Monday 21 July 2014

Montebello’s - The Rescue

This a story of high drama, we were involved with an emergency call, then a mayday call to help a fellow cruiser. 

HelipadHow many helicopters does it take 
to change a light globe?

We were on our third hike on Trimouille Island with Kliff from the trawler yacht “Power Ready Spirit II”, to investigate the lighthouse and maybe a pill box identified at the end of Churchill point, after Boar Hill (notice the recent Brit history names here). Half an hour into the hike Kliff complained of a stitch. Before long he was on the ground in agony. After an hour with no let up, I attempted a few 000 calls (emergency number in Australia) on the mobile from atop the nearest hill but couldn’t convey much info before dropping out.

Trimouille light beacon

Kliff was convinced his time on this planet was nearing an end, so the next course of action was to dinghy to Kliffs boat to use his VHF. No replies, even switched to a mayday call. Nothing. I thought Barrow Island, only 18 miles away and home to thousands of workers would respond. I took some torches and food with me back to Trimouille, maybe we can get Kliff into the dinghy and bring him home (his boat). He hadn’t improved, and he thought it was curtains for him, the pain was so bad. We were thinking bursting appendix, which is deadly, but Susiie, with some nursing training, didnt believe this was the case. But we managed to get him the 200m down the hill side to the beach - where he appeared to recover a little. Urinating seemed to do the trick, when he could. He perked up somewhat in the dinghy and on his boat he recovered 80%. We hung around for awhile and he was even able to take us back to Ashiki.

So that was it, we had a curry, reflected on what a hell of a day it was, we don’t really want more days like this, then read a bit and hit the sack. Kliff seemed fine, it was over. 

Paraphrasing "The Hobbit" - adventures are nasty, terrible things, make you late for dinner.

I guess we’ll have the police trying to contact us for the next few days, since I did notice a message come in from them while walking down the hill where there was very intermittent reception. 

Or so we thought. They had action in mind.

Sometime later around 9:30pm we were woken by the words “Ashiki, Ashiki, Ashiki” over the VHF. Sounds like Kliff’s voice. Calling him, he said it wasn’t him, then he said there’s the light of another boat up the coast. Indeed there was a vessel a mile away, with a large spotlight searching around. Shoot, better get back on ch16 to see if they try calling again. 

“Ashiki, Ashiki, Ashiki, High Voltage, High Voltage, do you copy”

I copied them and next thing we heard:
“Was that you who made a distress call earlier?”


How did they know?

I replied in the affirmative and let them know who it was for and that he seems to have recovered. He told us they have a rescue crew, police and paramedic onboard and would like to see the individual at which point Kliff himself cut in and took it from there. He still felt his lower stomach, though the pain was greatly reduced. The boat, moving slowly, as half the waters around here are unsurveyed, drew near and this was becoming a big deal. A large sleek looking 80’ pilot boat, maybe an oil rig transport, with sizeable crew and lit up like a football stadium.

From there all we did was sit in the cockpit and watch, as they manoeuvred themselves around backing stern to stern with Kliff’s boat and he transferred himself over using the dinghy as a stepping stone.

What a turn of events, from such vague information, though at one stage I did spell out “MONTEBELLO” to the operator. But we couldn’t figure out how the rescue boat knew Ashiki, I didn’t use her name on the phone nor the radio (I used Power Ready Spirit). But they somehow sleuthed who we were and where we were. Before leaving, both the pilot boat and Kliff’s boat together, they dinghied over for a chat. The pilot boat and the crew were from Barrow Island, they received the call one hour ago. Happens the policed used our mobile number to search the EPIRB records to find the name, Ashiki, but still wouldn’t have known our exact location. Then the info bounced around Port Hedland (170 miles away), then Karratha (75 miles away) till someone figured Barrow Island has the closest rescue team. The Montebellos aren’t big, about 8 miles top to bottom and our anchor lights are bright, (Bebe LED anchor light top of the mast) good for 3 to 4 miles at least and with no other lights around, we wouldn’t be hard to find once the area was known. We were mighty impressed that such a big, full on professional response was summoned by such a short vague phone call. 

The Barrow Island captain told us it is channel 10 they use. Still miffed they didn’t scan ch16, how would we know about ch10?

Some of High Voltage’s crew transferred with Kliff and what looked like medic monitoring equipment to his boat to pilot it back to Barrow Island. He was to get some tests done there and if serious they may send him to the hospital in Karratha. Both boats are gone now and we are alone in the anchorage.

PS, Kliff passed two kidney stones the next day. He's still alive and kicking.

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