Akuna Bay Cruising Club

The rescue of "Leonie Too" (Ian & Debbie Franklin)

Wednesday 12 October, 2005

Sunday 25th September was a beautiful spring day. The weather was fantastic for our run to Wisemans Ferry and back. A great day on the water, at least until our return that was.

Fuel levels were beginning to get a little low, so we stopped at Brooklyn to re-fuel. After all, the last thing anyone wants is the embarrassment of running out of fuel (not to mention the 'roasting' of fellow club members!)

Just off Gunyah Beach (2nm SE of Brooklyn near the junction of the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay), we had an engine overheat / shut down at about 1645hrs. So close to home - but so far (well - at least compared to Wisemans Ferry, that is).

This was something new, we'd never had this problem before. After checking for a broken fan belt, leakage from hoses / pumps and the leg water intakes, we restarted the motor, however more alarms and shutdown again. By this time it was after 1700hrs. Time to start asking for some help!

Having just completed the MROCP course (run by the Volunteer Coast Guard at Akuna Bay in July / August), now was the time to see if Ian remembered anything!

We called up Sydney CG for assistance on VHF16 after trying Cottage Point and Gosford (we had heard traffic from them earlier but it now appeared the 'locals' had packed up for the day). Sydney asked for the 3P's (position, people, problem), asked if there was any immediate threat (there wasn't) and said they would try Cottage Point by telephone and keep us informed.

Our first thoughts - thank goodness for the VHF. It would have been unlikely 27Meg would be heard as it is more 'line of sight' and the terrain between there and Sydney is all hills, sandstone and bush.

Whilst floating and waiting with Ian now cursing Mr Volvo profusely and / or any other various persons (with doubtful knowledge of their parentage) who may have left rubbish in the water that might now be stuck inside our cooling system; we were contacted on VHF by Keith and Jenny Turner (Latitude Dancer), who were moored in America Bay.

Having also undertaken the radio course, they were listening and monitoring the airways. They very kindly offered assistance and a tow back home if needed. Now, we must admit that was a very comforting thought, knowing a familiar voice was not too far away if the Coast Guard had to come from Sydney (2 hours away - maybe?)

What to do whist waiting? We were almost stationary, the tide was not far from running back in and there was absolutely no wind - a very unusual (but welcome) set of circumstances for the mouth of the Hawkesbury. Drop the anchor? The water was too deep for the length of chain. We could always add some more rope, however as boat movement was small, it was not necessary. Now, where was that toolkit - just in case?

Next, dusk was approaching. Remember the lights? Drifting means navigation lights and all round white light (well at least for our type / size of boat). Ian did remember something from the 'general knowledge' licence test all those years ago!

Shortly after, Sydney Coast Guard radioed back and informed us they had contacted Cottage Point and that they would assist from there. Cottage Point immediately contacted us and advised they were preparing their boat and would be along side us in approximately 20 - 30 minutes.

The story isn't quite over yet. The Coast Guard duly arrived and they were instantly recognised. They were in fact the ones who ran the radio course and exam. It is indeed comforting to see a familiar face. What is that saying? - it's a small world after all.

Now for the tow back home, but another minor problem. No one could reach the towing eye due to the rake and flare of the bow and it's closeness to the water line when at rest (at least not without jumping into the water that is). Who would have ever considered that? (We now have a short lanyard connected to the towing eye, which is looped up over the bow railing for any future use).

It was a lovely night for a tow. It was slow, however the near flat conditions made it very enjoyable. It was very quiet (except for the CG outboards 30 metres away) compared to our Volvo. Ian has promised not to make snide remarks about 'rag and stick' boats to Steve or James the next time we meet. Ian now thinks he might even like to try it one day!

We got back to Akuna Bay just in time for the rain (we are lucky aren't we?). Coast Guard pulled the tow-line in and 'rafted' us up alongside them in preparation to push us into our berth (way down on the north side of A-arm). Upon further consideration, we decided an easier push into a visitor berth on the fuel dock would be preferable to trying to get us in between 2 very large (and expensive) Rivs.

We made a donation to the Coast Guard for their assistance. It was not mandatory but we were grateful and impressed for their assistance. We only regretted not having so much ready cash after buying 250 litres of fuel at Brooklyn!

All in all, our rescue was nothing dramatic but it certainly has made as appreciate:

- the great work of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard

- the extra effort of the AVCG Cottage Point in re-opening the base as it involved at least 4 people (3 x rescue boat + 1 radio operator at the base)

- the benefits of VHF radio (every boat should have one, even if the vessel is not taken 'off-shore')

- the offer of assistance (and follow-up call the next day) from fellow club members

- the knowledge that 'the system' works when needed

Safe and happy boating to all
Ian & Debbie

P.S. The cause of the overheating was a bad impellor. Now we carry a spare. You can change it easily without letting in too much water (well - at least on our boat). Now where was that toolkit again?

P.P.S Two motors are better than one! Could this be the excuse Ian has been seeking to justify a bigger boat - or even a sailing boat? The "big boat show" is coming to Akuna Bay soon!

P.P.P.S We have since sent off an application form to join the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard ay Cottage Point as associate members. It is relatively cheap and helps the local organisation raise additional funds. With it comes a radio call sign and recording of vessel details to make log on / off procedures quicker and easier identification, if ever needed. In our opinion, all club members should join. You just never know - it might be "your rescue" next time!