Please select your home edition
Edition
Marine Resource 2016

Trimaran unsalvageable after hitting rocks - VMR deny help

by Melissa Woods, Daily Mercury/Sail-World on 30 Apr 2011
Fremantle Dokta still afloat - photo Tenille De Brueys SW
Once again the scope of Australian rescue authorities to assist yachts in trouble after their crew have abandoned them was called into question by a leisure sailor who lost his trimaran to rocks and waves last week.

Dr Chris Murcutt lost his $20,000 trimaran after it sank off the Mackay Harbour last week after it sprang a leak and couldn't be returned to the Mackay marina.


What was meant to be a relaxing day on the water, turned into a disaster for Dr Chris Murcutt, who had spent the afternoon sailing outside the Mackay Harbour on his trimaran, the Fremantle Dokta.

'We were heading over to Slade Point and it was such a beautiful day,' he said. 'I’ve been wanting to sail it since Christmas and this was the first chance I had.'

But the journey was stopped in its tracks as the trimaran started to leak. 'The motor and the battery got wet. I was planning to sail it back into the harbour but I didn’t have full steerage.'

Dr Murcutt said he rang the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) for assistance. 'We parked it in a safe place outside the marina and away from the shipping channel,' he said. 'We were told not to bring it into the marina by the Port Authority.'

Dr Murcutt said while waiting for VMR, a nearby fisherman came to help and took the bags and people off the trimaran. 'VMR said they would check it that afternoon,' Dr Murcutt said.

However, he returned the next day to find the trimaran unsalvageable. 'I think it hit the rocks overnight,' he said.

Dr Murcutt was obviously not happy with the fact that the VMR had not rescued the boat before it hit rocks. 'I had about ten people and fishermen on the beach helping to pull it into shore over the Easter weekend and picking up the pieces of the boat – they were more help than the authorities.'

It's not the first time that Dr Murcutt had struck trouble with his boat. It needed a major rebuild mid-2010, after he and his crew lost the mast and sails near Keswick Islant off Mackay. 'It was a bit breezy but there was no real fault,' Chris said after the incident.

Built in 1980, Fremantle Dokta was at that time believed to have suffered boat fatigue, but after some TLC from Chris and numerous favours called in, Fremantle Dokta raised her sails at Sunferries Magnetic Island Race Week in September.

Of the latest debacle, he commented 'I’m pretty devastated.' However, president of Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) Mackay Charlie Brownlow said due to the nature of the job, VMR was unable to help.

'Those in the boat hopped in a dinghy and came into the boat ramp to advise us that the boat was floating outside the harbour and they wanted us to help,' he said. 'The reason we couldn’t offer help was that it would have been a salvage job and our skippers are not qualified to do that work.'

Mr Brownlow said it was important to inform the public that VMR was there to save those in immediate danger, but could not 'salvage' boats. These issues were raised when the Queensland floods broke dozens of boats from their moorings in rivers from the Burdekin to the Brisbane, and the VMR were powerless by their charter to rescue the unmanned vessels.

Letter received from reader:

Sender: Richard Davison

Message: I feel sorry for the owner of this vessel, and can understand the frustration regarding this type of event. As a rescue skipper driving a govt. funded rescue craft I can assure everyone that the charter for a rescue craft is very very clear. We are to save lives, while at no time putting our own lives or vessel at unnecessary risk. We will normally do this by taking a vessel in distress under tow, or if the situation dictates, we will take the crew from the stricken vessel - after this there is no way as a funded rescue craft we can have any part to play in a commercial salvage operation - it is simply not possible from a charter point of view.

Perhaps this is the fundamental misapprehension that often occurs when this situation happens. The ONLY reason we launch a rescue vessel is that there is a current or potential risk to life, and the law clearly directs that the rescuing vessel has only to save the lives of the ones in trouble not their property, unless it is fair and reasonable to do so.

As a boater all my life, including many years of commercial fishing, I can promise that I never want to see a boat be wrecked or abandoned if I feel I can do something about it - that is a feeling that is bone deep to me and I strongly believe all reasonable efforts must be made to preserve any vessel. If an abandoned or unmanned vessel is a hazard to navigation, and it is feasible and the risk to the rescue craft acceptable I will attempt to secure that vessel.

However I feel that in this case the issue of saving the crew had become moot. They had already left the vessel, and the vessel was in some way moored. That is when the owner immediately has to contact private vessel or commercial operators to get a salvage under way, and frankly is the main justification you insure your boat in the first place. The rescue service is mandated to be at all times ready to act to save lives, as such it cannot be entering into commercial pursuits - such as salvage efforts on a vessel that is not a risk to navigation, nor that has any obvious immediate or possible future threat to life. The immediate reaction from my point of view is to find the nearest reasonable beach and drive the boat onto it. If it's a surf beach maybe not - but given the end result even that might have been safer for the boat!

I shudder to think of the abuse heaped on any rescue crew that was fiddling around with a non-threatening situation and found themselves late to a critical emergency. That is the other side of the story that seems rarely spoken on.

As a commercial skipper I have been involved in a few rescues over the years. When in that situation the owner of the boat has to give full permission for the vessel to be used to tow a broken down vessel. Only the saving of lives is something the master will act on without seeking permission of the owner. Before any tow happens there will be a clear offer of a standard Lloyds Contract, or a clear agreement of cost recovery before any tow will begin. If it would cost me a couple of grand to not fish that night then that is what I will be charging you - large boats might cost you many times this. That's the commercial reality, and individuals on the water will vary hugely in what they want or will do.

The fact is that if the owner of the vessel is the state govt. or a similar authority, and that authority has put out a clear set of directions and SOPs for the master and crew of the vessel - that is what will be carried out.

Cheers,

Richard Davison.

Skipper - Port Lincoln SES rescue vessel YAKATA.

RS Sailing 660x82Protector - 660 x 82PredictWind.com 2014

Related Articles

See how your smart phone can help save your life
OLAS, the man overboard location alert app from Exposure Lights is available on Android as well as through App Store. OLAS, the man overboard location alert app from Exposure Lights is now available on Android as well as through the App Store.
Posted on 25 May
High water on the great lakes – Boom or bust for boaters?
Boaters can find that deeper water under the keel may open a range of cruising, fishing or sailing grounds to navigation With Great Lakes water levels on the rise and expected to continue to increase into summer, recreational boaters could find that deeper water under the keel may open a whole new range of cruising, fishing or sailing grounds to navigation.
Posted on 19 May
BoatUS 2017 top 10 list of boat names and their meanings
BoatUS, issued its 2017 Top Ten Boat Names list today, a tradition dating back a quarter decade. The nation’s largest recreational boating advocacy, services and safety group, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), issued its 2017 Top Ten Boat Names list today, a tradition dating back a quarter decade. The names come from tallying up requests for boat names to the BoatUS Graphics service, and each reveal much about the personality of the vessel’s owner.
Posted on 18 May
Brian McGinnis takes Mid-Atlantic Regional Sunfish Championship
Old Point Comfort Yacht Club hosted a multi-state field for the first 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Sunfish Championship. Old Point Comfort Yacht Club hosted a multi-state field for the first 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Sunfish Championship. The race was a qualifier for the 2018 Sunfish Worlds. Winds for the weekend tended toward 20 knots or more for Saturday where only four of the nine boats entered finished the five races run on Saturday.
Posted on 9 May
North Technology buys Hall Spars from receivership
North Technology Group (NTG) has announced the acquisition of the Hall Spars business out of receivership. North Technology Group (NTG) has announced the acquisition of the Hall Spars business out of receivership. The Hall Spars US parent company announced in early 2017 that it would be closing the doors due to well publicized financial challenges. The acquisition covers Auckland and Brekens and Hall Spars will re-establish in Rhode Island
Posted on 9 May
Coast Guard finds Aids-to-Navigation shot and sunk near Block Island
Crew of Coast Guard Cutter Ida Lewis discovered a buoy sunk in water with bullet holes, near Block Island, Rhode Island. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Ida Lewis discovered a buoy sunk in the water with bullet holes, Monday, near Block Island, Rhode Island. The crew was conducting regular aids-to-navigation maintenance when they approached Clay Head buoy number 7 and found it submerged. The crew raised the 12,000-pound buoy and found 20 bullet holes in it.
Posted on 28 Apr
A Few Rays - When you think of sunscreen as a filter....
If a sunscreen is a filter of UV rays, how much is enough? If a sunscreen is a filter of UV rays, how much is enough? Where the skin is exposed and a sunscreen is working for you, it is filtering UV rays. Some of those rays always get through. The percentage of the high energy UVB rays (said to cause sunburn) that get through to cells in the skin can be determined by the claimed SPF of the product you are using.
Posted on 25 Apr
Boat International partners with NZ Millennium Cup 2018
Boat International partners with NZ Millennium Cup 2018 to celebrate superyacht regatta’s tenth anniversary Boat International Media, the global authority on superyachts and the luxury lifestyle that goes with them, has today announced that it will be partnering with the NZ Millennium Cup superyacht regatta, to be held in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands in January 2018.
Posted on 22 Apr
A Few Rays - What is Broad Spectrum Protection?
What is Broad Spectrum sunscreen? Ultraviolet rays only make up a small proportion of all of the sun’s rays. What is Broad Spectrum sunscreen? Ultraviolet rays (UVA, UVB and UVC) only make up a small proportion of all of the sun’s rays. UVA and UVB sun-rays are however the biggest contributors to skin damage from sun.
Posted on 19 Apr
Coast Guard urges boating safety common sense
Coast Guard reminds mariners that as the air temperature is warming the water temperatures are still dangerously cold The Coast Guard is reminding mariners Friday that as the air temperature is warming the water temperatures are still dangerously cold. With the rise in air temperature, the number of boaters, paddle craft users, and water enthusiasts taking to water activities also rises.
Posted on 15 Apr