by Matthew Heap
Some would argue that solo yachtsman Glenn Ey is an unlucky man, with his beautiful 11 metre vessel Streaker rolled by a rogue wave and dismasted off the NSW South Coast this week.
Others, including many seasoned search and rescue professionals, whilst appreciating Mr Ey’s loss, would contend that under the circumstances, he is indeed an incredibly fortunate man.
Having left Pittwater on Sydney’s Northern Beaches on October 4 bound for Eden on the NSW Southern Coast, 44 year old Ey encountered severe weather and was riding out the storm when disaster struck. A rogue wave hit the boat rolling it over and destroying the mast.
After making what repairs he could Glenn started the motor and headed back to what he thought was Sydney coast. Unsure of his exact position, now out of fuel and drifting helplessly, he activated his GME MT400 406MHz EPIRB.
The emergency signal was detected by a COSPAS SARSAT satellite and on decoding the MT400’s unique identification number the Australian Search & Rescue Authority AMSA was alerted. Unfortunately Mr Ey had failed to register his EPIRB with AMSA in Canberra, resulting in the MT400 being essentially anonymous, with no ownership information, vessel particulars or emergency contact numbers.
None the less, AMSA immediately commenced a search and rescue operation centering on the MT400’s emergency signal location at approximately 520 kms east of Sydney. AMSA requested an Air Canada Boeing 777 and an Air New Zealand Airbus both en route to Sydney to divert to the area and confirm the position of the vessel and gather additional information about the nature of distress.
On confirmation of the location, a SAR Dornier aircraft was able to establish radio communications with Mr Ey, the merchant vessel ANL Benalla was directed to standby alongside the stricken yacht until the NSW water police vessel Nemesis was able to arrive at the scene and transfer the yachtsman to Sydney.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing; however Mr Ey’s frightening ordeal and the subsequent anguish for his family could have been significantly lessened had he been better prepared for his voyage. Firstly, and most importantly, his MT400 EPIRB should have been registered with AMSA, it is free of charge and a legal requirement.
Secondly on solo voyages, particularly offshore ones, a GPS enabled EPIRB is a far better option. Activating a GPS EPIRB will give rescuers a position to within 100 metres in a matter of 2 to 3 minutes.
After Mr Ey was reunited with his relieved parents in Sydney, he profusely thanked everyone involved in his rescue. GME will be donating a MT406G GPS equipped EPIRB and ensure he has it correctly registered prior to his next maritime adventure.
For additional information on the attributes of Emergency Beacons, please visit www.gme.net.au or www.amsa.gov.au