gormans-to-rescueIt was an uncomfortable 40 minute ride at speeds up to 33 knots in swells to 2 metres for a called-in mid-week crew at QF11 Yeppoon but they still managed to be first on-scene as a family's vessel sank.

A mid-afternoon phone call from the duty radio operator brought a crew, skippered by Gordon Fry of Charlie Crew, into action, reports Elizabeth Goodsell

A 5.8m fibreglass half cabin runabout with 2 adults and a child on board, was taking water. It was approximately 16NM (30 km) NE of Rosslyn Bay Harbour and heading for the closest land, North Keppel Island ñ approximately 7.5NM away. Would we please assist?

It takes about 30 minutes for a rescue vessel to be activated when the centre is not manned by a crew as the mid-week volunteers need to come from their homes along the Capricorn Coast.

Five QF11 Coast Guard members were called to the Centre and were quickly on board Gormanís Removal Rescue (GRR) ñ a 10 metre Kevla Cat. As the crew was readying the boat for sea, an urgent message was received from the family that their engine had stopped and they were taking on more water.

Our Centre radio operator advised the family that the rescue vessel was on the way and to don life jackets and set off their EPIRB.

The radio operator also advised the Search And Rescue Management Co-ordinator in Rockhampton (SARMAC) that we had an emergency and then put out a Mayday call to all boats in the area. At least 2 boats responded but only one, a trawler, Danny B, was in the general vicinity.

During the trip the Deputy Flotilla Commander, Jim Goodsell, who was on board GRR, advised the father of the family, to ensure that, the EPIRB was attached to at least one family member and that if they had to go into the water, make every attempt to stay together.

About 15 minutes later, GRR was outside the Keppel Islands and reached the stricken vessel before the trawler arrived. Shortly afterwards, Danny B was thanked and advised that Coast Guard had reached the vessel in distress.

It had taken GRR an uncomfortable 40 minutes at speeds up to 33knots in swells between 1 ñ 2 m to reach the sinking boat. Fortunately, for part of the trip, GRR was sheltered from the north easterlies by the Keppel Islands, allowing it to make greater speed.

Upon reaching the vessel, the crew took the child on board GRR while the parents continued to bail with buckets. A pump was passed across to try to assist with reducing the inflow of water but unfortunately this was unsuccessful. By then, waves were breaking over the back of the vessel and there was little hope of saving it. The mother was assisted on board our vessel while the father continued to try to use the pump.

As the back of the vessel began to go under water, one of our members assisted the exhausted father to negotiate the few metres from the back of the now sinking vessel to the ladder at the back of GRR. There was much flotsam - fishing rods, esky, ropes etc, around the boat, which was retrieved where possible.

Unfortunately, with the trauma of trying to save their sinking vessel, the family had not grabbed any personal items and after the initial shock of losing their boast eased, they realized this. They pleaded with the Coast Guard crew to let them go back to the boat, with only the bow above water, and let them enter the vessel to try to retrieve their belongings.

As lives are more important than material possessions, the Coast Guard members followed normal procedures and the motto ìSafety By All Meansî and would not agree to the owners diving into a floating, but possibly sinking, vessel being rocked by 1 ñ 2m waves.

It was heart breaking to see their anguish, but sense prevailed and after retrieving what they could and unsuccessfully attempting to right the boat, it was abandoned and the family was taken back to Rosslyn Bay.

When GRR returned to base after two hours, a police officer was waiting to interview the family. Maritime Safety Queensland was advised about the navigation hazard posed by the abandoned vessel.

The power and reliability of the twin 300 HP motors on the back of GRR and the seaworthiness of the catamaran hull design certainly contributed to the successful outcome of rescuing the family from a sinking boat.