THE majority of us would have very little recollection of the weather or events from January 2016.
However, for dedicated volunteers at Marine Rescue Port Stephens and the Water Police, it was an evening of unprecedented events which created a lifelong bond between the crews of Port Stephens 40, Danial Thain, the watch-keepers, radio controllers and Water Police 24.
Laurie Nolan, the first Medal of Valour recipient said of the conditions that night, “The weather was horrendous, one of the worst storms to ever hit the coastal waters off Port Stephens. It’s hard to describe to you the conditions that we all faced that day, five to six metre seas, winds up to 50 knots – boat being tossed around like a cork, in absolute darkness without moon or stars or any land-based reference points. Never knowing when the next wave would hit.”
Communication between the boat and the watch tower was lost for five very long minutes.
During this time, the boat was hit with three large waves, knocking crew off their feet, resulting in injuries – a dislocated shoulder, cuts to the face and one crew member who was trapped underwater thinking, “I wonder how long I can hold my breath with the water washing over me?”
Fortunately, the boat righted itself, but with little time to spare, swift action was called for.
Again, the boat was hit by a huge wave resulting in a crew member being pinned to the deck by his safety line wrapped around 30 metres of towline and deck furniture.
Mr Nolan severed the lifeline and pulled his colleague to his feet and into the relative safety of the cabin.
With many wiping away their tears at the ceremony, it was clear, all 21 recipients were very worthy of their recognition for bravery.
By Mandy ELLIS