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News & Media

  • Like a 'rescue road train'
  • October 21, 2015

AT times the sea troughs were up to three metres high and the green waves were cascading over the bow of the boat as Marine Rescue’s ‘Cape Hawke’ vessel towed two stranded boats simultaneously towards the shelter of Wallis Lake.

For the final kilometre, another fishing vessel motored up to assist the smaller of the two vessels over the sandbar, the entrance of which resembled the chaotic swell of a washing machine.

“The sea out there was nothing but white caps. I don’t really know what the little boat was doing out there, but the bigger boat goes out for a living and knows what it’s doing. It was just bad luck for them,” Marine Rescue skipper Ray Mazurek said.

Ray received the first call for assistance at 12.15pm. A five metre outboard motorboat was experiencing fuel issues, and was stranded with three men onboard 1 ½ to 2km out to sea off One Mile Beach.

“Halfway there we decided to call in to base,” Ray said.

“Base said – actually we’ve got a bigger problem.”

Also experiencing fuel problems was Forster Fishing Charter’s 17 tonne boat, with 12 passengers on board and an anchor that was not holding.

“I decided to pick them up first because there were more of them. Once I’d hooked it up, I headed out to the smaller boat.”
Ray roped the small boat to the bigger boat, which was in turn attached to the Cape Hawke.

“It was like a road train out there. We were watching the bigger fishing vessel, and the people onboard it were watching the little boat,” he said.

The Cape Hawke - a 12 metre Steber vessel powered by two 380 horsepower engines with 26 inch props - dragged the convoy behind it through the churned up ocean. Within a mile of the Forster Tuncurry sandbar, another fishing vessel skippered by veteran fisherman Noel Gogerly escorted the trio closer before the small boat was removed and attached to his own vessel to make the crossing through the gap between the breakwalls.

“Like all sea faring people, Noel came over to help,” Ray said.

For Noel, with 45 years of ‘crossing’ the sandbar notched on his fishing belt, this was one of so many rescues during his life, that he has actually lost count.

“And they weren’t going to be able to cross the sandbar in those conditions without someone getting hurt,” Noel said.
Accompanied by the lobsters and snappers from that morning’s fishing trip off Old Bar, he commented that the conditions on the sea were “very sloppy for us, but for a small boat they would have been... very unpleasant.”

Just after 2pm, safely through, the boats were given temporary emergency mooring at Tuncurry. Forster Fishing Charter’s guests, a family from Narrabri, were unfazed by the experience, sharing a cold beer while the boat was refuelled.

Rob Roberts from Forster Fishing Charters said the problem arose from a fuel blockage. He decided against heading back out due to the high wind.

The event caused Marine Rescue’s Ray to issue some timely advice.

“We give regular warnings during the day on the conditions. That little boat should not have been out there. Once that north-easter gets up in these parts, you know it’s not going to go away. We’re just lucky no one was hurt.”

Ray made special mention of his Marine Rescue crew onboard, first officer Don Wright and crewmen John Imre and Sam Harris.

Full Story and more pictures from the Great Lakes Advocate here


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