Probus ranks swell as Marine Rescue speaker visits

Probus President Peter Nealon welcomed ten new inductees for July.

MARINE Rescue volunteer Laurie Nolan addressed the Hawks Nest District Probus Group on Friday 6 July, impressing them with details of the emergency service group’s activities.

A full room of 79 members, eleven visitors and ten inductees heard of the trials and tribulations of the seaborne rescue group, which is all-volunteer, and covers an area up to 5500 square kilometres, from Seal Rocks to Newcastle, and 30 nautical miles out to sea.

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“Marine Rescue originally operated from a caravan in the Nelson Head carpark,” Laurie, who has been with the service for fifteen years, explained.

“The current building (next to the Inner Light Tearooms) was built in 1993.

“Our mission is maintaining a 24-hour watch on VHF and 27MHz radio bands, with on-call 24hr search and rescue response, as well as maintaining the Nelson Head historic heritage site, and all volunteers see it as a way of contributing back to the community.”

The 201 active members all find a place, whether it’s in radio operations, rescue operations, or any other useful, often unseen, part of the service.

“Marine Rescue is a category 1 search and rescue coordination centre, and works with other agencies, including the SES, NSW Police, RAAF, the Navy, and has 45 bases up and down the coast,” Laurie added.

“It can take six to seven hours to tow a boat back from Seal Rocks, and while rescuees are not charged, they are encouraged to donate, as the rescues consume expensive resources.”

With highly trained and qualified personnel, using state-of-the-art equipment, Marine Rescue assists between 250 and 300 vessels assisted each year, some in atrocious conditions, such as the East Coast Low that hit in 2016, when they responded to five ‘mayday’ distress calls.

“The longest rescue I’ve been involved with took twelve hours – a vessel caught in a storm, blown up to Seal Rocks.

“We respond to everything ranging from a flat battery on calm waters, up to ECL maydays.”

Marine Rescue Port Stephens has also won multiple awards, including fourteen boat crew being awarded the MRNSW Commissioner’s Commendation for Courage medal.

Hawks Nest Probus also welcomed another ten members into their group of ‘friendship, fellowship and fun’, and are expecting a similar number next month, too.

“We are set to achieve our goal of reaching the 160 cap, thanks to a reduced fee, new brochure, and the NOTA,” said Probus President Peter Nealon.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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