As we finished lunch, a vessel was calling for assistance off Newhaven on Phillip Island, some 8 miles from Hastings. We passed on the details and were given approval to assist. After vessel checks were completed we departed the marina at 1300 enroute to Newhaven. Once out of the Hastings Channel, we got onto the plane and proceeded at a sedate 22 knots, preparing to tow the disabled vessel into Newhaven. Around 20 minutes into the trip the domestic radio crackled into life as Coast Guard Melbourne (CGM) called us to say that we had an emergency to attend to. The details were passed on and a GPS co-ordinate obtained for the position just north of Corinella. People in the water with an overturned vessel at Stockyard point! A quick check of our location and the destination showed it would take us around 30 to 40 minutes to get there at a decent speed.
The skipper pushed the throttles and CG04 surged to 30+ knots as we made our way to the location. The trip was uneventful, we discussed what we would do once we got to the location and along the way we were informed that Air Support was also enroute. Meanwhile we contacted the skipper of our original task to inform them of the situation, check they were ok and reassure them that we would return.
Arriving at the location we scanned the water for the vessel and the people, 3 sets of eyes peeled for any signs of our target. As we watched, the helicopter flew overhead and searched the bay around 300 to 400m in front of us. A few minutes and the helicopter returned to our position and circled before heading back to where he was a sign that he wanted us to follow. We started to track along behind the helicopter, but the channel forked so we had to make a decision about which way to go, based on the helicopter’s position. We quickly doubled back and proceeded up the correct channel and soon spotted 2 bodies perched atop the inverted vessel.
As we approached the helicopter circled as we gave him the thumbs up and waved as he departed.
The vessel was further north than originally reported, primarily due to the incoming tide. As we approached the vessel, we constantly monitored the depth. Slowly coming alongside the vessel, we passed a line to one of the men perched on the upturned hull and asked that he secure it through the tow eye. We then got both men aboard CG04 and proceeded at a speed of 2 – 3 knots towards Corinella (some 6 miles away).
Initially pushing against the incoming tide our speed was very sedate as the upturned hull wobbled around in our wake like a drunken sailor returning to his ship. During our return trip to Corinella, our original tow contacted us to say that they had been towed safely to Newhaven by another vessel. Our speed increased as the tide changed and we were assisted down the bay by the outgoing tide. As we approached the entrance to Corinella the tow line decided that it had had enough and parted company, the disabled vessel was adrift.
We quickly retrieved the towline, readied another and circled around the vessel, planning to lasso the motor leg that was above the surface and tow it backwards. We could not leave it as it was a navigation hazard. After a couple of unsuccessful throws, the motor was finally lassoed and the tow recommenced. By this stage we were around a half mile downstream from Corinella and now had to battle the outgoing tide. It took another hour to get to the boat ramp. Once the men were ashore, the vessel secured and details taken, we headed towards home into the setting sun. A quick debrief on board to help improve our skills was conducted and thanks from the skipper to the crew for their work and professionalism. We returned the thanks to the skipper for his handling of the vessel and his decisions.
Passing Crib Point Jetty, the domestic radio crackled into life again. CGM requested that we investigate a report of two jet skis aground some 3nm south of Westernport Marina. We noted the details and were able to contact the people on the jet skis. After a number of false starts we were able to ascertain a GPS location only to find that they were to the south of us, a few hundred metres south of the entrance to Hanns Inlet. The skipper turned CG04 around and we headed south, hoping to be able to sight the jet skis before the sun set. It was not to be though.
Thinking laterally in the deepening gloom, we turned on the yellow flashing lights and got the men on the Jet Ski to shine their torch at the flashing yellow lights. Keeping a watch in the general direction we quickly spotted the light and made a bee line for it, once again monitoring the depth. We could get no closer than 200m to them before running out of water ourselves. It was rapidly approaching low tide as we maintained a position within a few hundred metres of the stranded jet skis. We reassured them that we would remain on station until they refloated or we were relieved.
By this stage we had been on the water for around 7 hours and fatigue was starting to take its toll on the crew. We requested relief from CGM. Following various conversations, two hours later our friends at VMR arrived to take over the monitoring.
We passed on what information we had and departed for home some 7 miles away. As we entered the marina to refuel the small water police vessel was heading out to guide the jet skiers back to Hastings.
After refuelling and completing the paperwork, we headed for home. Just another day on the water for CG04 and her crew.
Points to remember for recreational boaters ALWAYS make sure your safety gear is in working order before each trip.
With a recent bout of jet skiers getting into difficulty, it is a timely reminder to have the appropriate safety gear onboard, PFD 1 and torch are mandatory. “Without their torches we would not have spotted the jet skis that night”. Additional equipment that will save your life include a mobile phone, personal EPRIB, flares and a space blanket, all light weight and could make the difference between life or death.
Accidents can, and do happen even on the mildest of days.
Written by Kavin Windsor
Hastings Coast Guard Brigade VF04
Flotilla Training Officer & Advanced Crew.