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2015 News Releases




Amateur Radio in maritime rescue

Date : 11 / 05 / 2015
Author : Jim Linton - VK3PC

The importance of Amateur Radio to the community in times of crisis and emergency has again been shown through the rescue of a yacht skipper 130 kms east of Esperance off the Western Australian coast. On board the stricken yacht "Vector" was 68-year old Peter Cook VK6BJC, on a trip to Adelaide of about 2800 kms when on Monday May 4, broke a mast, activated an Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), set off flares and made distress calls on both Marine HF and the 40 metre Amateur Radio bands.

In the story researched and written by Andrew Smith VK6AS for NewsWest, the yacht had been washed against rocks. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) reached the scene by helicopter that landed on the rock. Andrew VK6AS said that Peter was able to walk to the helicopter and flown to Esperance, where he was checked out medically and reunited with family.
The event was very newsworthy, but despite extensive reporting the role played by Amateur Radio was not highlighted. The NewsWest broadcast, thanks to the work of Andrew VK6AS who uncovered the full story on the rescue by speaking to Peter VK6BJC and others.

In his research, stormy weather was forecast and the yacht anchored overnight in Goose Island Bay in the Recherche Archipelago of Southern Western Australia. However, the winds picked up strongly to start dragging the anchor and after a four hour struggle against the elements, the motor gave out and the vessel was washed over rocks and sustained damage.

Western Australian radio amateurs, Ian VK6TWJ, John VK6FABC, Chris VK6JI and Richard VK6HRC all heard a faint Mayday call, answered and receive no reply. About 10 minutes later Peter VK6BJC was loud enough to get his current position. It was left to Michael VK6TX to immediately give all of those details to the Water Police. This was the first time the maritime disaster alert had reached the authorities.

Emergency procedures swung into action, with Ian VK6DW, the skipper’s brother phoned by the AMSA as the first person on their calling list. The pair had regular morning and evening radio "skeds". In a quick call then on 40 metres he was told that the yacht would have to be abandoned within minutes. This message was relayed to AMSA together with an accurate position for the rescue.

Peter VK6BJC told NewsWest that "between the Water Police and AMSA, my rescue was outstanding and seemingly without issue". He continued: "Amateur Radio made the communication by me on Vector possible with quite a number of people listening in and helping out". Ian VK6DW also added: "Ham radio allowed me to let Peter know that help was on the way and to pass on some very helpful advice at what was a very stressful time. It also made sure that the information relayed in both directions was accurate".

The family is very grateful to all that helped prevent what could have been a tragedy.


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