by Ken McManus
While most of the tasks undertaken by Marine Rescue vessels are in open waterways the Marine Rescue Cottage Point team on Sunday 4th September accomplished a challenging medical evacuation at the very limit of navigable waters in the upper reaches of Cowan Creek in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
Marine Rescue Cottage Point members and Ambulance officers with patient
While on routine patrol the crew of Cottage Point 20 (CP20) received a radio call at 1305 hrs from their base informing them of an urgent Ambulance request for support in a Medevac incident upstream from Bobbin Head. The Ambulance Duty Officer at St. Ives had sought assistance in transporting an ambulance crew to attend and extract a bushwalker with a broken ankle from a track that was inaccessible by road.
CP20 was immediately despatched to rendezvous with the Ambulance paramedic at Bobbin Head wharf before proceeding upstream to the casualty. Two NSW Ambulance SCAT members had already departed by foot to the site, about 35 minutes along the Sphinx Walking Track. This narrow pathway winds through rugged, isolated bushland along the banks of the most southern extension of Cowan Creek for several nautical miles past the Bobbin Head Marina.
MR Cottage Point vessels have never had cause to navigate this far up Cowan Creek past Bobbin Head Marina as these waters are normally only used by kayakers. Fortunately there was a high tide at the time of arrival and experienced skipper, Chris Gillett, was at the wheel to navigate through the shallow, snag filled creek. The charts on board and the plotter did not extend to this area and so crewman Grant Perry was stationed on the bow to keep a sharp watch for the extreme shallow sections. Even with this help the engines had to be trimmed up to the limit and CP20 touched bottom on several occasions as it made its way slowly over two nautical miles up the winding and narrow creek.
The crew eventually made radio contact with the SCAT team who had found a clear landing site against sharp rocks about 200m from the casualty who had sustained two broken ankles in a fall while trekking with two companions.
As the casualty was heavy, two crew members, Grant Perry and P K Wong were dispatched with the vessel’s Stokes Litter to assist in the recovery of the bushwalker. It took six men about 25 minutes to carry the patient, along a track about one metre wide with sharp drop-offs to the water at many places, back to where the vessel was waiting.
After transferring the patient and all others to CP20 the return journey to Bobbin Head on a falling tide was undertaken with five more people on board. The vessel proceeded slowly and cautiously, again touching bottom on a couple of occasions but was able to make its way clear.
On arrival at Bobbin Head wharf the patient was transferred to the waiting ambulance and the crew returned to base with the gratitude of the patient and Ambulance Officers for a job well done.
Marine Rescue NSW website