by Ken McManus
A new marine radio upgrade for the NSW South Coast proved invaluable in a marathon night rescue trip for volunteers from Marine Rescue Ulladulla and a crippled cruiser adrift 30 nautical miles off the coast.
Marine Rescue Ulladulla’s flagship,
Marine Rescue Ulladulla’s 52ft offshore rescue vessel, Encounter, made a 60 nautical mile (108km) round trip to tow the cruiser to safety when it broke down off Jervis Bay on Thursday afternoon.
Largely thanks to a new radio repeater installed at Cambewarra Mountain early this year, improved communications meant it was a copybook operation.
The $120,000 cruiser called for help when both its engines failed due to a suspected electrical fault.
Encounter’s duty crew set off shortly after 4pm and reached the cruiser as dusk approached.
The new radio repeater ensured radio contact on VHF channel 81 could be quickly established despite the long range. This enabled the vessel in distress, the Marine Rescue base in Ulladulla and Encounter to remain in constant contact throughout the operation.
The cruiser, with two people on board, was quickly taken in tow for the long trip back to harbour, which ended safely soon after 10pm.
Ulladulla Unit Commander Doug Musker said the new $36,000 marine radio repeater was a boon to the rescuers. 'Everybody was able to keep in touch and know what was happening with very clear reception.'
Commissioned in January, the new repeater covers the area from Kiama to Kioloa and while built to meet the minimum standard range of 22 nautical miles, this coverage is often exceeded, as in this case, especially when weather, sea conditions and the condition of equipment on the distressed vessel are favourable.
'Boaters in this area should know that if they are having any difficulty getting help on the regular VHF channels 16 and 73, they should try channel 81. It’s not a chat channel so should be used only when necessary,' Commander Musker said.
The radio upgrade was jointly funded by Marine Rescue NSW and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Trusts.
Marine Rescue NSW website