on around us, so came the call at 12.30 on Saturday 8th May, that we were to break of from the training and head for a serious call.

A quick check with a visiting active crew member, Don from Mackay who was on board Whalesong VMR2 with us, and we were okay to go and assist a broken down 6.6m power boat drifting near Blue Pearl Bay at Hayman Island. Pace was our friend on this one, and the perfect weather conditions gave us good reason to exercise some of our vessels attributes. “Yes, she goes quite well, thank you”.

45 minutes saw us pulled up beside our target vessel and paperwork started, followed by an easy tow of the stricken vessel back to his trailer at Port of Airlie.

Mission accomplished, we notified the SAREX coordinator, and within minutes, we were tasked back into the training exercise to retrieve an SES ‘search’ team from a beach on South Molle Island.

Great interaction with our invited crewman Don, and our team of Roger and Michael.
Until next time, your skipper, Ron.

Crew: Roger Wodson, Michael McQueeney, Don Bowden (Mackay)
Skipper: Ron Roberts


Activation 9/5/2021: Breakdown Pioneer Bay. No job too small and the end of a busy weekend.

As SAREX was drawing to a close and we headed for Coral Sea Marina for a refuel, the radio room called with yet another task, a 4.5m tinny has broken down 1nm north of Coral Sea Marina.

As Whalesong VMR2 was already moving, Bill H and myself (Ryan) wasted no time, being on site in literally minutes. The couple on board had travelled all the way from Victoria, to have engine dramas on their first outing. The usual paperwork done and we had soon had them on the finger at the VMR ramp in less than an hour. Finally the refuel and shutdown done, after what had been a big weekend!

Crew: Bill Hopton
Skipper: Ryan Cunningham


Activation 9/5/2021: Medivac sick baby from Hamilton Island

It was Sunday, the third day of our SAREX. What a fantastic Day we were having, after participation in the RACQ CQ helicopter practice by helivac. All Rescue vessels were on the water. Burdekin, Bowen, VMR1, VMR2, Midge Point, VMR Mackay and the Police Vessel Nara.

Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 had just finished two Helicopter exercises with CQ Rescue. What an experience that was.

The exercise was over and we were all heading to the VMR base for a well earned lunch and refreshments. My (Ken) emergency phone was ringing as we arrived in the car park at the base. It was Mal our President. We have an emergency Medivac from Hamilton Island. A nine month old baby was in need of medical assistance. “Ok I will gather crew”. Paul, Shane and Bridgette had just changed out of their wet clothes from the Helicopter exercise. Paul and I ran into the Marine club quickly to see if we could take some lunch with us. Our dedicated band of kitchen helpers soon had our supplies ready and off we went.

12:34 with the Ambulance officer on board, we departed CSM. Conditions were getting bumpy, however, I knew the ride home would be ok as the wind would be astern. As we arrived at Hamilton Island, the family with their baby were on the dock ready to go. The crew were busy loading many cases of luggage.

The ambulance officers had a brief conference and we set off. On route with Paul on the helm, I went below to see that the patient was comfortable. To my surprise the baby was completely at rest and asleep. I asked the paramedic what was happening. “I guess baby really is enjoying the motion”. The family wanted to book VMR 1 for future baby care.
Arriving at 15:15 everyone was off to the waiting Ambulance. The family including Grandmother were extremely thankful for our prompt assistance.

Now for a quick wash down and off to the Base for some refreshments and Comradery. (The end of the SAREX). Not a chance, everyone had departed to their various Squadrons.

Thankyou to our dedicated crew, who put the safety of others ahead of their personal comfort.

Senior: Paul Martin,
Crew: Shane Newell, Bridgette Baker
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 13/5/2021: Rescue families with young children stranded on Hook Island and a Medivac from Hayman Island.

Thursday is VMR training afternoon. It was also the day we had Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 on the hard in Hawkes boat yard. Paul and I (Ken) where doing maintenance when Paul’s emergency phone was ringing. It was Bill asking if he was available for a call out. Paul said “I will just put you onto Ken”. I then explained to Bill that VMR 1 was on the hard for approximately 1 hour.

Fin and additional crew were apparently on their way to the marina.
We decided that I should call Fin explain and come to a solution. Fin and I decided that seeing that I was there and would be launching VMR 1, the quickest way was for me to do the activation.

There was then another emergency call. “Bill again, we have a medivac from Hayman Island, can you combine both”. Yes, we will load the Paramedics, get their permission to go via Hook passage to Hayman.

We had three families with children from 10months upwards stranded on Hook island. Their fathers had made a rather unwise decision of going right inshore on a falling tide. Two vessels, with the fathers, were stuck high and dry for night as it was low tide.

We departed for Hook. On arrival, David took charge of the tender and ferried the stranded mothers and children to VMR 1. Not without difficulty through the reef with the sun exactly in the wrong position. Well done David.

It was good to see that all children had life jackets on as they boarded VMR 1.

We were soon on our way to Hayman.

A fast trip to Hayman to pickup a suspected heart issue patient, who was currently in a stable condition. Hayman Crew were there to greet us. They were very surprised when we called and asked for our berth. They had been looking towards Airlie and we arrived from Hook. Paramedics did their checks and we were off to Coral Sea Marina.

Our crew had missed the regular Thursday training. Never mind valuable practical lessons were learned. Thankyou to all the crew well done

Crew : Paul Martin (Snr crew), David Richter (Comms), Nick Beecroft
Skipper: Ken Bryce


Activation 14/5/2021: Medivac from Hamilton Island

VMR Whitsunday’s emergency phone holder, Bill, received a request from QAS to aid in a Medivac from Hamilton Island.

The crew (Michel, Bruce, Debbie) and I (Fin) headed off on Coral Sea Marina VMR1. One Paramedic from QAS was also aboard when we departed CSM.

Once at Hamilton Island Marina, the patient was carefully loaded onto our stretcher inside the cabin of VMR1. We then made our return to CSM – there we unloaded the patient, refueled and washed down the boat. All done and ready to head home by 4.30 pm.

I thank my crew for their valuable time and boating skills – and also proving to be invaluable in the difficult task of assisting the paramedic with the loading and unloading of the patient.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, Bruce Dahl and Debbie Simpson
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 15/5/2021: It was a dark dark night and a Medivac from Hamilton Island for a person with abdominal pains.

I had just settled in for an easy early night watching the footy when the Help ringtone went off at 2020 – 24/7 phone holder Ray asked me if I felt like a trip to Hamo for a medivac – “okay, I can do without an early night, on my way”.

I pulled into Coral Sea Marina just after the paramedic, just in time to help him with his gear down to our temporary berth which meant we did not have to divert to pick him up at our usual departure point. The crew already had the boat almost ready to go and after dimming down the instruments on the flybridge Coral Sea Marian VMR1 headed out to Hamilton at 2100. Conditions were SE wind of 12-16 knots at Hamo, a cool, clear but very dark night (like the inside of a cow), with a bit of wind against tide slop, but nothing untoward.

We pulled into Hamilton to our usual medivac berth at 2150, and 20 minutes later were on our way back to CSM with our patient safely on board and in the paramedic’s capable hands. 2305 saw us disembarking patient and paramedic, and while David helped carry some gear to the ambulance we refueled before going back to our temporary berth to clean and secure the vessel, and finish the paperwork, heading back to a warm bed at 2330 .

Nice, easy run in reasonable conditions – that is not always the case. This was medivac number 36 for the year to date, compared with 12 for the same period last year, a 300% increase. Thanks to the crew, nice job as usual.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Shane Newell, David Spiteri
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 17/5/21: In the wee small hours of the night a Medivac from Hamilton Island of a person with a broken ankle.

At approx. 12.15 this morning, QAS had requested VMRW assist in a medivac of a male with a broken ankle from Hamilton Island.

My (Fin) crew this morning was Ray (the Snr. Crewman and also the Comms officer, plus being the 24/7 emergency phone holder and SARCO), and two Trainees, Grace and Wade – both had not done an activation before (day or night) – so the whole exercise was very ‘interesting’ for them). One Paramedic was also aboard VMR1 for this activation.

Seas ensured (for comfort sake) a slower than normal trip to Hamilton Island – reaching there just after 2 am. – We then loaded our patient and returned to CSM – reaching there by approx. 3.20 am.

Many thanks to the crew for their valuable time and skills – the patient showed he appreciated it immensely.

Crew: Ray Lewis, Grace Oliver, Wade Fisher
Skipper: Fin Forbes


Activation 19/5/2021: Finding and towing a 50 foot sailing vessel in wild weather.

Well it all began with a call from Ray, one of our dedicated 24 hour phone holders. I (Ken) was at the Doctors waiting for my flu shot. The emergency phone went off, so I was immediately ushered in for the jab. That is how you get service. Join VMR.

14:00 with Paul, Shane and Michael onboard Whale Song VMR 2, we headed out to the Lat Long position we had been given. The sea conditions were atrocious the further we went. After a few minutes Michael and I were completely soaked. We were on the starboard side with the sea crashing in on us.

As we approached the first of three incorrect positions we were given, I stopped. “Call VTS please and get some more info as the vessel is not here”. Ok, armed with new info, off we go again, banging, crashing and surfing our way North. Nothing at this spot either.

This time I take the radio to call VTS. “Please ask the vessel to try a GPS position from his radio rather than his cursor on the plotter”. Off again, this time to the South.

Now Paul and Shane were on the weather side and it was their turn for a drenching. A huge bank of cloud was on its way and we were about to get a fresh water wash down. This hit so hard it was stinging our faces. I ducked my head and face planted the steering wheel ending up with a fat lip. Not deterred from our task, we ploughed on. This did not work either. Let’s try a phone call as the radios were sketchy.

Meanwhile, I scanned the radar, Michael with young eyes scanned the horizon. Yes, we had a vessel about six miles away. Could this possibly be our target? We all agreed, highly unlikely, given the info that we had been given. However it was the only target. Let’s go for it.
As we approached, Michael called the vessel to see if he could possibly see us. He could see our orange flasher and our nav. lights.

At 16:10 we had the vessel on our tow line. VMR 2 looking tiny along side a 50 footer. VMR 2 towed her at 3600 rpm doing 7 knots. This all looked as comfortable as we could make it for everyone concerned.
17:10 after cutting around the Wednesday sailing fleet, we entered CSM to drop our target in the marina. The crew and skipper on board were extremely happy to be out of those conditions.

Our crew, who by now were all very cold and shivering, headed to fuel up, wash down and complete all the paper work. 17:45 Now for a hot shower.

Thank you to the crew. A great effort in these most trying conditions.

The photo shows the track map from VMR 2. The nearest spot on our red track is were we found him.

Senior Crew: Paul Martin
Crew: Shane Newell and Michael McQueeney
Skipper: Ken Bryce

EDITORS NOTE: Before giving your GPS position, make sure that your cursor is on your current position. It can make all the difference in an emergency.