Eden Water Police, Merimbula Marine Rescue, Roads and Maritime and the Westpac Helicopter all came together on Wednesday morning, June 14, for a simulated rescue mission – and in a stroke of good luck, I was invited along for the ride.
These large scale training exercises only occur around once a year as it’s not easy to bring these four busy organisations together.
Eden Water Police sergeant Steve Judd invited me along to give me, and the readers, an insight into how these marine rescue operations are performed.
I was picked up at Mitchies Jetty before being taken out into Merimbula Bay, near Long Point. Here the four vessels (two Water Police, one Marine Rescue and one RMS) met for a briefing.
The crews were informed that they would be simulating an emergency situation where they received a call saying a boat was sinking.
The volunteers and officers were given an approximate location of where the boat was last recorded but that was all they knew.
Sergeant Steve Judd said this was a pretty typical situation and something in which officers and volunteers needed to be prepared.
He said in these instances all the vessels and crews would form a search party to find the boat and any missing persons. So that’s exactly what they did.
The first thing I noticed was there is some serious maths used to work out the area in which to conduct the search. They need to take into account the current, the wind, the weight of the vessel, object or person and the time since the call because these all affect where the rescue efforts need to be focused.
Seeing this first-hand on the water gave me a much greater appreciation of what these people do in these emergency situations.
The boats all lined up a quarter of a mile apart and then proceeded to travel in a straight line to the edge of the search area. Everyone keeping their eyes out for anyone or anything that could help the search.
Once the ‘person’ was found, first aid was conducted and then the Westpac Helicopter was called in and the dummy was winched up.
Sergeant Judd said this would happen if the person needed urgent medical treatment at a hospital.
What shocked me was the absolute precision needed by the pilot to ensure that the rescue crew member could be lowered directly on to the boat.
Westpac Helicopter pilot Rob Wildman said it is much harder to winch someone out at sea as they are working with a moving target.
The boat was being blown by the wind and the helicopter propellers.
It was a nerve-wracking situation to be a part of – even though I knew full well it was only a practice run – but the professionalism shown by our volunteers, police and Maritime staff was reassuring.
A lot of work goes into these rescue operations and I can now comfortably say, after seeing their hard work first hand, that I would be more than happy for my life to be in their hands in an emergency situation.
I consider myself very lucky to be given the opportunity to spend the morning out at sea with our local heroes and seeing dolphins and whales just happened to be an added bonus!