gormans-to-rescueSeven tows and a number of other activations made it a very eventful week for QF11 Yeppoon.

It started with a 10m heavy steel power boat broken down east of Humpy Island. Skipper Gordon Fry and crew used Gormans Removals Rescue to complete a slow tow back to Roslyn Bay Harbor (RBH), departing at 1240 hours and returning at 1515 hours.

At 0930 the next morning, in very poor weather, a couple in a tinny reported by phone that they had a flat battery "near a beach with some yachts" at Great Keppel Island (apparently Leekes Beach). QF 20 Keppel Sands radio then dealt with the incident. Initially they indicated that they did not want assistance. However, due to the wet and windy conditions, Lindie Svendsen at Svendsens Beach and the skipper of Freedom Adventurer were concerned and provided some assistance.

Eventually, at noon, it was confirmed that QF11 was required. Allan Barsby and crew left RBH at 1320 and towed the boat back. Just before radio closing, Kim Johnston at Keppel Sands received a call from anxious relatives who reported a boat overdue after an overnight trip to Flat Island. The boat was not on the radio log, was not responding by radio and the car and trailer were still at RBH. Gordon Fry and crew members were alerted to a possible lengthy night-time search.

After Kim notified the Police SAR co-ordinator, she issued an "All Ships near Flat Island" call to ask for sightings of the missing boat and, unexpectedly, the missing boat answered and reported navigation difficulties. The next six hours were occupied with numerous radio and phone calls before the boat eventually reached RBH safely around midnight.

After contact was established with the missing boat, the QF11 crew were stood down and Darryl Prizeman from Keppel Sands flotilla took over the task of guiding the boat home by radio. The task was complicated by almost zero visibility, an unlit compass in the boat, inaccurate GPS fixes from the boat and intermittent radio contact. The boat skipper was asked to turn on his (unregistered) EPIRB and AMSA was then involved in providing fixes.

When radio contact was lost, the QF11 crew was reactivated, but stood down again shortly afterwards when contact was resumed. Finally a barge heading from north to south offered to assist, made visual contact and escorted the missing boat to the entrance to RBH.

Next morning, a call was received from a boat that was swamped on the west side of Corroboree Island. Gordon Fry and crew left RBH, with pumps, at 0920. However the boat was refloated and under way before they arrived. The boat was escorted for some time but the engines eventually stopped and it was taken in tow.

In the afternoon, a call was received from a small motor boat that had broken down between Square Rocks and North Keppel Island. Gordon Fry and crew departed RBH at 1420 hours but before this job was completed, a call was received from a small power boat that had broken down on the south side of Iron Pot. It was towed into RBH at 1710 hours.

Next morning, an elderly fisherman from Hervey Bay suffered an apparent heart attack while heading out to fish with his two sons, well beyond Barren Island. The sons administered CPR and headed back but had to travel for an hour before getting mobile phone coverage. Despite further use of CPR under guidance by phone from QAS, he could not be revived.

At 8.12am QF11 was requested to take a paramedic to meet the boat near Barren Island, but this was later cancelled and the fishing boat returned to RBH. Crew members assisted Ambulance staff to block one of the boat ramps for the retrieval of the deceased person. The proceedings were delayed for some hours by the necessity for the Police to obtain a death certificate which involved calls to his doctor at Hervey Bay who happened to be on holidays. In his place, his medical practice provided his medical history.

Then came a jet ski broken down at Kemp Beach after a ski tow line was sucked into the jet intake. Skipper Jim Warren and crew again used Gormans Removals Rescue to tow the PWC back to RBH.

In the evening a boat returning across Keppel Bay reported engine problems, with reduced speed. Jim Warren and crew took GRR out to escort it home. The target was asked to set off a flare to assist in locating him, near the outfall for the harbour dredge and the boat was taken in tow.

Finally, at 1420 the next afternoon, a recreational boat at Flat Island called to request assistance after a breakdown. Jim Warren and crew left RBH at 1440 hours in GRR, took the boat in tow at 1454 and returned to RBH at 1815.

QF11 commander Arthur H. Hunt says the week's activities underline a number of points, particularly that:

  • Boaties who do not make use of the free service to register their trips with Coast Guard are taking an unnecessary risk
  • Visitors to the Capricorn Coast should visit the Coast Guard to obtain basic local knowledge and emergency contacts before going out on the water
  • Boaties who go out in daylight should be equipped to return after dark if they are delayed.
  • Reliance on mobile phones, without marine radio, is a huge risk.