Beacon Saves Boaties From Long And Lonely Night At Sea

Having the correct safety equipment on board has saved a group of fishermen from a long and lonely night at sea after they were stranded more than 100km offshore yesterday.

RACQ CQ Rescue was tasked to an EPIRB activation near Alarm Reef, about 60 nautical miles east of Mackay, just after 2pm yesterday and quickly located the 8-metre fishing vessel which was adrift after suffering engine trouble.

The vessel had set off flares and was unable to make radio contact with other nearby boats before they decided to activate the EPIRB.

After honing in on the beacon signal and finding the boat very close to the shipping channel, the RACQ CQ Rescue crew were able to make radio contact with four occupants to determine their engine had broken down and fortunately, that no one on board was ill or injured.

VMR Rescue 5 was despatched to assist and tow the vessel back to the Mackay Harbour while the CQ Rescue helicopter and the AMSA Challenger Jet provided overwatch cover for about 50 minutes before returning to base.

“This is a perfect example of how EPIRBs save lives as well as save rescuers’ time and money,” RACQ CQ Rescue rescue crewman Arno Schoonwinkel said.

“If they didn’t have an EPIRB on board, who knows how long they would have been sitting out there in the water given they didn’t get any response to the flares or calls for help over the radio. Activating the beacon meant we knew who and what we were looking for and that we were able to find the vessel quickly and assist those on board.”

Statistics show when an EPIRB is activated a rescue is likely within three hours. In the event a search is activated without the benefit of a distress beacon, the search time is more likely to be 30 hours and is often unsuccessful.

“Whether you are boating on the seas, motocross riding or hiking in the bush, having access to an EPIRB or PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) can mean the difference between life and death,” Mr Schoonwinkel said.

“As a rescue service, we cannot stress enough how important it is to carry an emergency beacon and know how to use it correctly. Don’t take the chance – make sure your safety equipment includes a well-maintained and registered EPIRB. It might just save your life and our service a lot of time and money to quickly locate you in an emergency,” he said.