Safety at sea just got easier
A SMALL tribute to Tom Manning will forever grace the interior of a purpose-built $1 million rescue vessel unveiled at Abell Point Marina last week.
Mr Manning, a life member of the Whitsunday Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) group, supervised the construction of the vessel and personally raised over $135,000 in sponsorship and goods.
VMR Whitsunday media officer Norbert Gross said the new boat would be vital in the group's work to save lives at sea and help people when they found themselves in trouble while sailing around the islands of the Whitsundays.
He said VMR Whitsunday's current vessel was nearly 13 years old, and was expected to have been replaced after 10 years.
The new boat, proudly named Abell Point Marina VMR1, after the group's Platinum sponsor, is nearly 12 metres long, has a flybridge, and has been especially designed for travelling long distances and towing vessels.
"We typically have about 70 rescues in a year, and we can be out for eight hours at a time,” Mr Gross said, adding the larger footprint of this boat (a NoosaCat 4400 FB Patrol), would provide safer handling in the rough seas and a safer working environment for volunteer crews. It has walk-around decks which are safer for crew and provide more efficient access.”
Mr Gross said that a couple of months ago the group received a call from police who had been alerted via a boat's EPIRB or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. The EPIRB alerts were picked up by the coordination centre in Canberra who contacted police, who then contacted Whitsunday VMR.
He described a typical rescue, where a boat had drifted in the night and gone up on the rocks in Apostle Bay, leaving the two people on board to set off their EPIRBs.
The new boat also features Forward Looking Infrared Radar which can locate a person in the water up to 900 metres away, a larger working area designed for Medivacs and stretchers, its own first-aid equipment and its own life raft and Life Cell with EPIRB and flares.
Mr Gross said the previous boat had suffered gear box failure around Christmas, which had put the service out of action for three to four weeks, meaning services from Midge Point, Bowen or local police were on call instead.
The Whitsundays has the highest ratio of boat ownership in Australia, and the 13,000 square km zone is an area known for potentially treacherous reefs and fast currents. The new vessel would allow the Whitsunday group to help other VMRs when their vessels were not available.
VMR Whitsunday has 40 active members who are volunteers, including boat crew, radio operators, management, fund-raisers, and trainers, and they are on call 24/7. On average, volunteers give 500 hours a year of their time.
Mr Gross said he was very grateful to the VMR supporters including Abell Point Mariner, the Rotary Club of Airlie Beach, the VMR headquarters in Brisbane, and member Tom Manning, who raised more than $100,000 through grant applications and donations.
Abell Point Marina manager Luke McCaul said the new boat, which would be given a free-of-charge priority position in the mariner, signalled the next phase in the level of service the VMR could provide.Mr McCaul said it was paramount to be able to ensure people were having a safe time when in the Whitsundays. "It's important to have a service for people who are in trouble, and to make sure there's the infrastructure and manpower for that.
"We'll recommend that people make themselves known to VMR when they're here, as it's a great service,” he said.
"When you're in trouble, you need to be able to be in contact with someone who can help and that's what these guys do.”VMR Whitsunday President Mal Priday said last week's unveiling of the boat was the culmination of three years of work by the boat committee, consisting of Adrian Bram, Ray Lewis. Tom Manning, Roger Wodson and himself.