Story & photos Eve Jeffery
The Brunswick Marine Rescue Unit took possession of their new baby yesterday, celebrating the arrival of the Naiad Patrol Rescue Boat with a few wheelies just inside the Brunswick Heads Bar.
The 9.5-metre vessel is propelled by twin 250-horsepower Mercury Verado engines and can reach speeds of up to 40+ knots though the general operational speed is 25–30 knots. Richard Taffs from the Wooli Marine Rescue Unit is an experienced skipper of this type of vessel and he was accompanied on the journey from Iluka by skipper-in-training Brunswick 2IC Lazlo Szabo and trainee Lance Burger.
‘This is a sister ship to the Wooli rescue vessel’, said Richard. ‘We had the first of the Naiad to come out of Yamba Welding and Engineering and this is only the second. We have about six months up in operating this type of vessel. My role here today is to come on the delivery run and start a training program for the Brunswick crew, especially for the electronic gear on board. The navigation and search-and-rescue gear we have is really sophisticated. At Wooli we have gone through that learning process and are happy to pass along what we know and help out other Marine Rescue units.’
Richard says he plans to get one or two of the local people to a highly competent level, at which point they will take over and become the trainers for the rest of the Bruns volunteers.
‘I am really here to train the trainers. It will probably take three fairly comprehensive sessions – one on radar, one on the radio direction finder and one on the AIS (Automatic Identification System). In the end it is about hands on and using the equipment and learning from your errors and problem solving with it. I can get them started and then it’s up to them to put the time in.’
The vessels are configured to a three person crew – a coxswain, a master who supervises what is going on, and a navigator. The optimum would be to have four crews of three members each and the local unit is always looking for volunteers to fill the roster. Current Bruns volunteers, rescue boat senior skipper Lazlo Szabo and trainee Lance Burger, were all abuzz after the journey up the coast.
‘The trip up was excellent’, said Lance. ‘We made good time, we even had time to stop in Ballina for a cuppa.’
Lazlo said it was a really good trip and he navigated a fair portion of the journey, his training as the coxswain of boat already begun.
‘I was the skipper and Richard was the master of the vessel today’, said Lazlo barely able to hide his ear-to-ear grin. ‘It was fun but it is also a big learning curve compared to our old vessel. This thing is state of the art and will take a bit of getting used to. I need to get up to speed on all the new electronics.’
Brunswick Heads unit commander Owen Danvers was part of the welcoming committee at the boat harbour when the vessel arrived. He says that this is an enormous asset to Brunswick Heads, the general boating community, surfers and anyone who uses the water from Hastings Point in the north to Lennox Head in the south and 15 nautical miles to sea. ‘This is a faster response vessel, with much more sophisticated equipment, which will make us much more effective than before. This will give us a better coverage as our last vessel was only registered for seven nautical miles.’
At a cost of over $390,000, even with the approximate 65 per cent helping hand from Marine Rescue New South Wales, the local unit is till going to be looking for about $140,000 and that doesn’t include the cost of the generously discounted AirBerth Boat Lift Storage System – that’s a lot of sizzled sausages to be sold and a lot boards and kayaks to come downstream in the Mullum 2 Bruns Paddle, one of the unit’s major benefactors.
Lazlo says that the arrival of the boat will herald the end of his ‘spare’ time but he is up for it. ‘As a volunteer you can only give the amount of spare time you have but this is becoming more of a vocation. It’s sometimes hard to get volunteers because of the time commitment and the training involved but it’s very worth it. This vessel is such an asset to the community. All marine users can benefit from this. Our peak season will start in the next few weeks so we need to get a move on to get new people trained. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to do this. All the training is provided. Any average person who is willing to put in the time can do this’.
Anyone wanting to find out more about how to make a donation to the local Marine Rescue Unit, or how to become a marine rescue volunteer, can ring 6685 0148 for more information.