by Ken McManus
Marine Rescue Cottage Point in Broken Bay north of Sydney was alerted to a vessel on fire in Yeoman’s Bay in Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, at 1715 yesterday, and tasked to assist the Rural Fire Service and Ambulance Service at the scene. Yeoman’s Bay is a narrow waterway about one nautical mile from Cottage Point and is accessible only by water.
Burning yacht in Yeomans Bay in Broken Bay north of Sydney - photo by Geoffrey Russell
Within 25 minutes, skipper John Bensley and crew member Chris Jones were at the Marine Rescue Cottage Point base and liaising with emergency services. They deployed Cottage Point 30, a 30' Sailfish Catamaran to ferry RFS and ambulance crews to the nearby scene and assisted the RFS fire crews and Police in fighting the fire on the vessel.
The burning vessel was a 48' luxury pilot house Buizen yacht called Tezelia and its fibreglass hull was still alight on the arrival. Fortunately the skipper had been able to escape the blaze in his tender and was checked by the Ambulance Paramedics at the Marine Rescue Cottage Point base. He was uninjured and was very grateful for the prompt response of all the emergency services, just as his family was very grateful that he was safe and well.
Cottage Point 30 made numerous trips to the scene, providing logistical support to the firefighting operation. The rescue vessel’s large aft deck was ideally suited to carrying large numbers of firefighters and equipment to the burning vessel. It also provided a safe platform for the firefighters at the scene.
Despite the desperate efforts of the RFS Fire Boat, the Water Police and crew fromCottage Point 30, the damage caused by the fire caused the yacht sink on its mooring. This posed a significant environmental pollution hazard in the National Park as the vessel had over 300 litres of diesel and unleaded fuel onboard. To minimise the hazard, the Marine Rescue Cottage Point crew assisted the Fire and Emergency HAZMAT team in rigging a floating boom around the sunken yacht. This task was made even more challenging with limited visibility due to a thick fog, a large amount of debris on and under the water, a flood tide and headwind as well as a narrow channel.
When the boom was anchored and the area declared safe, Cottage Point 30 returned to base using its electronics including night vision and radar to navigate safely in the fog whichgave only about 15 metres visibility. This enabled Cottage Point 30 to provide guidance for the weary firefighters in two RFS fire boats that did not have the advantage of this advanced equipment.
Through the close liaison between RFS, Ambulance, Water Police and Marine Rescue the incident was managed to the best of the agencies’ capabilities with minimum impact to the environment.
Unit Commander Chris Perdue was full of praise for the professional efforts of Skipper John Bensley and crewman Chris Jones. 'Their prompt attendance at the scene to support the operations of the other emergency services was pivotal to the safe conduct of this dangerous event', said UC Perdue.