November 2021

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Activation 3/11/2021: Dark and bumpy trip to Hamilton Island for a medivac.

Good morning one and all. Last night began to look like a dud, no calls! Holy smoke….phone ringing, Ronnie offering me a Medivac from Hamilton Island to CSM with an ambulance officer and 2 Police officers to escort the patient to Proserpine hospital. Away I go!

We were asked to assemble at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 2130 hrs, to allow the Police Officers time to join us, by 2140 hrs we were away. Did I mention the winds were 25 to 30 knots?….Oh well, off we go lads and lassie. The transit to Hamilton Island was rough, I slowed VMR1 to 18 knots, Shane (Senior Crew) told me the vessel felt better when going faster. Not long after this a hole appeared in the ocean, giving both Shane and James, along with our Ambulance Officer, some airtime (generally reserved for those of us who enjoy freefall parachuting). Upon landing, all quietly took a seat.

We arrived at Hamilton Island at 2255 hrs, after being told that the marina was very full we were initially told to try “H” arm. Upon review, I declined their kind offer, as I was not inclined to crush any speedboats. The fuel dock was unoccupied – “tally Ho”, the adroit ambulance driver followed us to the fuel arm and presented the patient. After consultation with the assembled green and blue clad personnel, we were off to CSM at 2310 hrs. The trip back was much smoother, as wind and tide were finally in agreement as to which direction each should take.

Once the Ambulance and Police officers were dropped off, we refuelled, washed down VMR1, turned all the instruments back up to daytime brightness, completed the paperwork and promptly departed at 0045 hrs.

Nothing like a quick, but bumpy ride to “Hammo and back” to take my mind off unpacking my household goods and organising a new home.

Thanks to my great crew: Well done all!

Crew: Shane Newell – Senior Crew, who provided a second pair of eyes at the helm, Bill Hopton – Comms man and Deckhand and James Roberts – Deckhand and good fellow who kept me informed of what was/was not happening below.
Skipper: Paul M

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4/11/2021: Combined Exercise with QAS, Hamilton Island Airport Rescue and VMR Whitsundays.

This week VMR Whitsundays headed to Hamilton Island to participate in a combined exercise with QAS and Hamilton Island Airport Rescue. We have now found further ways that these different groups can assist each other as a united multi-skilled team in emergency situations.

This was a half day exercise with the action centred around a projected 2 vessel collision encompassing multiple “casualties” and a deceased training mannequin.

VMR Whitsundays provided multiple crew members and both Coral Sea Marina VMR1 and Whalesong VMR2 vessels. Beginning with transport to Hamilton Island of local paramedics, commencing at 11.00.

After a briefing on the island we were dispatched to a vessel in Dent passage where triage and immediate wound dressings took place and “casualties” were prepared for transport to land-based support facilities.

All “casualties” were then carried or assisted aboard VMR1 and made comfortable for transporting, ably assisted throughout by VMR crew while under the watchful eyes of both the Mackay area QAS chief and the head Instructor for Mackay QAS.

Most processes worked very smoothly with only a little refining needed as discussed during the de-brief at Hamilton Island following patient transfer.

All in all it was unanimously agreed to have been a very worthwhile exercise.

Both VMR vessels then proceeded back to Coral Sea Marina in time to commence our regular Thursday night training which finished at 18.30. Definitely a long day on the water for our 14 crew who attended.

Many thanks to our volunteer crew for offering their valuable time.

Your skipper, Ron.

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Activation (1) 5/11/2021: Middle of night medivac for a female patient with kidney stones.

I had just settled into what I thought was going to be a good nights sleep when Murphy stepped in again, and the “Help” ringtone went off about 10 minutes before midnight. 24/7 phone holder Ronnie said we had been tasked to assist a patient at Hamilton Island in what was described as considerable pain from kidney stones and as I was on the list tonight I was it. The paramedic just beat me in and after the crew finished off the prestart checks and dimming of instrumentation Coral Sea Marina VMR1 departed the marina at 00015 into a very dark night (yes, inside of a cow stuff) into an E/SE wind of 20-25 knots and a falling tide. We had to slow down a little after exiting the Molle Channel and turned toward Hamilton, the tide taking up to a couple of knots off our speed at times until we passed between Henning and Dent.

By 0120 we had tied up to what now seems like our semi-permanent berth at Hamilton. 15 minutes later we were under way again with the patient getting more pain relief from the paramedic. James was on the helm learning the ins and outs of the autopilot and plotters and picking up more local knowledge. The return trip was much more comfortable and a bit quicker with the tide and the seas behind us. We had the patient and paramedic off the boat (aided by James helping carry some gear up to the ambulance) by 0225, and by 0300 we had refuelled, moved to our own berth, readjusted all the instrumentation to daytime mode, washed VMR1 down and completed the paperwork. Nice work by the crew on what was becoming almost routine (if you can call a medivac routine), for our 99th medivac of the year so far – almost 3 times the 2020 rate!

Crew: Michel del Aguila, James Roberts, Nathalie Hartman (her first activation, well done!)
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation (2) 5/11/2021: Our 100th Medivac for the year, almost three times where we were at the same time last year.

Perfect timing. It was 22:45 and I (Ken) had just finished watching a movie when my emergency phone was ringing. It was Ronnie our new 24 hour emergency phone holder. As I was on Night roster this was not a surprise. “Where am I off to?” Hamilton island was the answer.

This would be our 100th Medivac for this year. Amazing figure when you consider we have been in the clutches of Covid and the subsequent down turn in the tourist industry.

There were only 2 crew on the availability list. Thankyou to Ron McC and Chris R for putting your hand up. We were joined on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 by the Paramedic and ready to set off to Hamilton island at 23:22.

Chris took the helm for a short stint. The conditions were in our favour for a good crossing SE 15 knots. We arrived at our berth on Hamilton island at 00:34. The patient had a suspected back injury. This necessitated a transfer to a back board. Then a lift onto VMR1. This was not going to be easy, as the patient was a very big fellow. So with Chris, Ron and a Paramedic at the heavy end and a Paramedic and myself at the other we transferred the patient to VMR1. This was all completed and we were ready to depart at 00:53. Well done to all.

Our return trip with Ron on the helm, all the way to the our drop off berth in Coral Sea Marina was in very comfortable conditions. Arriving at 01:59

Our on board Paramedic had tried to have additional help for off loading the patient. Not to happen at this time of the morning. Well, it was up to the resources that we had. With careful planning by our Paramedic everything went smoothly. The crew refuelled and washed down ready for some sleep at 02:55. Great effort by all. Thankyou.

Crew: Ron McCall (senior Crew) and Chris Reinbott
Skipper: Ken Bryce

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Activation 6/11/2021: Medivac from Daydream Island.

A medivac in daylight, this was different. Daydream Island Resort, one of our major sponsors, had called on behalf of an injured guest, and QAS Rockhampton centre contacted me as VMR emergency phone holder at 17.45.

We were a bit short of available crew and I was duty skipper anyway, I headed down to Coral Sea Marina VMR1, with 2 more crew also on their way.

Two Paramedics were already aboard and most of our pre-start checks done as I boarded. 5 minutes later and with our last crew member aboard we set out for a quick and easy trip to the resort marina in a light East/Northeasterly breeze, arriving just after sunset.

While our paramedics assessed the patient on-shore we prepared for the transfer and then spent a little time talking with Island staff and watching the abundant sea-life around us.

Then with patient aboard and comfortable we set off for an easy journey back to Coral Sea Marina.

We had the patient ashore, VMR1 berthed, washed down and paperwork done by 20.30 Thanks to the crew.

Crew: Dave Richter and Ron McCall.
Skipper: Ron Roberts

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Activation 14/11/2021: A big afternoon – nearly 7 hours and 110 miles. A trip to Block Reef, to tow a 5m vessel low on fuel.

I (Mal) got the call from Alan at the radio base a little after noon. Advising that he had received a call over VHF, from a member on a 5m vessel at Block Reef. It was low on fuel and the skipper was concerned they may not have enough left to get back to safety and had requested our assistance. Apparently they were caught out by the rougher conditions on the way to the reef and had used more fuel than planned. I made my way in to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 while Alan put a crew together, for what looked like a return trip of over 110 miles in moderate seas and a SE wind of 15-20 knots, and of course it was wind against tide.

We are underway at 1245. We headed through Hook Passage for a slightly better angle on the seas on the way to the reef. We were able to sit on 22 to 23 knots most of the way, with the occasional back off as the seas got a bit boisterous. About two and a half hours later, at 1520, we reached our target, who we thought was anchored in about 50 metres of water.

As they still had fuel we asked them to raise their anchor and come alongside. We were surprised that they were able to move straight away, until we saw them raising their electric trolling motor that was holding them in position. We prefer vessels to come alongside on our starboard side as it gives our skipper better visibility but the trolling motor entered into the equation again as it protruded over his port side. After changing our fenders and lines to our port side, we had him alongside for the paperwork and to connect our tow hook. We started the tow at 1540 into a very sloppy sea, initially planning on passing north of Hayman for a better angle on the waves.

However, they were having a hard time following us at anything over about 12 knots due to the action of the waves on their boat, which appeared to be bow heavy. We reduced speed a few times, than decided to change course for Hook Passage to put the waves more on the bow than on the aft quarter. That gave them a better ride, allowing us to increase speeds up to 16 knots or so. We altered course to pass behind a container ship heading to Sydney (he had right of way on our starboard side and besides that, he was much bigger than us!).

By this time the seas were starting to flatten out and the wind was easing, so we asked our target if they had enough fuel to get back to Airlie and if they were happy to make their own way from Hook Passage with us providing escort – they replied yes, and were even happy to drop the tow about 8 miles before Hook and to follow us. It is not very often that we have to drop a tow in the open sea, but we did so and were soon leading the way at 18-20 knots and substantially reducing our joint passage time. Closer to Hook it got even smoother and we are able to run at 23 knots for the rest of the way back, with them following behind. We were treated to a very pretty sunset and were happy to see the big yellow thing go behind the hills after having it square in our eyes for most of the way back.

Back at Coral Sea Marina we went into the fuel berth at 1850 while they went to their own berth. Back at our own berth, our customers came over to kindly thank us for the assistance, and also offered to make a donation to VMR in gratitude – nice! VMR1 was secured and with paperwork finished we stepped off at 1930 after the best part of 7 hours and over 110 miles, nice job by Debbie and Shane.

Note: If you are going out on the water always carry spare fuel, weather and tide conditions can make your fuel usage higher than planned. If you get back to base with less than 25% of fuel in your tank you have got it wrong.

Crew: Shane Newell, Debbie Simpson
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 18/11/2021: Training for “real” when Thursday training continues into the evening with a medivac to Hamilton Island.

It was Thursday night after training 10 of the 16 crew were enjoying a debrief and great comradery. Amongst other subjects, the night roster and a possible call out was mentioned, however, we thought it unlikely, due to the lack of tourists in the area.

I (Ken) was now at home just about to watch a movie when at 21:00 my emergency phone was ringing. It was Ronnie one of our 24 hour phone holders. ” We have a medivac from Hamilton island.” Well that was a surprise. “Ok, please add to the crew list two trainees”.

By 21:21 we had the paramedic and four crew on board Coral Sea Marina VMR1. The sea conditions were a little rough, however the moon was bright and beautiful. Paul B was on the helm through Unsafe passage and all the way to Reef point. Then Nathalie took over and the sea conditions were greatly improved. With Michel and Bill (Permanent crew) on the dock lines we were secured and ready to receive the waiting patient on F arm at 22:25.

We soon departed Hamilton Island, with the sea behind us for our trip to Coral Sea Marina. Nathalie and Paul B shared the helm for our return trip. Noting along the way the various navigation lights as we past the Beak. 23:45 Paul B had us along side to disembark our paramedic. We were met at the dock by two additional paramedics to ensure an easy transfer. At 00:25 VMR1 was in her berth all duties completed and the crew were ready for bed.

Thankyou to Senior Crew Michel and Bill For your guidance of the trainees, Paul B and Nathalie. Well done to all.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Bill Hopton, Paul Bloomfield and Nathalie Hartman.
Skipper: Ken Bryce.

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Activation 20/11/2021: Medivac Hamilton Island

Another beautiful day in paradise! What a magnificent day to be on the water.

Sitting at home trying to decide if I can stomach yet another D grade movie, NO! Thank goodness Bernd from the Radio room called and explained he’d received a call from the Ambulance Service, a medivac from Hamilton Island, I asked Bernd to gather a crew. I donned my high vis shirt, Chloe the dog crossed her front paws and laid her head upon them, glancing at me with barely disguised resentment, knowing full well that I’m off to work.

A delightful change in circumstance had me at Coral Sea Marina VMR1 before the crew arrived, a first (my move into town is finally paying off). Preparations for departure were undertaken by the crew as we awaited the Paramedics, Bernd called again to advise they were to arrive shortly, good job Bernd!

Once clear of the leads we proceeded at 22 kts, a gentle breeze nearing the bottom of the tide guaranteed a calm transit to Hamilton Island. Messages were arriving at a rapid rate, another medic was required, some confusion was created regarding the ailments and condition of the patients and just how many?

We arrived at our normal docking place at the marina, security personnel were tasked to take our paramedics to the Aid station, as the condition of a patient was unstable. Soon enough the patients with Paramedics in attendance arrived. Once briefed and made comfortable the patients and carers were installed within VMR1 and off we went. The ride back to CSM was splendid.

The work of the crew and the Paramedics ensured a safe return for all concerned. Upon arrival at CSM we were met by more Paramedics and 2 stretchers; a total of 5 Paramedics in one place. How lucky we are to have such splendid support. Many thanks go to our crew who made the journey pleasant and safe:

Crew: Bill Hopton (Senior Crew), James Roberts (Comms) and Paul Bloomfield.
Skipper: Paul M.

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Activation 21/11/2021:Medivac for a young female that had fallen from a golf buggy and badly injured her leg – and one more

I had literally just had my second mouthful of dinner when the “Help” ringtone went off just after I came on duty at 6. Phone holder Ronnie told me that QAS had tasked us to do a medivac for a young lady with a leg injury, so dinner was on the back burner (well, the microwave later) as I made my way to the marina.

We had just finished the preparations for the early night trip to Hamilton Island when the paramedics came on board. Coral Sea Marina VMR1 was underway at 1840 with Shane on the helm, Paul on comms and new crewman Tim enjoying his first activation. Conditions not bad, about 10 knots of northerly with a little chop on a rising tide, but nothing untoward.

After berthing at Hamilton at 1932, we boarded our first patient and the paramedics settled her in on our stretcher, but had to wait while another potential patient was assessed by the Hamilton paramedic. He determined that a trip to hospital was required to check for broken bones in an injured hand, and after boarding the second patient we departed at 2010, with Shane at the helm again.

After we returned to CSM at 2110, the paramedics transferred our stretcher patient to the wheelchair from their ambulance. Tim helped them get the patient and their gear to the waiting ambulance for transport to hospital. After refuelling and returning to our own berth, it was the usual washdown and completion of paperwork before securing VMR1, hopefully for the night, and heading home to a very late dinner for me at 2200. Nice job by the crew, and good to see great enthusiasm for the task at hand from Paul and Tim.

Crew: Shane Newell, Paul Bloomfield, Tim Pugh (his first real activation)
Skipper: Mal Priday

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Activation 22/11/2021:Hayman Island Medivac

Our fearless 24hr Emergency Phone Holder, Cap’t Ron, called at 10.43. A lady had had a fall and damaged her ankle. When I got to Coral Sea Marina VMR1 the team were just about finished getting her ready for sea and the Paramedic was on board with all his kit. Off we go at 11.15 into a sparkling day, arriving at Hayman just after 12.

The patient had damaged herself playing football! but everyone was organised and our patient and carer were quickly aboard. On our way at 12.20 and back at CSM 13.10.

Tony and I helped the Paramedic up to the car park whilst Debbie finalised the paperwork and calling people. We were on our way home by 13.30.
Thanks to a magic crew it was effortless.

Crew: Tony Bell, Debbie Simpson,
Skipper: Geoff Smith.

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Activation 22/11/2021:Medivac Hamilton Island

Today was the first day for me (Fin) to be on call for over a month (after holidays). I had a call from Ron, our 24/7 Emergency Phone Holder at 4.45 pm – for another Medivac from Hamilton Island.

The crew and two Paramedics left on Coral Sea Marina VMR1 at 5.15 pm arriving at 6.10 pm. The patient was loaded and we left at 6.25 pm for a slow trip back to CSM. The 20 knot NNW blowing all day meant punching into big, short wavelength swells and large choppy seas – meaning we were down to 5 knots for much of our return – and even that was not comfortable – even the crew on the flybridge were drenched.

We were back in CSM, unloaded and all shut down procedures completed by 8.30 pm and then off home for much needed feed and a shower.

The crew need special mention – my team today were Shane (as Snr crewman – and capably acting as helmsman both ways), Tony (acting as Comms today) and Paul B as very capable trainee. Great crew in poor conditions still make it all look simple. We do appreciate your time, skills, dedication and effort – and company.

Crew: Shane Newell, Tony Bell, Paul Bloomfield
Skipper: Fin Forbes

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Activation 24/11/2021:Medivac to Hamilton Island and also who we are & what we do:- Activations, Medivacs, our Volunteers – boat crews, emergency phone holders, radio operators.

VMRW’s sole reason for existing is to ‘save lives at sea’ and help when the boatie or island communities need our assistance.

VMRW’s essential ‘Operations group’ (the boat crews) do that when they are ‘activated’ when that need arises – hence the word ‘activation’.

The first point of contact with VMRW, when you need assistance, is the 24/7 Emergency phone holder or Radio Operator. They organise the activation, and the crew.

The ‘Operations group’ go out in all sorts of conditions (sometimes very dangerous), locate the people with a problem needing our assistance, solve their problem and/or bring them back to safety. We go when, and where, no other amateur or normal ‘commercial’ boatie does.

We regularly practice the skills that ensure we do the job superbly. We are a very competent, efficient, professional group – who volunteer our time and skills to help the community .

Most of our activations appear to be simple – because we do them all the time – (see examples further on) – and we regularly practice what we need to do. (Definitely no ‘Dad’s army’ – nor some ‘Mickey Mouse’ club).

And the $1 ½ million boat (VMR1) was specially designed to do medivacs brilliantly for QAS – so no surprise at all that QAS uses VMRW for many medivacs.

This activation today was just another one of these – My team today were: Ron as phone holder, Michel and Shane N as Snr Crewmen and James R as Crewman. We all thank them for their time, dedication and skills. NOTE: – one of my Snr crew last night has done 56 activations already this year (at an average 3 hours each) and 45 training sessions (also 3 hours each) ie:- a total of over 300 hours this year alone. The other one has done 150 ‘jobs’ (activations, training sessions and maintenance on the boats) – at 3 hours average each, ie:- total of over 450 hours – in the last 10 ½ months – and remember, all done in day and night, weekends / public holidays and in rain, hail and shine and in pre and post cyclonic conditions.

Todays activation involved a medivac from Hamilton Island of a teenage patient and her carer, using VMR1 and a Paramedic from QAS. It took place between 2.15am and 6.00am this morning.

A job well done – again – and another very happy, appreciative, safe ‘customer’.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, Shane Newell, James Roberts
Skipper: Fin Forbes

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Activation 24/11/2021: Evening tow of member from near Stonehaven.

Cap’t Ron called at 17.30 in the middle of dinner preparations. A Roberts 35 had broken down in Stonehaven and was heading for POA under sail.
We headed off, just after 18.00 with a full crew including trainee Tim on his second trip. Wahoo.

Conditions were good, light northerly and a slight chop, but daylight was fading quickly. Halfway to Stonehaven we saw a sail about 4 miles away off our port bow. It was the only likely vessel around, so Nick called our target for a position update and was told they were near Hanna Point (North Mole). There was nothing towards Hanna point, so we continued towards the only sail we could see. The target saw our orange flashing light heading for them, confirming our suspicions.

We arrived at 18.48 and waited for them to drop their sails. We used our bridle and got underway at 19.05, 6 miles from Hanna Point and 12.5 to Port of Airlie. The targets skipper wasn’t comfortable at 7 knots and asked us to back off to 5.5. Roberts are one of those yachts which are reluctant to plane under any conditions. Settle down for a slowish trip.

We arrived at POA at 19.02 in absolute darkness. We got the vessel alongside and headed for their berth on the Town side of the Sailing Club arm. A bit of a fiddle as there is little room between the rock wall and the pens, especially when you have 2 boats tied together. Anyway, with the help of some people on the dock, a bit of shouting and some push and pull, the target was back in its pen.

Off to CSM arriving at 20.54, into the pen and ready to leave at 21.30. A 30 mile round trip and a 3 hour job. Thanks to a great crew, they worked well together, and Tim said he enjoyed it so will be back for more.

Crew: Paul Martin, Nick Beecroft, Ron McCall, Tim Pugh.
Skipper: Geoff Smith.

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Activation 27/11/2021:Tow disabled vessel with 5 POB including a baby.

Most of the volunteers here at VMR Whitsundays fill several roles within the organization. I (Ron) have been the 24/7 emergency phone holder for a few weeks now which means I get the first call for help then have to wake up crew and send them on their way at 2 oclock in the morning.

Today being Saturday meant that the Radio Room was in operation, so it was a refreshing change when I got a call at 14.44 asking me to go out and tow in a disabled vessel with 5 pob including a babe in arms.

A light Northerly breeze, flat seas and cloud cover gave Coral Sea Marina VMR 1 and her crew a smooth ride and a chance for some vessel driver training on our way to Dolphin Point on Hayman Island.

Our target vessel was where they said they would be. Coming alongside for the paperwork part was simple, although as the vessel was an older style, some care was needed when assessing tie off points.

Paperwork done and passengers transferred for the tow home to Coral Sea Marina, and a brief halt to proceedings as the call came from below to wait while we got some spare nappies transferred for the baby. This was new for me.

So now we were clear for a quiet tow home at 16 knots and some more driver training for the crew.

A text-book drop at the ramp pontoon, passengers ashore, refuelled and then back to our berth for a washdown and paperwork and we headed home at 18.40.

Thanks for your time and skills, crew. Well done.

Crew: Michel Del Aguila, Selina Brooks and Paul Bloomfield.
Skipper: Ron Roberts.

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