SATURDAY dawned one of those mornings that Marine Rescue Narooma unit volunteers dread – tempting flat seas outside and a big swell coming across the bar crossing.
Volunteer Brian Gunter was on duty and snapped some awesome shots of a series of boaters taking their chances.
“It was one of those days that I really hate when the condition of the bar varied between almost flat to very rough,” Brian said.
“Unfortunately, despite radio warnings from me, a few boats had extremely close calls.”
The first incident at 7.34am involved a visitor from Canberra who went up and over a swell catching major air.
The second incident, at 9.20am, involved an unknown vessel who miraculously managed to do a U-turn when confronted with a wall of white water. (See video below)
Brian said an almost identical incident occurred about a minute earlier but “that one managed to complete his U-turn before the white water hit him”.
The third incident, at 11.25am involved a visitor from Merimbula that again decided to go for it, catching some major air.
Also watching was local videographer Trish Rose, who captured at least two of the vessels taking on the big breaks.
They were still at it on Sunday with repeat conditions with Trish seeing and videoing at least one vessel catching major air on a swell.
The Marine Rescue radio operators reported two more near misses on Sunday, while the large swell was still on this morning, the last day of the Queen’s birthday long weekend.
Marine Rescue Narooma Commander Graham Brown himself witnessed some of the action as the unit’s own RHIB vessel and the National Parks vessel Shearwater, on which he was on, went out for an exercise on Saturday morning.
These two vessels as well charter boats and other locals made it out unscathed with their own experienced skippers timed their exits through the bar.
The skipper that made the dramatic last-minute U-turn as filmed by Trish Rose and photographed by Brian Gunter apparently after being washed back in, turned around and successfully made it through on a second attempt.
No vessel however is immune to the power of the ocean with charter boats themselves getting dumped on and losing windshields in recent times.
Commander Brown said skippers should always log in, heed the warnings of the radio operator and use the utmost caution and discretion when negotiating the bar crossing.
“We don’t want to fish anybody off the rocks and no fish is worth putting your life in danger,” he said. “We want to people to go out and have a good time and come back safely.”
The Narooma Marine Rescue unit is in desperate need of volunteers of all ages and abilities and Commander Brown encouraged anyone interested to stop in at headquarters on the Narooma headland.
Operation brass monkey this June long weekend
All these near misses on the Narooma bar crossing coincided with a hypothermia and capsizing campaign from the NSW government.
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) conducted a hypothermia awareness campaign - Operation Brass Monkey – on all State waterways over the June long weekend.
RMS acting general manager Maritime Operations Trevor Williams said Boating Safety Officers would randomly check all sizes and types of boats to ensure those on board know the dangers of and how to prevent hypothermia, and have on board all required safety equipment.
“Boating in cold weather means a higher risk of developing hypothermia from wind-chill, capsize and damp and wet clothes,” Mr Williams said.
“Hypothermia is the condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions.
“Immersion in cold water exacerbates this and leads to a massive rise in blood pressure coupled with rapid breathing which causes the body to lose heat up to 25 times faster than normal.
“The shock of sudden immersion in cold water can be a serious threat to survivors of accidents, especially people who are older or unfit.”
Mr Williams said the best way to avoid getting hypothermia is not to put yourself in the situation where you have an increased risk of capsize or swamping.
“That means checking the weather before you go, and throughout the voyage. If in doubt, don't go out,” Mr Williams said.
“Children and poor swimmers should wear a lifejacket at all times and this goes for everyone if conditions get rough.
“Boaters should also be wary of using gumboots and waders as these make it difficult to swim should you fall into the water.
“Boat owners should also keep decks and cockpits free of slipping and tripping hazards.”
Mr Williams said while hypothermia is usually thought to be related to exposure or immersion in water in winter, prolonged exposure could result in hypothermia at any time of the year.
At Tuggerah Lakes in February, four men and a seven-year-old boy suffered hypothermia after their boat capsized and they spent several hours in the water.
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