September 2018

Activation 4/9/18:  Medivac from Butterfly Bay

We got the call from Capt. Fin at 16.49. An unfortunate male was having heart problems in Butterfly Bay. A nurse from a nearby boat was assisting him but she did not have the necessary equipment.

The QAS call to Fin (24/7 Phone Holder) came via VTS who called 000 on the patient’s behalf. The Paramedics arrived at the boat the same time I (Geoff) did. Michel was already there and had the checks done and engines warming. Shortly after at 17.25 we departed in beautiful conditions; top of the tide and a very light Northerly.

We had to tolerate a magnificent sunset on the way 😃 and arrived at 18.30. The
medics transferred across and checked out the patient. He seemed OK but the
paramedics thought he ought to spend the night in Prossie Hospital. The next problem was that there were only two on the vessel and the patient’s wife had very little boating experience. So…what to do?

The patient had to get to Hospital and the Paramedics had to get to the mainland reasonably promptly… that meant a 3 hour tow and nowhere to park the vessel when we got there so it wouldn’t work. We didn’t have a spare skipper with local knowledge (it was very dark by this time) so motoring it back wouldn’t work either. On top of that, there were insurance implications as well.

The reasonable solution was to take the patient and his wife back to Airlie after
shutting the boat down. We departed at 18.55 and had an uneventful trip back to Abell Point Marina, arriving at 20.00. Thanks to a fine crew for making it such a nice trip.

Crew: Kym Jolly, Bill Hopton, Michel DelAguila
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 9/9/18: Assist a member broken down at Gould Reef, 44.5 miles from Airlie Beach

Something about the best laid plans rings a bell. I was just settling into babysitting and getting ready to take the grandkids to meet up with my daughter for her birthday when Jenny Greig in the radio room triggered my “Help” ringtone about 14:30  – a member had broken down on the outer reef and needed assistance to return to Port of Airlie. After a change of grandfathers for babysitting I met the crew on Abell Point Marina VMR1, and we departed for the vessel about 15:00 for the nearly 45 mile trip each way. Conditions were 10-15 knots of east to southeast wind and a slight chop.

The activation radio call did not come from the member’s vessel (his radio was not working along with his engine). It came by radio from a vessel that happened to be nearby and had responded to the smoke flare fired by the vessel in distress…they had towed them into the mouth of Gould Reef to anchor. If they had not seen and responded to the flare, our target vessel would have been in a world of trouble, with no other vessels in the vicinity!

Our course was just about due north as we edged past Double Cone and headed further out into the Coral Sea, across the main shipping channel. What we thought was a whale directly in front turned out to be a playful pod of dolphins that tagged along on our bow wave for a while…nice! 🐬🐬🐬

VMR1 reached the vessel at 17:25 and were soon told by the 2 on board that it was very reassuring to see the big white rescue boat approaching. 😅 While they were in no danger of hitting the bottom in 40 + metres of water, the tide had just turned and they were in the middle of a very strong and building tidal flow. After securing the vessel alongside, we maneuvered them to help them raise their anchor and took them slowly into calmer water to complete the paperwork and set up our tow. As their radio was not working we gave them one of our handheld units to maintain communications with them on the return journey, which was underway at 17:40.  We soon built up to a comfortable 20 knot cruise with them enjoying the flatter water in our wake.

They were taken alongside again off the channel to Port of Airlie and deposited on the boat ramp pontoon at 20:00 before we returned to Abell Point Marina at 20:25 to refuel, return to our berth, wash down and secure VMR1, finally finishing the 6 hour activation at 21:00.

Our member was very lucky that another boat was in the area, and we must caution all boaties that may wish to venture further out to ensure that they have a VHF radio, that it is working and that you know how to operate it and which channels to use – your lives may depend on it. Even around the Whitsundays you cannot rely on a mobile phone as there are many areas where there is no coverage. Remember that nobody can hear you scream at sea! 😱

Thanks to the crew for a long but successful job

Crew: Roger Wodson, Ryan Cunningham. Kym Jolly, Bill Hopton
Skipper: Mal Priday


(Sort of) Activation 15/9/18:- Medivac from Hamilton Island

I (Geoff) woke to a call from Bill Harrison (24/7 phone holder) at exactly midnight, advising of a person on Hamilton Island who was asthmatic, experiencing breathing difficulty and requiring a Medivac off the island.

Oh bother” I thought, with some reservations, “a night-time trip on a loan
boat new to us, no moon, ebb tide, blowing mid-teens at Hammo and only room for
one crew member (only 4 seats under cover).”  Hard to duck this one though as Bill had driven myself and others to Mackay to collect the loan boat, and he knew we were back and that I was at least semi-familiar with it. Oh well…

The Paramedic was meeting us at 12.40 so off I went to Abell Point Marina to meet Ron. I started to prepare for departure and tried to remember where all the switches were. 😁 When Ron arrived, he started the VMR1 log book checks (those which applied anyway). By 1:10 the Paramedic still hadn’t arrived so I rang to check what was happening…but shortly after that he rushed down, explaining that he had been diverted to another asthma case which ended up being on Hammo as well.

What?? Two patients?? 😮😮😮 Where would we put them if they needed to lay down?  If a resuscitation scenario occurred, the Paramedic would only have had a tiny bit of floor to work with and two willing but slightly less skilled crew to assist, and all in a sloppy sea. He was game… but…..safety had to win out.

Many phone calls by the Paramedic and chats to all sorts of people within QAS saw our mighty venture called off. This boat, unlike VMR1, was quite unsuited to this type of Medivac. Great for short tows and many of the other activations we get, but a double Medivac? No. We helped the Paramedic back up the dock and put the boat back to
bed. Then it was home and into bed myself at 01.30, ready for the wake-up call at 6 to go to work. 😕

Thanks Ron for your patience and persistence. It was a huge help.

Crew: Ron McCall
Skipper: Geoff Smith


Activation 15/9/18: Assist member, 21ft Haines Hunter, broken down at Black Reef

This felt like groundhog day or déjà vu! Radio operator Jenny called me around 1615 to advise that a member in a 21ft Haines Hunter had broken down on the outer reef and was requesting a tow back to Port of Airlie. Hang on – we towed a 21 ft Haines Hunter back from Gould Reef (90 miles return) only 6 days ago – is it the same boat? Jenny called them and yes! Unbelievably, the same boat had experienced an engine problem and was towed back last week.

However, the situation this time was a bit different. Firstly, we did not have use of our own Abell Point Marina VMR1 as it was out of the water, but we did have a smaller 8.5 metre substitute that VMR Mackay had kindly offered to lend us in the interim. Not as capable a sea boat as ours, but with winds of 10-15 knots, capable of doing the job. Secondly, the call was late in the day and the last thing we want to have to do is manoeuvre around reef in the dark, so it was contemplated to leave them overnight and go and get them at first light. In the end, we decided to go as from all accounts they were anchored in deep water. (Just as well, as we had another activation at first light.)

After inducting Michel and Tony onto the new boat and filling some extra fuel containers as a reserve (we practice what we preach!), our substitute VMR1 departed Abell Point Marina at 1700 for the nearly 50 mile trip to Black Reef. Winds were 10-15 knots with a slight chop over an outgoing tide.

We were alongside them at 1900 after a slow approach and being very wary of the reef around us, and after tying them alongside we manoeuvred them over their anchor so they could retrieve it in 25 metres of water. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts they decided to cut it free as it simply would not budge.  We picked our way out of the reef, took them in tow at 1915 and set course back to Airlie at 18- 20 knots. The member said they had only caught one fish all day.

Once we had passed through the Narrows between Hayman and Hook we were able to take the speed up to 23-25 knots and deposited them on the Port of Airlie boat ramp (again) at 2200 before returning to Abell Point to refuel, clean and secure the boat ready for the next activation. We finished at 2300. The round trip was just over 101 nautical miles – a long way in an 8.5 metre boat.

Many thanks to Michel and Tony, who did a great job on an unfamiliar rescue boat, and to VMR Mackay for allowing us to fill the void while our own boat is out of the water – hopefully only until the end of the week.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Tony McNeill
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 16/9/18: Assist member broken down, mouth of Nara Inlet, 5.6 metres

I am not amused when the “Help” ringtone goes off early in the morning, but it did. At least the sun was up, if not by much. 24/7 phone holder Bill Harrison had received a call from a member broken down off Nara. That became a good thing as they were on the way to the outer reef and this was a much closer and easier place to tow them back from!

Once Marti and Ross were inducted and shown what goes where and which does what on the loan boat from Mackay, our substitute VMR1 was under way at 0740 in very light winds and over a calm sea for the quick trip to Nara, at 30 knots plus.

After the mandatory paperwork was completed we were able to tow them back at 20-25 knots to put them back on what was a  busy ramp at Abell Point, before we refuelled and cleaned the boat and were finished by 0925 on a beautiful day in the Whitsundays – but I still would have preferred a lie in after the trip to the reef the night before!

Thanks to Marti and Ross, nice job in an unfamiliar boat.

Crew: Marti Davy, Ross Garling
Skipper: Mal Priday


‘Activation’ 20/9/18: Assisting a member with maiden launch

Not every VMR ‘activation’ involves a rescue at sea!  Recently, VMR Active Volunteer Tom Manning was seen assisting another VMR member with the maiden launching of his home-built boat. In conversation, the owner referred to the vessel as a ‘floating caravan’ because it has been designed so that the “house” can be collapsed for long distance towing to inland waters….something he intends to do.  We wish him well! Thanks Tom for generously offering your time to assist a fellow boating enthusiast. You epitomize what the VMR is all about. 🙂


Activation 26/9/18: Vessel aground, South Whitehaven Beach

Bill, the emergency phone holder, called at 17.00 to say a 37’ powerboat was stuck on Whitehaven beach. They thought they would be able to get off about 20.30 but wanted to have support available and a guide back to Airlie Beach as they were new to the boat…and the area…and at night!

There was no rush, so we were underway in Abell Point Marina VMR1 by 18.30 for an uneventful run to the beach. As we approached Hook Passage, the full moon was rising over Whitsunday Island.  Just magic. 🙂

There were a lot of boats anchored at the southern end and as we didn’t have phone or radio contact, we had to check each and every one of them before we finally found our target, high and dry up the beach. We launched the tender and went to see how the crew were doing. There were originally 9 people on board but one of the day boats had kindly given 7 of them a lift back to Airlie leaving 2 lads behind to sort the boat out when the tide returned. The people who had returned to Airlie had asked us to help, unbeknownst to the crew left behind…so the lads were quite surprised to see us! 😀

By 21.20 we had the boat floated off (with a lot of help from the crew) and we transferred Ray over to them as a local guide. Everything seemed to be OK with them and the boat so we got underway and headed for Muddy Bay with the target following happily under their own power. At 22.30 we stopped at the entrance to Muddy Bay to collect Ray and watched the lads head off as they knew where they were now. They mentioned to Ray how they were impressed by how helpful everyone had been at the beach, trying to tow them off, offering food and drink and, of course, the lift back to
Airlie. Well done to those “Whitsundays boaties“…so nice to hear.

We were fuelling at 22.50 and into the pen for 23.00. Thanks crew for an uneventful activation.

Skipper: Geoff Smith
Crew: Ray Lewis, Kym Jolly, Ryan Cunningham


Activation 29/9/18 (1): Assist 25 ft yacht – damage to outboard mounting

There goes the “Help” ringtone again! 😀 It was 0800 Saturday morning and I (Mal) was having a relaxing morning….. up until 24/7 phone holder Bill Harrison called to say that a member on a 25 foot yacht with 4 POB was stuck at Woodwark Bay with some damage to the transom. They were  requesting a tow back to Abell Point Marina.

Abell Point Marina VMR1 departed for Woodwark at 0840 in about 10 knots of east to southeast wind and an outgoing tide for the short 20 minute trip to Woodwark Bay, where we located the yacht off the first beach. Once we had tied up alongside, the damage to the outboard mounting was apparent, and while the boat was not taking water it may have if it was heeled under sail, so the request for a tow was the right call.

After transferring the lady and two young kids onto VMR1, at 0925 we were on our way back with the assisted vessel in tow at 5 to 5.5 knots. We deposited them onto a berth at Abell Point Marina at 1055 before refuelling and returning to our berth to clean and secure VMR1, finishing at 1130.

Thanks to the crew for a job well done, and it was off to Bunnings for a VMR sausage sizzle – nice!

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Tim Hearn, Jon Bulmer
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 29/9/18 (2): Tow a 14ft tinny from Woodwark Bay – motor problem

This story continues on from the first.  I (Mal) hadn’t even finished my second sausage at Bunnings after the morning’s activation, when Ray Lewis rang me from the VMR radio base – he had received a radio call from a yacht in Woodwark Bay (where we had just come back from!) passing on a request for a tow from a 14ft tinny with engine problems and no phone coverage, so it was back to the marina for the second time today.

Murray had been in the radio base with Ray when the call came in, so he had all the information, and Abell Point Marina VMR1 departed at 1240 for Woodwark….again. 😏In the meantime, we heard by radio that the vessel requesting assistance had managed to get his motor going and get as far as the beach, which meant we may have had to use our tender to drag them out to VMR1 for the tow back. All worked out okay, as they were able to motor slowly out to us and we tied them alongside while we transferred the wife and daughter to VMR1, completed the paperwork, and readied them for the tow. Dad stayed in the tinny to steer on the way back, which was done at about 15 knots.

Off the VMR Base and the Whisper Bay boat ramp, we brought the boat  alongside again, transferred our passengers, and stood by while they made their way safely to the boat ramp. The approaches to the ramp are very shallow and we are unable to get vessels in there at all tides. (Note: We have highlighted the problem with the Council and they are seeing what has to be done to have it dredged to give all tide access.)

VMR1 was back in its berth, washed down and secured by 1430.  Thanks to the crew, nicely done.

Crew: Jon Bulmer, Ryan Cunningham, Murray Story
Skipper: Mal Priday


Activation 30/9/18: Assist a yacht into Abell Point Marina

She was long and lean and looked beautiful as the last rays of sunset outlined her…then we noticed the crew on board waving to us, and we knew we had located the yacht we were tasked to assist.

Engine failure meant that she could sail to Abell Point Marina but needed assistance getting to her dock, so as the paper-work progressed we began to tie her along-side Abell Point Marina VMR1 for the tricky maneuvering to come.

We noted that she was about 16 meters long and with a full keel drawing 2 meters so we would have to be very careful with our line placement. The yacht would be beautiful in a straight line, but slow to turn at low speed so after a quick practice turn in clear water and some minor adjustments to our securing lines we proceeded in to the marina. Steady does it…with torches illuminating the scene ahead and eyes watching for any movement, we carefully edged our way between the rock wall and the dark shapes of large boats as we picked our way towards Q arm.

Good work from the VMR crew of Michel, Clayton and Marlene as we finally got our tow secured and safe along-side their Abell Point Marina berth. From there we refueled, cleaned and secured VMR1 and were finished within 2 hours of activation.

Crew: Michel del Aguila, Clayton Earl & Marlene Manto
Skipper: Ron Roberts


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