’We will not stand down’
THE shire’s marine rescue volunteers may be locked out, but they’re not knocked out.
They intend to carry on as a marine rescue service even while their rancorous dispute with the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association (AVCGA) drags on.
An incident at sea at the weekend and three more in the early part of this week has left the volunteers frustrated and angry. On Friday night a small boat with three local men aboard was left drifting off Mackay Cay due to contaminated engine fuel.
On Friday night a small boat with three local men aboard was left drifting off Mackay Cay due to contaminated engine fuel.
The Douglas district’s marine rescue flotilla, QF10, was locked out of its Dickson Inlet headquarters several weeks ago amid a dispute with the AVCGA.
QF10 volunteers wish to join a different organisation, the Marine Rescue Queensland.
Concerned partners of the three fishermen rang QF10 around 11 pm on Friday night. Deputy commander Tom Patts took the call and explained that the flotilla could not put to sea.
He then set about informing emergency services, eventually getting through to Water Police in Cairns after midnight.
The Water Police went to sea at 8am on Saturday and located the fishermen, who had lost engine power near Mackstraight ay Cay, around 10 am and returned them to Port Douglas just before midday. One of the men told the Gazette that they had not felt in peril but were grateful for the assistance. They had drifted north right to the very edge of mobile phone reception.
“Port Douglas needs its own rescue service,” the fisherman said. “If they leave Cairns away, the distance is too great. The Water Police were doing 39 knots – very fast – and it still took two hours to reach us.
“That’s no good if a boat is sinking. This is a safety issue for Port Douglas.
“The public need to know that they’ve got someone who can come and get them when they have a mishap out the front.” A QF10 member told the
Gazette that “we are still operational even though the coast guard told us we’re not. It’s all about safety, not about what the hierarchy think.”
He said the sea state was benign on Friday but had blown up around around 5 pm, with strong winds making conditions very uncomfortable.
“It was too rough to hold a sea anchor,” said the volunteer, who had gone to sea privately on Friday.
“It can’t have been very pleasant to drift around out there for hours waiting to be rescued.”
This is a safety issue for Port Douglas. The public need to know someone can come and get them when they have a mishap out the front