Search and rescue in heavy seas
SATURDAY night is never a good time to receive an urgent callout, but often, this is what the Whitsunday Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) crew are called upon to do.
On Saturday, October 4, VMR Whitsunday’s president Ray Lewis received an alert from the emergency monitoring service, VTS Hay Point.
According to the communication, urgent assistance was required for a broken down vessel at Little Black Reef, a popular eco dive spot over 90 kms northeast of Airlie Beach.
A VMR crew consisting of Mr Lewis, Tom Manning, Paul Coggan and John Caldwell, converged on the Abell Point marina, where they boarded the organisation’s specially equipped 10metre Kevlacat VMR 1.
After conducting prestart checks they departed the marina at 10.30pm and headed through the Hook Passage in reasonably smooth seas.
By the time they entered the shipping lane however, conditions had become rough and the crew spent two hours bashing their way through heavy seas at just 11 knots.
Mr Lewis said in fact, conditions were so rough, that the boat’s navigation tower broke away and had to be re-secured in transit.
Unable to make a visual sighting, the crew were forced to use radar detection to find the stricken vessel.
At 2am, after three-anda-half hours, they eventually reached the seven-metre power boat, which had experienced problems with its engine overheating.
Mr Lewis advised the two people on board that due to the sea conditions they would be safer and more comfortable aboard VMR 1 for the long tow back.
The two boats were then “bashed around” in the heavy seas, but were able to maintain a steady speed while veering through the waves on their voyage home.
The rescued vessel and its passengers were safely delivered to the Port of Airlie at 6am.
The VMR crew returned to Abell Point Marina, where they finished at 7am after an eight-and-a-half hour activation, consuming 674 litres of fuel.
Mr Lewis said a big “thanks” to his crew after what he described as “a long hard night”.