by Ken McManus
A husband and wife were flown to safety by helicopter last night in a joint rescue operation involving Marine Rescue NSW, Victorian Police and a merchant ship. The couple were rescued from a stricken sailing catamaran that had struggled through heavy seas to run aground on a remote part of the Victorian Coast.
Marine Rescue Eden
Marine Rescue Eden received an urgent radio call late yesterday afternoon from merchant ship Kota Jaffa (sic) acting as a relay for the catamaran, floundering south of Eden near Wingan Inlet in Victoria.
The catamaran had been broadcasting emergency calls on Channel 16 since 4am Sunday but received no response.
The stricken vessel’s position had prevented its direct transmissions being received by either of the two nearest Victorian Volunteer Coast Guard radio stations at Mallacoota and Paynesville.
When alerted by the merchant ship, Marine Rescue Eden contacted NSW Police Force Marine Area Command in Sydney, which contacted Victorian Water Police.
Marine Rescue Eden, relaying through the merchant ship, then made contact with the catamaran on Channel 81, a VHF repeater channel on Mt Imlay near Eden, to reassure the couple that help was on the way. Gabo Island Lighthouse also was alerted to the emergency and monitored the channel as well.
With the vessel in an inaccessible part of the coastline and out of mobile telephone range, the couple also asked Marine Rescue Eden to alert relatives and friends awaiting the vessel’s arrival in Eden.
A member of Victorian Police from Mallacoota reached the pair after a lengthy drive followed by an hour’s hike to the coast. Victorian Water Police coordinated a helicopter rescue flight to the nearby beach and the catamaran was secured for later recovery.
Coast Guard Melbourne and the Victorian Water Police thanked Marine Rescue Eden for its prompt assistance.
The success in using the repeater Channel 81 to contact the yacht and its crew demonstrates the lifesaving value of knowing the location of repeater stations and using a repeater channel to communicate in areas where conditions prevent reception of VHF Channel 16.
Marine Rescue NSW website