20 August 2018

This month we look at a couple of cases where skippers of vessels in distress called Marine Radio Victoria for help.

Motor fails on fishing trip

Andy* and his brother headed up to Portland to get among the tuna on the weekend prior to Anzac Day. Andy’s brother had fished out there before in this boat – but it was Andy’s first time out at Portland.

They had four people on board and the day was fine with calm seas. After steaming past Lawrence Rocks for about an hour, they trolled for 30 minutes with no luck.

Because the weather was so fine, they then decided to head off towards The Kink to try their luck in deeper water. After cruising at about 25 knots for an hour, they set up to troll again at around 10am. At that point their 300 hp outboard engine stalled.

Despite pulling the cowling off and checking fuses and then checking wiring and ignition switch, they were not able to restart the motor. At this point in time they were about 20nm south of Cape Bridgewater.

They decided to call for help – using VHF Channel 16. Marine Radio Victoria (MRV) monitors Ch 16 and 67 all along the Victorian coast and out to 20 nm.

MRV heard their call for assistance and notified the Victorian Water Police who tasked the Portland Coast Guard to respond.

Andy updated their position through MRV who passed on these details to the Portland Coast Guard. Updates on the Coast Guard vessel’s ETA were provided to the disabled vessel by the Portland Coast Guard via VHF radio.

While Andy was waiting for the Coast Guard vessel to arrive, a number of recreational boats passed them by less than 1 km away – but they did not stop to offer them any assistance.

Possibly the other boaters did not have, or were not monitoring, VHF radio and were not aware that Andy’s group was in need of assistance.

Andy was in contact with MRV from the first call for help until the Coast Guard arrived. The Coast Guard vessel brought the disabled vessel and the group safely back to dry land at Portland Harbour.

* Names have been changed.

Lessons Learnt

  • Maritime Safety Victoria recommends going beyond compliance when boating.
  • Understand the risks – posed by wind, sea state, weather (current and forecast), the time of day – and their impact on waters where you are boating.
  • Be prepared for the conditions. In addition to the required communications equipment for the waters you are in, consider what you’d need in order to call for help. Carrying several means of raising the alarm increases your chance of rescue, and each has its uses in different scenarios.
  • Even if you boat on enclosed waters or within 2 nm of the coast, think about carrying a VHF radio, an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or personal locator beacon (PLB), a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch, and parachute flares. A grab bag will contain all these items for easy access should you need to grab them in a rush.

Helping yachtie make an entrance

In June, a yacht required assistance coming into Lakes Entrance. The yacht was from Albany in WA and was en route to Sydney.

Having intended to travel from Portland to Sydney in one leg, they chose to pull into Lake Entrance due to foul weather after they suffered sail and steering damage.

While they were struggling in the weather, they were in radio contact with both MRV and the Water Police at Paynesville.

MRV issued Securite messages to alert ships in the area as well as calling ships directly to make them aware of the location of the yacht. The yacht master was very happy to be able to speak to someone with a calm voice and receive the additional assistance they then provided.

The Water Police gained additional information from the master of the yacht on Ch 16 and activated the Lakes Entrance Coast Guard to assist the yacht over the bar.

The seasoned skipper was very appreciative and passed on his thanks to MRV, the Water Police and the Coast Guard.

Marine Radio Victoria

MRV was launched in 2017, monitoring Ch 16 for distress calls 24 hours a day up to 20 nm off the Victorian coast. MRV also provides radio checks and broadcasts weather forecasts and warnings.

Read more about marine radio