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Seconds in it, Jervis Bay crew performs dramatic marine rescue

“A few seconds difference in our response time could have led to a total disaster.” Marine Rescue Jervis Bay Senior Crew member John Dawson

Two men and a child have been rescued from a life-threatening situation during a fishing trip on board a 4.8 metre Swift Craft at Jervis Bay.

Marine Rescue Jervis Bay received a call from the skipper of the disabled vessel around 11.30 Sunday morning after his boat suffered mechanical failure and was drifting near Bowen Island.

Marine Rescue vessels Jervis Bay 20 and Jervis Bay 41 were on-water undertaking a training exercise when Marine Rescue NSW Radio Operators took the call for help.

Jervis Bay 20 was deployed with Unit Commander Kevin Hill and Senior Crew member John Dawson on board to assist but the precise location of the distressed vessel was unknown because it was drifting and unable to drop anchor after losing it earlier on the voyage.

“The coordinates were relayed together with the mobile phone number for the skipper of the disabled vessel and we immediately headed towards the western side of Bowen Island,” Unit Commander Hill said.

“John plotted their last known position on the multi-function display which was the seaward side of Bowen Island at Jervis Bay.

“I immediately contacted the skipper by phone to confirm their current position and he confirmed they were on the seaward side of Bowen Island,” Unit Commander Hill said.

Marine Rescue Jervis Bay. John Dawson and Kevin Hill

With no anchor and drifting towards rocks, the skipper of the disabled vessel estimated, they would be aground within ten minutes.

“It was a race against time and we proceeded as fast as we safely could,” Mr Hill said.

“The swell was substantial and as we arrived on the eastern side of Bowen Island we couldn’t locate the vessel and feared the worst.

“As John and I scanned the coastline for a possible wrecked boat we spotted the disabled vessel off Governor Head, metres from the breaking surf.

“We had seconds to respond,” Mr Hill said.

The crew on board Jervis Bay 20 reached the disabled vessel and performed a fly-by towline throw, which was attached by the crew on the disabled vessel.

“We only moved the vessel a few metres away from the rocks before the tow rope detached from it,” Mr Hill said.

With large uneven swell, Unit Commander Hill turned JB 20 back towards the disabled vessel to prepare for a second pass to throw the towline.

“They were extremely close to the crashing seas with the real possibility of being smashed against the rocks.

“I looked out of the rescue vessel and we had submerged rocks right beside us, the conditions were extremely challenging.

“John threw the tope rope which was successfully received by the crew on board the disabled vessel.

“We had to wait briefly after a three metre wave hit the rescue vessel, then we powered on and began pulling the disabled vessel seaward into deeper water and away from danger,” Mr Hill said.

JB 20 was towing the disabled vessel back to Murrays Beach Boat Ramp when on approach its engine started.

Unit Commander Hill was relieved to see the two men and child on board the disabled vessel return to land.

“This was without doubt the most challenging rescue mission I have ever been involved in during my decade with the unit.

“It literally came down to seconds and this incident could have ended with serious injuries or even fatalities.

“I cannot commend Senior Crew John Dawson highly enough for his actions, he was so calm during what was an incredibly tense and dangerous situation for the persons on board the disabled vessel.

“Marine Rescue Jervis Bay Radio Operators Martin Mikosch and Julie Carter also played a vital role during the rescue, they were brilliant with their communications,” Mr Hill said.

Senior Crew John Dawson said it was it was “touch and go” at times during the rescue.

“After the second towline was hooked up, a big wave came through and caught the disabled vessel.

“It ended up being held by our towline, with the front half of the boat totally out of the water and the vessel at a very steep angle.

“This could have been catastrophic for the disabled vessel without the towline in place.

“A few second’s difference in our response time could have led to a total disaster,” Mr Dawson said.

Unit Commander Hill said the incident was one of those unpredictable situations that can happen on the water.

“The skipper of the disabled vessel did absolutely nothing wrong.

“He had the correct safety equipment, regularly maintains his vessel and knew how to connect with Marine Rescue NSW for assistance.

“The seas and machines are unpredictable and no matter how prepared you are for your voyage sometimes things don’t go to plan.

“We are relieved that this rescue mission had a positive outcome and that the persons on board could return to their families,” Mr Hill said.

Marine Rescue NSW Inspector Stuart Massey praised all volunteers involved in the rescue mission.

“It’s moments like these when the hard work and training comes to the forefront and results in a positive outcome.

“The dedication and commitment shown by our volunteers in this rescue is true to our mission of saving lives on the water and they must be applauded for their efforts,” Inspector Massey said.

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