RESCUE TEAM: Acting unit commander Kira Hartland, front, with the team from Marine Rescue Evans Head.
RESCUE TEAM: Acting unit commander Kira Hartland, front, with the team from Marine Rescue Evans Head. Susanna Freymark

Rescue group there when needed in troubled waters

"MARINE Rescue Evans Head, out. "Do you want our latitude and longitude?"

Rescue at sea

THEY have been ready at the radio since 5.30am. A motor boat lost power out at sea and the Marine Rescue boat is towing them in. The conversation on the radio is recorded for search and rescue purposes.

It is a sunny day with smoke hanging over the ocean from a burn-off up the coast.

The view from the headquarters lookout is stunning. Surfers, boats, the long arc of Airforce Beach stretching into the distance - all this is keenly observed by three volunteers.

Two are watch officers called in to support the assist.

Already they have seen whales.

The other volunteers involved in the incident response are out on the boat.

The volunteers

THESE are the people who are invisible until you run into trouble at sea.

They are teachers, business owners, ex-navy officers, people from all walks of life who volunteers their time to save lives.

They do it for the "camaraderie," most of them said.

"It's the best thing I ever did," volunteer Steve Cooper said. "It is a community, like a family."

Acting unit commander Kira Hartland is a teacher and as soon as she is finished in the classroom, she is training, cleaning the rescue boat, debriefing after incidents or working out how to attract new recruits.

"You don't have to have experience," Ms Hartland said. "We give you training."

The morning's rescue of the powerless motor boat was the final task in Ian Murray's training to be crew. After six months, he has qualified.

Rescue funds

CURRENTLY Marine Rescue Evans Head needs vessel operators, radio operators, admin staff and fund-raisers. For an organisation that is crucial too the well-being of a coastal town like Evans Head, the government provides only 16% of the funds needed to run the rescue operation.

"The mechanics tell us we need to upgrade the engines on the boat soon," Ms Hartland said.

That means a lot of sausage sizzles and other fund-raising events.

Logging on

IN between raising money, and the upkeep of the boat, rescue missions carry on.

So too does the education campaign to urge boat users to log on to Marine Rescue so if there is trouble, volunteers know exactly where the boat is located.

"About 67% of local people log on with our free service. But we want to increase that to 100%," Ms Hartland said.

"The majority of people want to do the right thing. The people who hit he whale (two weeks ago) didn't know they could log on 24/7."

Join up, log on

THERE is an smart phone app available to make logging on easy. Skippers can also log on by Marine Radio, VHF 16 and telephone on 6682 4888, 24 hours a day. Marine Rescue Evans Head has a Facebook page withdetails about volunteering.

Rescue Stats

  • 39 volunteers.
  • 13 rescues this year so far.
  • Mechanical failure is the most common reason people need to be rescued.
  • The rescue boat is an eight-metre Catamaran, 2x250 hp engines with a top speed of 38 knots
  • The rescue unit's coverage is 15 nautical miles out to sea.

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