A dedicated team of volunteers are the unsung heroes of Moreton Bay, rescuing hundreds of boaties who find themselves in strife on the water every year.
Redcliffe Coast Guard flotilla Commander Ron Grundy says the service’s primary focus is on search and rescue, working with Queensland Water Police and other emergency services.
The crucial work of the Redcliffe flotilla is made possible by about 110 volunteers, who on any given day find themselves coming to the aid of vessels with engine trouble, that have run aground or ferrying people with medical emergencies from Moreton Island, as well as joining major search and rescue operations.
Ron says said more than 200 people have been returned to the mainland from the island in the past two years alone.
With limited government funding, the Coast Guard relies on sponsorship from organisations such as Redcliffe Leagues Club, Freight Plus, RSL Redcliffe and Brisbane Marine, community donations and fundraising and Marine Assist membership to provide its services.
The Redcliffe flotilla is home to five vessels, ranging from its three-metre rigid inflatable boat to its 12-metre flagship worth between $800,000 and $1 million to replace.
Ron says anyone heading out on the water should take out a Marine Assist membership, which gives unlimited rescue access each year, as well as discounted radio courses that enable boat owners to qualify for a federally-mandated operating certificate to use high-frequency and very high-frequency radios.
“We’re like the RACQ of the water…Marine Assist is our version of roadside service,” he explains.
“We have more than 1500 Marine Assist members, so if they have any problems, we go and help.”
Ron says the $80 annual membership fee helps cover the cost of rescues, meaning the Coast Guard can give more back to members.
The cost of rescues depends on the size of the craft – the six-metre boat typically costs $120 an hour to run.
Ron says the Coast Guard also comes to the aid of non-members.
“We go and get them and ask for a donation, but we don’t insist on payment,” he says.
He says said having a VHF radio on board boats is a huge safety boost in case of emergency.
“A radio on the boat is the best form of communication – a mobile phone is only any good if someone picks it up at the other end.
“Radio is important as well because we give regular weather reports.”