Marine Rescue Port Stephens experiences busiest summer on record

RESCUE: Marine Rescue members retrieve the dinghy at Port Stephens. Pictures: Supplied

RESCUE: Marine Rescue members retrieve the dinghy at Port Stephens. Pictures: Supplied

Marine Rescue Port Stephens (MRPS) has just experienced possibly its busiest period on record, attending to around 20 incidents in nine days, including four serious mayday calls.

Fortunately, no lives were lost due to the extraordinary efforts of MRPS volunteer members.

However, one of the rescue vessels sustained damage to its propeller during one of the operations and will be out of action until repairs, estimated at more than $5000, can be made.

Fortunately, all four were wearing life jackets and were pulled from the water by a passing boat before they were airlifted to Broughton Island then transferred to Nelson Bay by MRPS, shaken but uninjured.

Unit commander Ben van der Wijngaart could not praise Marine Rescue members enough as the excellent boating conditions of the past week saw an extraordinary number of vessels logging on with the Nelson Bay operations radio room.

HIGH SPIRITS: Leo Hamilton, 21, Ian Hamilton, 57, Noah Hamilton, 23, and family friend Moritz, 26, on a Marine Rescue vessel on Monday.

HIGH SPIRITS: Leo Hamilton, 21, Ian Hamilton, 57, Noah Hamilton, 23, and family friend Moritz, 26, on a Marine Rescue vessel on Monday.

"I'm very proud of the effort from all our volunteers who this past week handled an exceptionally high workload to help the boating public," said Mr van der Wijngaart.

"The efforts of volunteers were outstanding. The rush started in the communications centre in the early hours of Sunday, January 10, and picked up rapidly through the morning and afternoon, with more than 80 log-ons, four incidents and several overdue vessels located by the operations radio room."

Rescue Vessel Port Stephens 31 and its crews spent more than 10 hours on the water assisting distressed vessels off Seal Rocks and Broughton Island.

At one stage during the afternoon on January 10, both Rescue Vessels 30 and 31 were assisting distressed boats off Broughton Island.

Mr van der Wijngaart said that Marine Rescue assisted other emergency services units when a vessel overturned on the Myall River north of Tea Gardens causing a number of people to be thrown into the water.

"Port Stephens Water Police and the Westpac Rescue helicopter assisted the people in the water while Marine Rescue attended to the overturned vessel and returned it to Tea Gardens," he said.

"Thankfully, no lives were lost during the mayday incidents. Rescue Vessel Port Stephens 30 is, however, being repaired for propeller damage sustained on one of the mayday rescues."

Mr van der Wijngaart reminded boat owners hat MRPS was not a taxi service.

"We had one on-shore skipper of a vessel safely moored at Shoal Bay request for it to be towed to a marina for repairs. As in cases where a vessel is beached and there are no persons on board whose lives are at risk, we are unable to assist as a taxi or salvage service."

RETRIEVED: The upturned vessel which was retrieved by Marine Rescue Port Stephens.

RETRIEVED: The upturned vessel which was retrieved by Marine Rescue Port Stephens.

Like many volunteer groups, COVID restrictions have severely impacting fundraising efforts for MRPS with the unit's main fundraising activity, the gift shop at the Nelson Head Reserve, currently closed.

"MRPS takes great pride in continuing the 39-year tradition of 24 hours a day, seven days a week watch over recreational boating activities and rescue services. Over recent days we saw our staff stretched to their limits, but their dedication, training and experience saw them through. This is particularly notable considering both radio operations and boat crews have suffered diminishing numbers as a result of last year's COVID crisis and an 11-month suspension of new trainee intakes."

They are always looking for new members. More information: www.marinerescueportstephens.com.au.