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Boaties by the numbers

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The number of boaties logging journeys with Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie volunteers via radio or phone call has dropped.

From January to June, 1,867 calls were made to the Swansea Heads base, which was lower than usual, according to unit commander Mal Wardrop.

During one particularly busy June weekend, Mr Wardrop said about half of all trips were registered via the Marine Rescue App, available on smartphones.

“Sometimes, on a busy day, there could be three or four boats waiting to give their details,” he said.
“This way, they don’t have to wait for [volunteers] to ask the colour, length of their vessel and how many people are on board, tying up the radio channel.
“Of course, we still love to talk to the boaties.”

In the same six-month period, 8,537 radio calls were made from the radio base at Swansea.

This number was also down year-on-year if the first half of 2019 was anything to go by, with the base usually clocking about 30,000 calls a year on average.

Of those calls, 202 prompted vessel dispatches from the Pelican Boat Base.

Mr Wardrop said newly-commissioned vessel, Neil Grieves, attended the majority of those, primarily in “outside” (open ocean) conditions.
Volunteers attend all types of rescues, from basic tows and jump starts to emergencies.

Rescues are categorised into three levels: assist (flat batteries), code two (boat about to be washed ashore), and code one (people in the water or vessel on fire).

Most recently, volunteers assisted in the search and rescue for a 62-year-old fisherman who was swept from Snapper Rocks, whose body was recovered last Thursday.

Their Newcastle and Port Stephens comrades were involved in the catamaran capsizing off Newcastle that same day, in which three people died and two were rescued.

“Marine Rescue is not for everybody; every now and then it is not a pleasant duty, but our volunteers are prepared for that,” Mr Wardrop added.

“My guys – all 150 of them – are pretty special, and that’s not taking anything away from our brothers in the RFS [Rural Fire Service] and SES [State Emergency Service].

There are roles for everyone in Marine Rescue, from fundraising and administration to logistics, training and event coordination.

The Lake Macquarie unit will hold an information night on Wednesday 24 July from 7pm for anyone who would like to find out more. Phone the unit on 4971 3498 for further details.

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