With National Safe Boating Week and the start of the boating season upon us, there’s no better time to make sure that you and your vessel are prepared if the worst happens.
For Guy Peluso and partner Colleen, their sailing trip down the northern New South Wales coast became a dramatic struggle for survival. They were saved not just by the exceptional efforts of the emergency services who responded to their distress call, but by their own good preparation – so when the unthinkable happened, they were able to swing into action and give themselves the best possible chance of being rescued.
Sailing in darkness and battered by a two metre swell and strong westerly winds, Guy steered his boat closer to shore to seek calmer conditions. A sudden noise against the hull, and a change in performance signalled something was wrong. By torchlight Guy went forward and it was quickly apparent that the yacht was taking on water – and fast.
According to Mr Peluso, they had planned for this type of emergency, and quickly swung into action. “We had a several plans for emergency – depending on its urgency and nature. We had recently replaced the reflective tape on our lifebuoys, had plenty of lifejackets on board, an EPIRB, head torches, flare kit and waterproof phone case,” Mr Peluso said.
“Having radioed Marine Rescue Ballina for assistance, we knew rescue services were on the way, but when our attempts to get ourselves into our dinghy failed, and we lost our torches, flares and iPad navigation aid; it was clear we were going to have to go into the water,” he said.
Donning lifejackets, and clutching their EPIRB, waterproof phone, boat fender and reading glasses – to read the EPIRB screen – they jumped into the water; activating their EPIRB and calling 000 as they clung together in the swell.
According to Guy, the sound of a helicopter still has him staring skywards thinking of that night in water and the bravery of the rescue crews – on water and in the air – who came to their aid.
Once on board the Marine Rescue Ballina rescue vessel, a hazardous bar crossing still had to be navigated.
“I vividly remember the Police helicopter lighting our path through the crashing breakers, with the bar breaking from break wall to break wall,” he said.
“Both Colleen and I are filled with admiration and gratitude for the heroes who rescued us that night.”
Without the good preparation made by Mr Peluso ahead of his voyage a very different outcome might have occurred. By having the necessary safety and survival equipment on board, having a plan, and adapting to changes such as the loss of the dinghy, he and his partner were able to give rescuers the best opportunity to find them.
As the weather warms ahead of the start of the boating season, ensure you and your vessel are ready. Have a survival plan, check your vessel and safety equipment are in good repair, understand and adapt to changing weather conditions, and Log On when you leave and Log Off when you arrive on Channel 16 or on the free MarineRescue app.
Your safety at sea is your responsibility. Make sure you are ready for a summer on the water.
Link: National Safe Boating Week Campaign https://www.amsa.gov.au/national-safe-boating-week