MARINE RESCUE Central Coast Unit – previously
Central Coast Division of Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol
The magnificent Brisbane Waters has always captivated an assortment of boat owners and land lovers to our shores and waterways. During the early 1970s local and visiting boaties often met at the Gosford Aquatic Club on a Friday night to swap ‘nautical tales’ and make plans for the approaching weekend. Regulars included members of Volunteer Coastal Patrol Broken Bay Division. During one of these gatherings, the vision of a Central Coast Division was conceived, 34 years after Volunteer Coastal Patrol was founded.
Jack James, a Central Coast Division foundation member, recalls a Broken Bay member, Ron Youngman, inquiring why Gosford did not have a Division within Coastal Patrol. Ron was a regular weekend visitor to Brisbane Water on his vessel South Pacific.
On 14th June, 1971 an advertisement placed in the Central Coast Advocate lured potential new members to a provisional meeting on 1st August, 1971. On 8th August, Field Officer Commanding (FOC) Harold Nobbs swore in 19 new members, and Central Coast Division was promulgated in FOC’s Orders on 7th September under the leadership of Division Skipper Ted Hayes (Division Commander), with Vic McCutcheon appointed as Senior Skipper (Operations Officer).
Ted Hayes was away a lot of the time as he used to fly around the state with his work. Vic McCutcheon obtained the use of a downstairs room (at no charge) at the Central Coast League Club. Radio licence courses were completed at this venue and later at the base at Point Clare. The radio inspector stopped at the base on every occasion he was in the area.
Foundation members worked hard, and within a few months most of them had obtained their Maritime Services Board boat driver’s licence and Restricted Radiotelephone Operator’s Certificate of Proficiency from the Postal and Telecommunications Department of the Commonwealth Government (radio operator’s licence). They also passed examinations in ‘Seamanship’, ‘Navigation’, and ‘Meteorology’. In those days, a great deal of help was given by members of the Broken Bay Division, several of whom travelled to Gosford on weekends to assist with education, and to share practical experience in all aspects of rescue work.
The Central Coast Division’s First Radio Base(s)
For about three months in 1971 the first radio base operated from an old caravan (loaned by Jim McFarlane) from a builder’s shed owned by local builder Sven Anderson in Albany Street, Caroline Bay. Vic McCutcheon purchased a caravan for $1300 and donated it to the Division for use as a temporary radio base. With permission from local Council, it was set up on Gosford Wharf near the then Aquatic Club (now rebuilt as Iguana Joes). Electricity was obtained free from Peter Rysdick’s power point on the wharf. The van was affectionately known as ‘The Road Runner’ because of the cartoon character painted on its rear. The picture on the right, taken in 1974 shows Fred Lambert (right) and Les Clark. The radio base caravan was manned from 1200 to 1700 on Saturdays and 0800 to 1700 on Sundays by two operators. The first HF radio supplied by RVCP HQ installed in the van was said to have been ‘nearly as big as the van … and boomed out in style. Jim McFarlane said that the radio operator’s theme song was ‘I was born under a Wandering Frequency’. Vic McCutcheon donated two additional HF radios soon after for use in the van. The use of VHF and 27 MHz marine radios did not commence until the early 1980s.
During its first decade Central Coast Division won the ‘Proficiency Shield’ at least three times. The base was the experimental radio base for the Coastal Patrol, and boasted one of the biggest registers of active member’s vessels.
In 1974 members of the Division formed part of the first Coastal Patrol crew of a radio relay vessel in the Gosford to Lord Howe Island Yacht Race. Crew for the vessel South Pacific was provided by members of both Broken Bay and Central Coast Divisions. Coastal Patrol was the radio base for the Gosford to Lord Howe yacht race from 1972 to 1984, and also provided radio cover to the yachts returning from the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race.
Point Clare Base
The search for a permanent base was started by Vic McCutcheon about three months after formation of the Division. Vic first approached the council for land at Lexington Parade at Green Point. Council advised that we could put the base there but we could not determine the owner of the land. Privately, Vic engaged a solicitor to search for the title, without success. The owner could not be found. Another solicitor was consulted with the same result. Vic went to Sydney and searched at the Dept of Lands himself without success.
Vic was the RVCP regional representative for the area from Hawkesbury River to Coffs Harbour. He went each month to the mess meetings at The Spit in Sydney. At one of these meetings, it was suggested that a title search be made at the Dept of the Interior in Canberra. Vic made a trip to Canberra and obtained copies of the ownership certificates. The land was owned by Gosford Council. When the Council learned this, they advised that they were going to develop it as a reserve, and was not available for RVCP use. That land still was not developed when researched in 2015.
Vic sought to get permission to have the Coastal Patrol Base on a reserve elsewhere. This took a long time to get approval from about ten government departments involving many trips to Sydney. Slowly approvals were received by writing heaps of letters. Vic says “I used to ring them, then after that confirm what was discussed in writing to have a record of the discussions.” There was no other RVCP base in NSW at that time on a reserve. It took three years to gain the necessary approvals.
Towards the end of this period, the Federal Government announced ‘The Red Scheme’ that provided grants of funds for the construction of volunteer organisation infrastructure.
Vic contacted local Federal Member Barry Cohen and Gosford Council Mayor Malcolm Brooks seeking funds to construct the base. The Division was granted funding of almost $28000 from the Red Scheme through Jim McClelland (a federal minister) towards construction of the base, even though we did not yet have a location determined.
The Rip Bridge was under construction at the time and Vic found a vacant block on the west side alongside the bridge. The Division applied to the council for this site. However, after discussion at a Council meeting and following advice from their engineer Neil Agnew, Council approval was refused because ‘it would increase the traffic on the road and was not a good area for radio reception’. Vic was told about the Council decision on a Friday afternoon and he immediately went to the council where he had a long and noisy argument with Council staff. The Mayor, Malcolm Brooks, intervened and after a discussion advised that Council would agree to any site approved by the Department of Lands. The Division then had only two weeks to begin using the Red Scheme money or it would be lost.
Vic immediately rang Graham MacDonald, a contact at the Lands Department, and he suggested a site at Point Clare. Vic confirmed that the site was suitable and requested full specifications. After some further phone, discussions the Dept of Lands advised that signed approved documentation would be ready on the next Monday. Vic had a pilot’s licence at the time and he and Peter Stollery flew up to Rutherford airfield, near Maitland on the Monday, took a taxi to the Lands Office and picked the signed contract. On return to Gosford, the information was submitted to Council who approved the location the next Friday.
Vic personally employed a person on his work office staff for almost 12 months to gain approval for the base and keep the records for the Red Scheme. Everything was signed for and the Division received a letter of thanks from the Federal government complimenting the Division about its control of the project.
Building the Base
Even before construction began there was a problem gaining access to the site. There was a wet spot. The Division arranged for loads of large sandstone, and they just disappeared under the soil in the wet conditions. We eventually got the concrete trucks in and commenced construction. Before long, it was clear that funds to finish the building were insufficient. Barry Cohen was contacted and he put Vic McCutcheon back in touch with Jim McClelland who after discussions indicated he would give us another $10,000. Vic insisted that he send the Division a telegram to confirm this arrangement. Some three weeks later, it was announced that the extra moneys would not be available.
The Division had already committed $12000 to complete the base for the opening day. Vic personally paid all the accounts for the amounts owing to local businesses. At the RVCP meeting in Sydney Vic said he was going to sue the government. He was told to go back and raise the funds. He took out a summons at the courthouse and rang McClelland at Parliament House to find out when McClelland was in Parliament.
He asked Vic why, and when told he asked for a delay of 48-hours. The promised money was deposited in the Division’s bank account two days later. This happened after the base was opened. On the day the Point Clare Base opened Vic was abused by four members because he had put the Division into debt (the $12000 over-run). At the next meeting, Vic advised the members that he would stay with the Division only until the debt was paid and then he would no longer be operational.
Vic says, “I had been working hard. I had seven employees in my business; I had rewritten the constitution of RVCP and copied thousands of pages after it was approved. I was learning to fly, as well as constructing a commercial building in North Gosford and overseeing the building of the base. I had boat duty every weekend and during the week, I had call outs from the local police for emergencies in all weathers. I was just about having a break down. I was too upset to go out for the photograph during the opening ceremony due to the abuse.”
After the opening ceremony Barry Cohen and Malcolm Brooks came and took Vic out, and advised members and guests what he had done for the Division. Over the first six years of the Division he established several businesses to contribute to the Patrol finances.”
Fund Raising was a hard job then as Coastal Patrol was not known and VCP HQ policy as espoused by Harold Nobbs was ‘no publicity’. Vic McCutcheon acknowledges his personal thanks to Graham MacDonald from the Dept of Lands for advice on locating the site; to Owen Crossland who supplied all the sandstone blocks for the base frontage; to Fred Craft from Forestry for the transmission poles; to Broken Hill radio for free installation of radios and upkeep; to Alan Broxon for running and installing all electric wiring; to Stan Oakes for running the Education courses. Vic also acknowledges the ladies (First Mates) for their assistance with fund raising. He says it is pleasing to know that the Unit is functioning well today.
McCutcheon says, “When I resigned there were over 70 members In the Division. We were conducting radio courses, navigation courses, and first aid courses and undertaking boat exercises. Gosford and Terrigal Bases were being manned with boats and radios. No Divisional Skipper can run a base without the assistance of fellow members who also contribute their time and at this stage of the Coastal Patrol history, the use of their boats. The members support assured the Patrol went on and helped make the Division what it is today. In my time all running cost of vessels was paid for by the boat owners and with about seven patrol vessels on the water of a weekend, we gave a good service to the public. Most weekends I would use 40 to 60 gallons of fuel in my boat.”
In 1976 members raised the funds to build the jetty at the Point Clare Base, and they also undertook some necessary dredging. The area in front of the Base on Brisbane Water over time reduces in depth due to run off and siltation. Twice during our occupancy the Division has sought help from the NSW Government and Gosford City Council to enable dredging in front of the Base. This ongoing problem reduces water depth over time and remains a problem despite the Division Jetty having been doubled in length from its original 100 feet to 200 feet.
The original building was extended in 1994 and modified again in 2004 when the asbestos roof was removed and the building remodelled. Division Commander Ron Cole again sought help from the Federal Government through the Regional Partnership Program and the grant received enable the project to be completed. The base is now the administrative and educational centre of the Division and houses the Division’s principal Marine Radio Base and its Marine Rescue Units.
Coastal Patrol Terrigal Base
When RVCP opened the Gosford base at Point Clare, the Terrigal Base was being looked after by Eddie Felton and he used to contact Broken Bay base for support. Eddie advised the Central Coast Division that his lease was expiring and he was going to stop using the site. Gosford Council wanted all the buildings at the site demolished. Vic McCutcheon contacted the Dept Lands at East Maitland and RVCP Central Coast was granted a long lease. We opened the base, supplied radios and manned the base from 0600 to 1800 on weekends.
During early 1976, a working party led by Gordon Burgess (Division Skipper from April, 75 to December, 77) demolished the old boatshed under the building, fabricated and erected the flagpole, repaired the base and built the rear steps for entry, generally prepared the building for occupancy by the Division. Occupancy of the Terrigal Haven Base was officially granted on 28 January, 1977. Radio Operator Les Clarke performed the first radio duty at the Base on the weekend of 27th and 28th December, 1976. At the time Skipper W. Felton was the Senior Officer of the Terrigal Division. In 2015 the Terrigal Base facility was assigned to Marine Rescue Terrigal, previously Terrigal Sea Rescue. Central Coast Unit coninues to monitor the radios at Terrigal. The signals are received at the Terrigal Base, converted automatically to a digital signal and transmitted by landline to Point Clare, reconverted to radio and the calls received and responded to in real time in the Point Clare Base radio room.
Fire and Rebuilding of Terrigal
About 0300 on 26th July, 1996 the Terrigal Haven Base was severely damaged by fire. It was initially spotted by patrolling police, who summoned the fire brigade. The fire investigators determined that the seat of the fire was under the radio bench on the front wall. No equipment could be salvaged. All radios and safety gear were destroyed. This unfortunate event coincided with the Division’s 25th Anniversary celebrations and the appointment of the Division’s first (and ongoing) Patron, the Hon. Jim Lloyd, MP, Member for Robertson. Jim Lloyd was so upset when he heard the news, that he cancelled his early appointments and immediately drove to the site.
The Base was rebuilt with funds from the insurance and extra fundraising and in no small part due to contributions from the Central Coast Community Chest, the Division’s Second Mates, the Central Coast Express Advocate, Gosford Masonic Club, local fishing clubs, and, of course Patrol members.
On 11th January, 1998 the base was re-opened by the Mayor of Gosford City Council, Councillor Chris Holstein at a ceremony at Terrigal Haven.
Ettalong Radio Stand-by Base
In 1996 a radio stand-by radio base was operated from the rooftop of the Ettalong Beach Memorial Club. The sub-base was arranged largely through the efforts of Eddie Wright and initially operated each weekend. The base was equipped and ready for service to back-up the Pt Clare Base in the event of communications failure or other potential problems. With the re-building of the Ettalong Club the sub-base was disbanded.
Slipway at the Point Clare Base
In 1992 the Division sought a lease for extra land through the Dept of Lands to enable construction of a Slipway and Ramp for boat launching and boat maintenance as well as to provide extra space for member’s car parking. The slipway is an invaluable aid in ensuring that corporate vessels are at operational readiness at optimum performance. By 2005 the light rail used had deteriorated. The Railways provided help and new rail to enable the slipway to be refurbished.
In July, 1996 a new galley fit-out was installed due to contributions of the Second Mates Committee.
During 1997 the Radio Room was subject to the first of many refits and upgrades. A major re-build was undertaken in 2003, the radio room expanded and air-conditioning installed. The radio equipment was upgraded to more professional VHF equipment, a modern weather station installed and a 15m mid-fold aerial pole with aerial array commissioned.
Marine Rescue Vessels
Up until July 1988, members used their own boats and they were deployed to perform operational duties within Brisbane Water whenever needed. The purchase of the Division’s first corporate vessel, a second hand 6.1 De Havilland Trojan finally enabled SAR to be handled by the Patrol’s own lifeboat.
The Krait 1996 – 1968
World War 2 hero ‘Krait’ was restored and maintained by Coastal Patrol and dedicated as a floating war memorial, was still a training and rescue vessel operated by the Coastal Patrol on behalf of the Krait Trust donated to the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. She was based and normally worked out of the Broken Bay Division at Church Point. Her job was to take out interested groups who had undertaken the ‘Sun Safe’ Boating Course. This involved Krait working nearly every weekend and also some weekdays. She was also on stand-by for emergency work such as search and rescue, of which she did her share.
The Central Coast Division was asked to form a crew, and at the time Master Skipper Les Clarke, at that time Squadron Skipper North, took on the job.
When she visited Brisbane Water she was kept on the wharf of what was then the Gosford Aquatic Club. The Maritime Service Board (MSB) later gave her a permanent mooring in the bay off Tascott. Local residents were panicked when they spotted her, they complained to police that a load of boat people were anchored off Tascott Bay and were coming ashore. Krait participated in many Anzac Day services, and sailed the NSW coast on ‘Good Will’ visits
‘Centaco 1’ – later ‘Hi Torque Rescue’
Norm Smith, a member since 1980 and a Division Commander recalls the purchase of the Division’s first corporate vessel from a driveway in Davistown when he went shopping with fellow member Rick Barwell. They found a 6.1m aluminium De Havilland Trojan with a good basic structure, but which needed many hours hard work before it could become an accredited corporate lifeboat.
After its purchase, the vessel was taken to Horizon Engineering who removed the jet unit, which they took as payment for installing a one-metre flat transom and twin outboard pods on the vessel’s stern. When it was returned every strip of paint was removed bringing the boat back to bare aluminium. Norm said, ‘We worked our fingers to the bone in the strip down operation.’
Modification plans were completed for the cabin specifications, and a working party began the work. Norm said, ‘It was a great team effort, everybody chipped in over various weekends for over six months’.
The hull was painted with two-part epoxy, and the working party painted the top of the vessel by hand. Norm and Terry (an electrician) then worked on it every afternoon after work, completing all the electrical requirements, such as installing radar, radios, and navigation and towing lights. Norm then rebuilt the trailer. Centaco 1, later renamed Hi Torque Rescue in 1995, following a sponsorship arrangement with Hi Torque Marine, who provided and serviced two 70HP Johnson outboard engines, which were changed annually during the sponsorship period.
Hi Torque Rescue was sold in 2001 as it could not be modified to meet the new standards for State Rescue Board accreditation. It was purchased by a private owner and can be recognised in different colours on Brisbane Waters. Norm said, ‘The old girl has been written off, but she was a great workhorse who never once let us down. She handled well in good conditions as far out as 15 nautical miles, and even in 3 metre seas and high winds towing a trawler through Box Head when we were taking water over the windscreen. I was sorry to see her go, she represents a huge input from our members’.
More Marine Rescue Vessels
By 1996 the Division had three Marine Rescue Vessels –
‘Spirit of Federation’, CP 2000N is a Category 2 vessel and was launched for trials in late November, 2000. She had a 310 Yanmar turbo diesel powering a Hamilton Jet, enabling fast rescue response for locations around Brisbane Water and up to 7 nautical miles offshore. This vessel was found to have non-repairable electrolysis in 2008 and the hull was scrapped.
Brisbane Water Lifeboat, was a 5.95m open cabin diesel jet Category 1 lifeboat built by Seatamer Marine of Redhead. She was named at a commissioning ceremony at the Point Clare base on 13 Jan 2007 by Clr Laurie Maher, Mayor of Gosford. The vessel was sold when Marine Rescue 22 was purchased as a replacement.
‘Hi Torque’ was a 4.3m Quintrex punt with a 30HP Johnson outboard engine maintained by sponsor Hi Torque Marine. This vessel is used for training, until scrapped.
Member Recognition and reminiscences
Vic McCutcheon supported the Central Coast Division of VCP from its inception, doing radio duty and fund raising. Some rescue work was undertaken with Vic’s boat Mac’s Pride. The following are some of his recollections:
1. When they let the Avoca Lake out a man was washed out to sea. The police called me, my son and I went out in heavy seas to try and locate the man. We were travelling at about 20 knots and suddenly in front of us the wave we were following gulletted out. We dropped 5.0m off the wave. When we landed the impact split the boat floor down the centre and damaged the HF radio, it could not receive calls. We told base we were going in through the waves towards the beach. They tried to advise us to wait until the police boat came. We went in row after row of waves but could not find anyone; we could only see overalls on the rocks. When the police came they went in to check and their boat was being swept towards the rocks. I called on the radio suggesting that they turn and go with it, which they did. We did not locate the person.
2. The first day we opened Terrigal Base it was around 100°F and blowing from the north-west about 80 mph. I launched the Mac’s Pride and went out to The Pips (about three nm). When I arrived I noticed a shirt waving on an oar about a mile away. When I got there I found it was Harold Binns from Mangrove Mountain. He had done a shear pin in his motor. He replaced the pin and when he went to put the propeller back on, he dropped it. He was only one mile off Terrigal when it happened but by the time he put the anchor out it would not reach the bottom. I towed his 3.9m wooden boat back to Terrigal. He was found to have suffered first and second degrees burns.
3. I was towing a boat back from Avoca when we received a May Day call. I answered and they advised there were two persons aboard and the motor had cut out and the boat was drifting onto rocks near Forrester’s Beach. I advised him to lower the anchor out and let out plenty of line. Tom Brown and I dropped the boat at Terrigal and proceeded to Forresters. When we got the boat was going up and down on top of the rocks which are about 2.0m out of water at low tide. We went over the rocks and threw him the heavy line to tie to the bow of his boat and went north over the reef using up most of our 600 feet of rope. We asked him to put his hand up when it was OK to tow him out. When we started to tow, the rope went slack. He was holding it in his hand. After discussions he said he was not going up the front of the boat. We decided to go past near the boat and throw a heavy Danthorpe anchor into the bow of the boat. We did this actually hitting the boat as we went over the reef back to the towing position. When we towed it we later learned had his anchor had two ¾” steel rods caught in the rocks. We caught two waves over the top, which we bailed out and had the bilge pump working. We tried again with success, and towed the boat back to Terrigal. We had to prise the rescued people’s hands off the boat. We wrapped them both silver foil blankets, gave them coffee and rang their wives to come down from Bateau Bay to pick them up. On Monday morning I received a phone call wanting to know the name of my insurance company to claim for insurance to his boat. I cannot repeat what I told him but did not hear from him again.
4. I was fishing one day on the eastern side of the two bombies off The Entrance. Milton Bellamy from Terrigal had his trawler on the west side. A 5.0m boat came in between us and dropped his anchor. It was a calm day. I picked up the haler and told him to move because it was dangerous position. He gave both of us the thumbs up. About 10 minutes, later the boat was picked up and dropped then came a high swell that picked the boat up and took it to the inside (second) bombie and dropped them heavily on the reef. I started our motor and when we got to the boat it was upside down badly damaged and the crew was battered around. I towed them back to Terrigal and told them to go to hospital for a check up.
5. Tom Brown and I were at Lobster Beach when we noticed a hire boat heading for Half Tide Rocks. The boat hit the rocks and overturned. We rushed to the scene and pulled two adults out of the water, asking them how many people were aboard. They said five. I asked three children and they replied yes. We saw one under the water and Tom dived overboard and gave him to me. I started to give first aid and then we saw the second one, then the third. We gave them all first aid and then used the oxy-viva. We contacted base for an ambulance and police for Ettalong ramp. We worked on them and then handed them over to the ambulance advising them what we had done. They were all five crying when we last saw them.
6. Tom and I were approaching The Rip one day and we noticed a 3.95mot boat drifting. One person was pulling the anchor and the other had his back to him trying to start the motor. The anchor was off the bottom and when he pulled it he went backwards and the two of them went in the water together. They had about 16 fishing lines out. All these lines went around one man’s throat. We threw a line to put over his head and secured him to the boat bollard. The second one we sighted a couple of minutes later, and Tom dived in to get him. He was unconscious when we got him in the boat. I gave him first aid and then put the oxy-viva on him. We met the ambulance and Police at Woy Woy ramp. He said he was all right and did not need the ambulance. The Police was about to let him go when I insisted he go in the ambulance as I had used the oxy-viva on him. I asked him to sign a paper that he was going to let him go home. He asked me what for, I told that if anything happened to the man, the coroner would talk to him. He put him in the van. He had an attack before he got to hospital. The constable came to see me later to thank me.
7. One day the wife and I were going to R.M.Y.C. in Pittwater to go to a show with Broken Bay Division. When we were near Barrenjoey we were stopped by a boat and he told me that he had found the boat he was towing floating about three miles off shore. I looked at him and said don’t you know what that flag is; it’s a diver’s flag. He dropped anchor and we went full throttle with the boat to west reef, where we found three men treading water. They had dropped all their weights and were very worried as one could not swim only 50 yards. We towed them back to Pittwater and proceeded to R.M.Y.C.
8. We were near Woy Woy one day and the police boat Nemesis radioed me that a boat had turned over two miles off Barrenjoey. I radioed base and took off to assist. When we went through The Rip Maritime pulled me up to book me for exceeding the speed limit ($170 fine). As they were taking my particulars, Nemesis came on the radio wanting to know where I was. I replied that I was being entertained by Maritime, to which he replied one of these days he will be out there in trouble and we will not see him. I went out at full speed. When I reached the area I found two people hanging on to the upturned boat. We righted the boat and towed it to a Broken Bay vessel to finish the tow.
9. We were at Terrigal one day and we were advised that an 8.3m boat had broken down off Maitland Bay. When we arrived we could not find him, but eventually we found him fishing and drifting seven miles off shore. We towed him to Terrigal and put him on a mooring. He went ashore and used the phone, then came back and told us we could tow him back to Pittwater. I told him we were not the N.R.M.A. He got me to radio the Water Police. They were going to the Aquatic Club for lunch. I told him that they could not get to Terrigal before 10 o’clock that night. I said he would have to get his trailer sent up, which happened. I realised that some four months earlier I had towed him back into the channel in the Broadwater and spent three hours cleaning his water pump. I later found out that they were from Ford at Narrabeen (or near) and most were mechanics. I was not very happy at the news as we escorted them out to Box Head.
10. I received a call from police one night that a sailing boat on its way to New Zealand had done a 360 deg and had broken his mast four miles off Barrenjoey. I launched the boat at Gosford, went out, and towed Col McDermott the owner back to Gosford. It was a very dark night and we arrived back at dawn.
11. I received a call from the police another day and Tom and I went out about two miles off Lion Island to tow a broken masted sailing boat in. The seas were extremely high and when I arrived near Little Box Head I told the owner I would tow him to Patonga as it was risky to take him to Gosford. He insisted Gosford; I told him I would tow him in so long as he obeyed my instructions. He had to go to port when I told him or starboard as directed. If he did not I would cut the tow as I was not going to go on the bar. He agreed on the way in he yelled I am going to hit the rocks. I said more to starboard and Tom went to the rear with the knife. He obeyed and the sea threw me about 20 feet to port and he went about 30 feet to port alongside Little Box Head. I accelerated and towed him into Lobster Beach. Tony was there with the police boat, I asked him why he did not go out, and he replied that he would need two funnels to go out. We successfully towed him to Gosford.
12. While returning from a Wisemans Ferry exercise we were contacted to tow a ferry to Pittwater. When we arrived it was 20m long. We towed it to its mooring some six miles away. We also towed a boat who passed two boats, then turned to port after coming under the Hawkesbury Bridge. He was caught in the wake and ended up in the middle of an oyster lease. We fired a rope in and got him out.
13. I was on duty and about three miles off The Entrance when an 8.3m vessel radioed me to say he was coming out of The Entrance Lake and would I stay off shore and give him directions to come out. I could not believe him but he came and I got him out successfully. He went about 300 yards from the bombie and stopped with fuel problems. I towed him to Terrigal.
14. I was asked by the Terrigal Sailing Club to look after the Australian catamarans sailing race. The day was eerie with black low clouds and a nor-east wind. They raced up to near Foresters and back to Terrigal, then out towards the North East and around a buoy off Wamberal, twice. The first round went OK. The second the wind came up, the seas rose, and the black clouds came in lower. The buoy near Wamberal was washed close to the beach breakers. We were not allowed to shift it out to a safer depth. As a result about seventeen boats were overturned in the surf. I towed each one out on to a large Danthorpe anchor I had set up. A 4.5m boat that was assisting me ended up on Wamberal beach as well as a few catamarans. I towed them back to the club house, and asked how many boats were missing .They could not tell me as they had not clocked off the boats and some had gone home. I went up to Forresters to check and found three boats on the rocks and towed them back. We then went out to near The Pips, picked up a dismasted red yacht, and towed it to Terrigal.
15. We used to look after the Eastwood and Ryde area fishing club and towed several of their boats back to Terrigal Haven. When the Cutty Sark got into trouble off Forresters, Buster brown from Pittwater Water Police went up to assist. It was a rainy night with heavy seas. Eventually the H.M.A.S. Swan picked them up near Newcastle. The boat went aground north of Newcastle. Buster came back and Tiny Ross Sampson and Vic stayed on at Terrigal Base to make sure he got back safely to Broken Bay. He advised he was opposite Terrigal We asked him to send up a flare and we would tell him where he was. The flare went up and he was abeam Forresters. While waiting we heard a May Day call. We advised Canberra but they said no one else had contacted them and we also could not get a reply. That morning a yacht was washed ashore at Maitland Bay and the people on board were able to swim to shore. Buster made it successfully back to Pittwater.
16. One Sunday afternoon we were asked to jump-start a vessel. We asked him where he was going. The two of them said the bombies off The Entrance. We advised that a strong southerly was coming up later in the day and we would start him provided he would come back when we advised him. They agreed. Some two and a half hours we radioed them, one boat returned, and all was well, his mate was on his way. We closed the base and went home. That morning I received a phone call to say that the second boat crewman swam ashore and gave the warning that he did not know the whereabouts of his mate. I rang Peter Stollery and we went up to Somersby and flew our plane over the area for an hour and half looking for him. All we could find was a petrol tank off Catherine Bay. We wrote a message on a life jacket, flew close to Buster Brown’s Police boat off Avoca, and threw it out the window to them before returning to Somersby. Neither the man nor the boat was ever found.
17. We were called to attend an accident at Paddy’s Channel. The driver was going to Woy Woy using a street map. He went through Paddy’s Channel and then turned right at speed. He hit the stone wall on the western side and severely damaged the boat. He, his wife and child ended up in the mud. We could only reach them by dropping the anchor and drifting over the rock wall to them. The lady was up to her waist in mud and was holding the child under water. We called for her to let the child up and rowed to get there quicker. We got the three out of the water and I gave first aid to the child. We hooked the boat up to a rope and started to pull our boat to deep water. We called for assistance to tow the boat and it was towed to Tascott with the owner. We took the mother and child quickly to the ambulance at Gosford Wharf. Later they all came to the base and thanked us for our quick assistance.
18. We were approaching Half Tide Rocks when a message came over the radio that a Halverson cruiser was on Box Head. We could not believe it. We quickly went there and it was high and dry on the rocks with a good swell from the sea. We radioed Broken Bay to contact Halverson’s and ask permission to pull it and the crew off. We waited some ten minutes after receiving permission and successfully pulled them off. We escorted them back beyond Lion Island.
19. The 1974 Floods
During the floods, we received a call that a vessel was missing from near Couch Crescent Koolewong. We launched the boat to begin the search with my crewmember and two others. I gave instructions not to touch anything. However, one of the people who owned the boat, when we sighted the vessel lifted the ropes and put them in the boat’s well. We were forced to turn into an on-coming wave and two waves came over my boat and washed the ropes into the two propellers. The boat went like a surfboard into the shore. I told the crew to run for the shore when the wave went back some 30.0m. I got out, untangled the rope off the props, and then held on to the bow rope. The strong waves which were breaking over the road at Tascott picked the boat up, threw it at the large rock, and drove the rear bollard through the boat, and then the wave receded bringing the boat back at me. I radioed for assistance and a surfboat eventually threw me a line and held the boat until the water came under and I got out of the situation and back to the ramp. The police boat would not start and I towed it to Koolewong where it came to life.
I went to the Aquatic Club and noticed the surfboats stored under the club were getting broken up. I went inside and asked them whether I could pull the timbers off to get them out. When they came out, they could not believe the situation. The water was going under the rocks in the car park and going up in the air about 20 feet, then washing back to the cellars under the club. It washed out all the beer kegs and pipes. The club was closed.
I towed our radio caravan base to the road and we set up again. We received a call that a boat was going around in circles on the eastern side of Point Frederick. We launched my boat and went around the point to reach the boat. It had two people aboard. They had just about pulled everything apart to stop the motor. I simply lifted the fuel stop. We took them close to the shore where they jumped overboard and swam to shore. We returned to Gosford ramp. We then got a call at 2 a.m. that there was a large cement boat with two people aboard missing from Booker Bay. I launched the boat at Woy Woy and went to investigate. I found the boat on the western side of St Hubert’s Island. I could not raise anyone with the hailer, so threw the anchor up and crawled up the rope. There was no one aboard. I radioed the police and they then asked if I could tow it off. The tide was going out and the boat was sitting upright with its anchor in the mud. I told them to pump it full of mud and use it for a pot plant.
We then received a call of a vessel coming from Broken Bay. After searching for it and not seeing any sign of it, I returned. It was found broken up and about 30 feet above the water near Pearl Beach two days later. The houses near Booker Bay and south of Woy Woy ramp had water going into them. The huge waves on the Broadwater also damaged houses at Koolewong and near Point Clare station. Alf Webb and his son towed a boat from near Koolewong to Woy Woy. Alf Webb Junior swam a line in and connected the tow. When they arrived at Woy Woy they discovered that they had towed the boat there with a large Danthorpe anchor down. No wonder it took them 3 hours.
Over the next two weekends all Division vessels and members were used to get boats off St Hubert’s Island and the mud banks around the shoreline. We also refloated about 15 vessels and put them back on their moorings. The concrete boat near St Hubert’s was towed off by M Goddard by putting in two poles and using blocks, tackles, and two bulldozers on St Hubert’s Island. It took three weeks only moving it inches at a time at high tide.
20. We were at Terrigal early one Sunday and we received a message that a sailing boat had been stolen from Pittwater the night before. The police asked to see if it could be located. After searching for about an hour we found it about one mile off McMasters Beach. The sails were up and it was at anchor with no one aboard. The anchor rope was very small and old and was tight. The tide was coming in. We stayed near the boat and waited for the police boat to arrive. They inspected it and we asked if they were going to tow it back. They refused. I told them that the rope to the anchor was old and the incoming tide would break it. They left for Pittwater. I radioed Nemesis and the senior officer instructed the Water Police to return and tow it back. It would have only broken the line and ended up on the rocks. The Gosford police picked two young chaps who had swum ashore at McMasters Beach.
21. The Gosford Sailing Club had Sabots sailing one Sunday when a strong southerly came up. We were told by one of the young sailors that there were two boats south of Point Frederick , we immediately went down to find one boat upturned and the young chap hanging on to it. He told us that his mate was swimming to Saratoga. We searched for him and found him exhausted and treading water. We gave him first aid and on the way back he passed out. We put the oxy-viva on him and took him to the ambulance at Gosford Ramp.
22. When we were at Lobster Beach we heard on the radio that a chap was in trouble at Box Head. When we arrived he had a boogie board which was broken and he was trying to get ashore on the steep rocks. I could not believe that his mate had dropped him off when he went fishing and was going to pick him up upon his return. We radioed his mate and took him back to Ettalong. He subsequently told me he could only swim 30 yards at the time.
23. Vic took Mac’s Pride down to the start of the Hobart Yacht Race on six occasions. One time there was yacht with an all women’s crew. I tried to make an old yacht turn away from the racing yachts but those on board insisted that they had right of way. They sailed across the competing boat which hit them. The racing yacht sailed over the old vessel and continued on to Hobart. We picked up the crew and returned them to shore. A sailing ship came into harbour on another time and dropped anchor in the middle of the harbour. The skipper refused to move so I radioed the Harbour Master and he impounded the boat and towed it to the harbour bridge. We had several other encounters with boats especially when the first American boat was entered.
Vic entered Mac’s Pride in the Wisemans Ferry reliability trial from Scotland Island in Pittwater to Wisemans. You had to declare your speed and every second you were late at a checkpoint you would be timed and each second late was 20 points. Most boats entered 6 knots. Scotty was my crew and navigator. We could not believe it when we were told that we won the race with a loss of less than 100 points. The event dinner was held at the Wisemans Ferry Hotel and it closed at 10 p.m. The dinner was changed to the Bowls Club that had a licence till 12 p.m. and in future years, the show was held there. Vic says ‘I enjoyed my boating with the Coastal Patrol and believe that at least five people were saved. I wish to thank Tom Brown who was with me on most occasions. I never refused to go out, sometimes I could not get anyone with me due to the conditions but I still went’.
Vic McCutcheon was awarded life membership in December 1976. During his time on the Council of Coastal Patrol he voted for membership of the patrol for women. Unfortunately at the time the motion was lost. Ron Youngman and his wife, who owned South Pacific then went and trained members of the Coast Guard and severely weakened VCP Broken Bay Division.
Lake Macquarie Division had a dispute with monies sent to headquarters. At the meeting we all decided to attend their next meeting. One by one the Council members to say they would not be attending. I went and received a hostile reception. One by one the members abused the loss and threatened to leave Coastal Patrol if it was not corrected. Finally, I was able to speak. I advised them that the figures were correct and looking at the Divisional Skipper I said, ‘You must have another bank account, where is it?’ He stood up and announced it was at the Commonwealth Bank. It was produced to the surprise of his fellow members. I stood him, and the other signatory on the account, down and they apologised for their behaviour.
Jack James 1923 – 2012
MRNSW / RVCP life member Jack James passed away on Saturday 24 Nov 2012, aged 89 years. Jack was an inaugural member of RVCP Central Coast. He was sworn in at the formation of that unit on 15 August 1971. On passing, he had been a member of RVCP / MRNSW for 41 years.
He was a rescue skipper at the time that members used their own vessels for SAR. His boat Hourglass was a Bedford design built by Charles Larsen in 1935. The vessel was powered by a Thorneycroft Conversion Mercury engine; dimensions were LOA 12.0m, Beam 3.23m and draft 1.05m.
Jack was appointed Division Commander of RVCP Central Coast in 1979 and held that post until 1985 when he was appointed as Flag Officer Commanding RVCP a post he held until 1988. Jack had a great deal to do with the organisation of both the 1975 Naval Review and the 1988 Bi-Centenary on Sydney Harbour, working with Rear Admiral David Martin KCMG AO RAN on RVCP involvement with crowd control and public safety.
His contribution to the organisation and community was acknowledged by RVCP with Life Membership. In recent years, he had fought stomach cancer and the early stages of dementia.
Jack’s funeral was held at Rookwood at 1430 hours on Thursday 29 Nov 2012. He is survived by wife Betty (an RVCP Central Coast Second Mates Member), daughter Christine, son Geoff, daughter-in-law Helen and grandchildren Andrew, Matthew, Lauren and Stephen. He is remembered by our older members, especially those of Green Watch.
Norm Smith joined the Central Coast Division in 1980. He was Division Commander between 1989 and 1992, and has also held the position of Operations Officer and Boat Master. Norm is an active member standing watch each month as a coxswain, and is the Division’s Coxswain Testing Officer.
The Second Mates
The Second Mates first formed in 1974, with the primary objective of raising funds to provide necessities for the Central Coast Division. At that time women were not invited to become full members, but they wanted to support their male partners and friends.
Fund-raising activities included – country and western and games nights, chocolate wheel fund-raising, bus trips, street stalls, jam and pickle sales, garage sales, Tupperware and Nutrimetics parties, and crystal, jewellery, dress and shoe sales. At many functions Second Mates have been up front and behind the scenes providing tasty meals and refreshments.
Donations back to the Division have provided such items as radios, vessel covers, microwave oven, carpet, sewer connection, crockery, chairs, fans, answer machine, new ceiling for the radio room and staff office. The Second Mates wound up at their last meeting in November, 2002 making a generous donation of two new convertible lounges to the Division. Their contribution over the years has been most appreciated. Women are able to be full members of RVCP and Marine Rescue NSW.
First Woman Commander
Pat Fayers was appointed Division Commander in October 2006. Pat continued the Division’s rolling Management Plan. In January 2007 Brisbane Water lifeboat was commissioned, In March 2007 a 20m mid-fold steel antenna was made operational, and a DA for installation of boat lifts was approved.
The Unit’s Annual General Meeting was held at its Point Clare Base on Saturday 9th June 2012. Both UC Ian Gallard and DUC Tony Long had completed 2-year terms and did not stand for re-election. Past Commander Pat Fayers was nominated as UC and Gordon Kimpton was nominated as DUC. Both were elected unopposed. Pat and Gordon commenced their 2-year terms from July 1.
Ian Gallard, who was elected in July 2010, has overseen a very busy and successful term of office with great support from his Executive Officers. Under Ian’s stewardship, the Unit has completed an impressive list of infrastructure improvements:
Installed a 2.1Kw Photovoltaic Solar System to help offset increasing power costs;
Installed marine radio upgrades for 27MHz and VHF radios and antenna systems at its Terrigal Haven Base;
Procured and installed new computer systems at the Point Clare Base, including a 106cm radio room monitor for AIS;
Installed Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) in the Unit’s rescue vessels;
Installed an ADSL switching system at the Terrigal Haven Base enabling marine radio signals to be answered from special radios at Point Clare Base, providing Terrigal with 7 day-a-week radio coverage;
Installed an Electrodata recording system for all communications at the Point Clare Base;
Installed ducted air-conditioning throughout the Point Clare Base;
Replaced the entry access stairway at the Terrigal Haven Base (for safety);
Procured a high volume emergency water pump for fire-fighting and vessel pump-out;
Arranged for complete repaint (inside and outside) for the Point Clare Base;
Procured an outboard runabout for use as a Training Vessel;
Assisted with the design and installation of safety signage at the eighteen boat ramps on the Central Coast;
Procured a range of modern First Aid training aids and equipment;
Replaced the 350HP Yanmar diesel engine in the Unit’s offshore rescue boat;
Arranged for the extension of the Unit Jetty and the relocation of the rescue vessel boatlifts to the eastern (deep) end of the Jetty. Erection of a large shed for storage of ground maintenance equipment and the Training Boat. The new Commander, Pat Fayers, is looking forward to this, her second 2-year term. Pat was the transition Commander from Coastal Patrol to Marine Rescue. The new Executive has been announced and Pat says she is ready for the challenges ahead.
Roger Palmer was elected as Unit Commander in June 2014.
Following his election, he was hospitalised for a few days.
Once back on deck he issued the following statement, “It is with great pride and some trepidation that I accept this position. I thank all those who voted me and all of you can rest assured that I will be putting in 110% effort and commitment.
Over the past four years we have has a somewhat disjointed training regime and I look forward to the challenge of improving the process and bringing our members through the various endorsements required by the RTO to achieve recognition of their efforts. In short, I want all members to enjoy their time at the Point Clare. I also aim to focus on fund raising and have many ideas with regard to this. I will be discussing these ideas with a committee and yourselves over the next few Unit Meetings and input from all members will be welcome.
We will continue to take part in exercises with other Units. As you are aware we are already arranging for personnel to join Broken Bay at weekends during the month of July. Further negotiations with other Units are continuing and the Operations Officer will keep us informed and updated on this matter.
I was overwhelmed by the number of personnel who sent their good wishes to me during my recent visit to hospital following my heart attack. Thank you all very much, I am now on the mend. Thank you also to Pat Fayers who found herself taking on her “old” role only days after handing it over to me.”
Commissioning Ceremony for CC22, CC21 and CC11
Months of planning and preparation came to fruition at 1100 hours on Saturday 21 February 2015 when MC Ron Cole called on Roger Palmer, Unit Commander of Marine Rescue Central Coast, to welcome visitors and guests to the special function to celebrate the naming of two new rescue vessels and the upgrade and refurbishing of another.
Important guests included Lucy Wicks MP, Member for Robertson, Chris Holstein MLA, Member for Gosford, Stacey Tannos ESM, Commissioner of MRNSW, Lawrie McKinna, the Mayor of Gosford, Det Supt Mark Hutchings, Commander NSW Water Police Marine Area Command and Rev Richard Wrightson, Senior MRNSW Chaplain. The guest list was quite long, and included three Directors of MRNSW, John Lynch, Tony Long and Pat Fayers, UCs or DUCs from Marine Rescue Tuggerah Lakes, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Norah Head, Hawkesbury, and Broken Bay. Paul Anderson, General Manager of Gosford City Council attended and was supported by two Gosford City Councillors, Bob Ward and Jeff Strickland.
Following his welcome address and the bagpipe rendition of the National Anthem played by kilted member Lloyd Grounds, Roger Palmer called on Chris Holstein to name the two new vessels, a 6.8m Ocean Cylinder and a Sea-Doo GTI 130 Rescue Water Craft. Holstein acknowledged the dedication and commitment of the Marine Central Coast volunteers, then to the drone of the bagpipes each vessel was christened with champagne and the audience raised a toast, firstly to ‘Central Coast 22’ and then to ‘Central Coast 11’.
Commissioner Tannos spoke on the importance of the Unit’s volunteers and presented CMDR Palmer with framed Commissioning Certificates not only for the two new vessels but also for the renamed and refurbished 7.5m diesel jet vessel now to be named ‘Central Coast 21’. He said ‘Central Coast Unit now has three first class vessels ready and able to provide SAR services to the Central Coast area’.
Rev Richard Wrightson was called to the podium and in prayer asked for the Lord’s Protection of the rescue vessels and all who sailed in them. Rev Wrightson told the background story of Saint Christopher and called for a blessing on three medallions, one for each vessel, which will remind crews of the blessings and this ceremony.
The MC then called on Lucy Wicks to acknowledge the Long Service of four Central Coast members. Dave Mead and Jim Robertson received MRNSW 10-Year Long Service Awards and Collis Harvey and Ted Leeson were presented with National Medals for 15-year active service in RVCP and MRNSW.
CMDR Palmer was presented with an engraved commemorative Ship’s Bell for the Point Clare Base by Bill Collingburn CEO of Yamba Welding and Engineering, builder of ‘Central Coast 22’. Det Supt Mark Hutchings addressed the crowd, praising the work of Marine Rescue in its support of the Water Police in search and rescue incidents along the entire NSW coast. The formal proceedings concluded with Three Cheers for Marine Rescue Central Coast and all its volunteer rescue members.
The guests were invited to inspect the Base and its facilities including the jetty and rescue vessels. For the more adventurous, a short excursion on one of the rescue boats was provided over the next couple of hours. The Unit provided an extensive finger food luncheon for the almost 200 guests and members present. A great day was enjoyed by all who attended.
SUPER STORM April 2015
The Central Coast was one of the areas hit hardest by a super storm, commencing on Monday April 21, 2015 as an East Coast Low became stationary off the coast, with cyclonic winds downing trees and power poles, sparking mass blackouts.
By Wednesday April 22, more than 80,000 homes were without power phone or both, most for up to six days (including your correspondent). Cyclone category 2 winds of up to 135km/h were recorded at Norah Head as roofs were ripped off and homes ¬destroyed at Avoca and Saratoga. Yachts broke their moorings and were smashed on to the break wall at Gosford Boat Harbour and around the foreshores of Brisbane Water. Torrential rain whipped up massive seas. Widespread flooding closed roads and schools up and down the coast as residents huddled indoors praying their roofs would withstand the onslaught.
The Marine Rescue Base at Point Clare continued to operate throughout, though not without damage. Part of the base sun awning was destroyed. The very high tides in Brisbane Water, increased further by the enormous rainwater runoff and whipped up by the gale force southerly, had waves breaking over the base jetty and some of the jetty decking was broken loose. One mooring pile was broken, the floating pontoon was badly damaged and Central Coast 22 was almost washed off its boatlift. Power and controls to the boatlift were snapped off as the jetty was rocked by the storm surges.
Trees around the entry road and in the car park were damaged. The members conducted a massive cleanup on the weekend of April 25/26 to remove danger and threat of future problems. Gosford City Council reported 250 tonnes of spoiled food, green-waste and household effects were delivered to Woy Woy landfill on the weekend.
Despite the problems, the Unit attended the Anzac Dawn Service at Woy Woy, Central Coast 22 participated, crewed by Peter Alderton, Peter Ashworth, Mitch Giles and Ross Ward. A contingent of sixteen Members in uniform represented the Unit in the Anzac Day March at Woy Woy.
Late on Saturday April 25 Central Coast 22, crewed by Hunter Leeder, Norm Smith and Chris Sagadevon assisted a disabled 9.0m cruiser during a wild storm with thunder, lightning, rain and hail. The boat was towed to safety at Empire Bay.
Updated May 2015