Stay ‘boat safe’ this summer, Port Stephens Marine Rescue urges

STAY SAFE: Marine Rescue Port Stephens unit commander Colin Foote aboard one of the patrol's two vessels, the John Thompson, at Nelson Bay marina.

STAY SAFE: Marine Rescue Port Stephens unit commander Colin Foote aboard one of the patrol's two vessels, the John Thompson, at Nelson Bay marina.

The ‘stay safe’ boating message could not be any clearer this summer from Marine Rescue Port Stephens, which is now officially the state’s busiest patrol.

In preparation for another busy holiday period, unit commander Colin Foote said that there would be more emphasis on boat safety following an increase in operational activity in 2018.

“Due to this increased activity in Port Stephens, our command will be focusing on ensuring there are two boats on the water and 24-hour radio operation available at all times,” Mr Foote said.

“We provide a valuable service to the various users of our local waterways and I’m very pleased and proud of our achievements.

“Naturally, this would not have been done without the untiring efforts of a dedicated band of well-trained volunteers, who serve the boating community in many ways, including in our operations centre as radio operators, on our rescue vessels as crew and in our gift shop as fundraisers.”

Mr Foote said that rescue operations remained a major focus for the Marine Rescue group.

“Just last month at about 6:30am our members were tasked to assist a vessel with two persons on board located just north of Seal Rocks,” he said.

“The sailing vessel had mainsail and engine problems with the skipper having sustained an injured shoulder during the night which restricted his ability to sail.

“Following a 90-minute journey north in testing conditions to locate the distressed vessel, our four-person crew was able to take the vessel under tow and start the slow three-hour journey back to Nelson Bay where the crew could rest and seek medical attention.”

Mr Foote said that more volunteers were needed to maintain the excellent service provided to the Port Stephens boating and tourist communities.

“We need more volunteers who are prepared to train as boat crew and as radio operators. If anyone is interested in knowing more, simply come up to our base atop of Nelson Head and speak to those on duty.

“Our crew will also tell you about the many other opportunities to volunteer that are available with Marine Rescue Port Stephens.”

The command is back to full operation after having one of its two vessels, the Codi-K II, was out of action after being damaged during a heavy storm in April.

So far this year the Port Stephens patrol has received more than 25,000 radio and telephone calls, logged on in excess of 3500 vessels and assisted 155 vessels in distress, more than any other state patrol, according to official Marine Rescue NSW figures.

The Port Stephens patrol covers an area stretching from Soldiers Point to 30 nautical miles off shore, north to Seal Rocks and south along the Stockton Bight and including Tea Gardens and the Myall Lakes.

Originally operating from a caravan located on Nelson Head in 1984, the patrol was moved into a radio base constructed on top of the old World War II bunker at the same location.