From Andrew, VK6AS, WA Amateur Radio News Inc.“Last Monday morning the ABC breaking news reported that a 68-year-old man has been rescued from a stricken yacht, 130 kilometres east of Esperance, off WA's south coast, The skipper, the only person onboard, activated an EPIRB about 7:30am after his mast broke. Water Police said it appeared the yacht had then washed against rocks. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority sent two rescue helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft to find the vessel. WA Police, SES, Volunteer Marine Rescue, and the Departments of Transport and Fisheries were involved in the rescue. AMSA confirmed a helicopter was able to land near the rocks and the yachtsman was winched to safety. He was checked by ambulance officers and was in good health”.As is often the case there is a little bit more to this story and, as is too frequent, the media failed to get the facts quite right and also paid no credit to the involvement of amateur radio. So here is the full story...
The very experienced skipper of the yacht “Vector” is Peter VK6BJC who was voyaging to Adelaide. Stormy weather was forecast and so he anchored overnight in Goose Island Bay in the Recherché Archipelago of Southern WA, waiting for it to pass. Winds picked up to beyond 40 knots or strong gale force and the anchor started to drag; Peter motored against the wind for nearly 4 hours to relieve the pressure on the anchor and maintain position. But then the motor suddenly cut out and he was adrift. Raising sail was to no avail, as it almost immediately blew out in the gale, his craft was washed over a rock, bending the rudder and skeg, even the emergency tiller was of no use as he drifted helplessly towards a rock just off Miles Island.Peter was in an emergency situation and deployed his EPIRB, he set off flares and called mayday both on marine HF and on the 40 meter AR band.
Western Australian amateurs, VK6TWJ, Ian, VK6FABC, John , VK6JI Chris and Richard VK6HRC all heard a faint Mayday call and all answered the call in turn with no reply heard, but then about 10 minutes later they were able to hear Peter and get his current position. Michael, VK6TX, also heard his call and immediately called the WA Water Police
This was even before AMSA had alerted the Water Police after the EPIRB activation.
Audio clip 1
Emergency procedures swung into action, VK6DW Ian, Peter’s brother was phoned by AMSA as the first person on their calling list. As Peter and Ian had a regular morning and evening radio “sked”, he was able to tell them of Vector’s last recorded position at sea. Ian then quickly put out a call on 40 metres and made contact with his brother, to be told that Peter expected to have to abandon ship within minutes. This message was relayed to AMSA together with an accurate position. Michael VK6TX came back and suggested using the VHF repeater channel at Esperance to communicate with WAWater Police in Fremantle, but the situation deteriorated and before this could be relayed Peter went QRT with the report that:
Audio clip 2
Nearly an hour passed before Peter called again on 40 metres.
His signal was very weak, perhaps a 3 by 5.
But a QSO was made and confirmed that he was still aboard Vector, in the cockpit Ian asked him to try the VHF channel, as suggested by Michael VK6TX.
Audio clip 3
He did so and immediately got a response from WA Water Police who together with AMSA dispatched aircraft to the scene. Peter also utilised VHF to talk to the helicopter pilot as it landed on the rock. He was able to walk to the helicopter and flown to Esperance, where he was checked out medically and reunited with family. It’s great to let you know that Peter is well and he wants me to tell you that, “between the WA Water Police and AMSA, my rescue was outstanding and seemingly without issue”., “Just another day in the office for these people”, he said.
“Amateur radio made the communication by me on Vector possible with quite a number of people listening in and helping out”.
Ian 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.” He continued, “ It also made sure that the information relayed in both directions was accurate”. Peter, Ian and the family are very grateful to all of the emergency services, to Michael VK6TX and to the other amateurs that helped prevent what could have been a tragedy. Radio Amateurs yet again show their importance to our communities in times of crisis and emergency.With thanks to all of the amateurs involved in the rescue and to Chris VK6JI for the sound recordings, this is Andrew VK6AS reporting to the WIA National News for WA Amateur Radio News.”