nqflotilla-police-140313A quiet Saturday turned into a frantically busy weekend for QF8 Townsville and QF14 Ingham with both Flotillas stretched to the limit for available Rescue Vessels and crew while working closely with Water Police and an Emergency Management Queensland rescue helicopter.

A dramatic change in the weather during the evening produced strong winds and thunderstorms. Initially this prompted a QF8 activation for a 7.5m vessel in distress after losing all electronics and power due to a freak wave at Cape Cleveland, approximately 10 nm from Townsville Harbour.

QF8's primary rescue vessel Rotary Rescue (above) left Townsville Harbour at midnight expecting a quick job then, chaos.

Within minutes there were three Maydays, one medivac and one missing vessel with eight occupants, all at once, as well as the original assist at Cape Cleveland.

It was determined that:

  • the Maydays were in the Davies and Broadhurst Reef area, approximately 50nm East of Townsville;
  • the medivac was initiated when a Townsville man suffered a compound fracture of his right leg due to a boating accident at Havannah Island, approximately 30nm North of Townsville; and
  • the overdue vessel with eight occupants was somewhere within the Palm Island group, approximately 40nm North of Townsville.

Rotary Rescue handled the Maydays, Ingham Coast Guard was tasked from Lucinda for the Havannah Island job, while Townsville Water Police carried out the search for the overdue vessel in the Palm Island group with the assistance of Emergency Management Queensland rescue helicopter.

The crew of QF14's primary rescue vessel Snow Stafford had already been at sea on a five-hour training exercise on that same night.

Another activation from Townsville Water Police arrived later on Sunday when everyone thought the crisis was over. This time it was an 11-metre cruiser that had broken down in Onion Bay on the southern side of Great Palm Island. Townsville Coast Guard still were working at maximum capacity at the time and were unable to attend this task.

The disabled boat was towed to Townsville by Snow Stafford which then had another 60nm to travel in order to get home to Lucinda; a marathon journey of 120nm that took over eight hours to complete.

The Townsville rescue vessel had spent the night standing off the Mayday vessels in 35 to 40- knot winds, a 2.5m swell, thunderstorm activity and heavy rain because it was impossible for any physical assistance to be given to the stricken vessel until daylight in the extreme conditions.

After daylight and a wait for a rising tide it was decided to tow both 12m game boats back to Townsville simultaneously, in order to save another trip. Towing speed was around 5.8 knots maximum; anything faster resulted in more water ingress in the holed vessel.

During the involvement of both primary Rescue Vessels, Snow Stafford (QF14) and Rotary Rescue (QF8), QF8's inshore rescue vessel Aurora Xtrata was also kept very busy throughout Sunday and carried out several assists as well.

Although at end of the day everyone was exhausted, it was great that all emergency response groups, i.e., Water Police, EMQ, Ingham Coast Guard and Townsville Coast Guard had no hesitation in responding to emergencies on the water and all worked together as one team to solve a multitude of problems.