Yacht crew saved from disaster in challenging rescue
Three people and a dog were saved from disaster on treacherous rocks at NW Solitary Island, south of Wooli, in a marathon rescue mission by Marine Rescue NSW.
Late Sunday afternoon, the skipper of a 39 foot, 25-tonne steel ketch called for help after anchoring near the island when water in the fuel prevented the engine from running. The ketch’s trailing dinghy also had been swamped and capsized.
Marine Rescue vessel Wooli 30 was quickly under way just after 5pm. On the crew’s arrival on scene, they found the ketch just 50m off Chopper Rocks, with its anchor fouled in the rocks and jammed.
The rescue crew attached a towline to hold the ketch while the skipper cut the anchor free with an angle grinder, before then being able to clear the yacht from the rocky shoreline into safe water.
Wooli 30 took the much larger boat under tow but with its anchor winch inoperable and the chain riding, could make only slow progress south at just 3 knots to rendezvous 8nm south with Marine Area Command – NSW Police Force vessel, WP22, which would return the yacht to Coffs Harbour.
Once the transfer to WP 22 was completed off Groper Island, near Woolgoolga, the Wooli 30 crew of Richard Taffs, Kath Farrar, Michael McLennan and Marty Hutchings, who had been on duty since 5am, headed north on the 17nm run back into Wooli into the sea before finally logging off at 1.30am.
The marathon mission followed an operation on Friday when MR Wooli was activated to respond to an emergency demonstrating great co-operation by members of the local emergency services and the community.
Wooli members Kath Farrar, Jackie Taffs and Richard Taffs responded to assist NSW Ambulance and the NSW SES Wooli-Yuraygir Unit to retrieve a casualty with a suspected spinal injury on a sandbank in the Wooli Wooli River.
On the low tide, Wooli 30 could not access the location at Rum Island, upstream of the Solitary Islands Resort but an oyster punt was perfect for the task. A local oyster farmer did not hesitate to direct a punt to the site.
With NSW Ambulance in control, the SES and MRNSW volunteers, oyster farmers and visitors carried the casualty on a spinal board to the punt for the short trip to the Resort boat ramp and a waiting Ambulance.