Two marine rescue trainees in life saving Gladstone mission

IT'S PITCH black, you're on a boat with two other blokes without a radio signal and you're trying to find 42 people floating on liferafts 10nm off the coast of 1770. Thank god you trained with VMR Gladstone.

Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone is at the forefront of training the best coxswains in the country, with people from far north Queensland, Torres Strait Island and even Tasmania coming to the port city to learn the game of skill that is saving lives at sea.

This came to the fore last Wednesday night when the Spirit of 1770 caught fire and 42 people had to jump into the sea and swim to life rafts.

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The Spirit of 1770 up in flames. Photo: Courier Mail
The Spirit of 1770 up in flames. Photo: Courier Mail

Three members of VMR Gladstone were on the boat and on their way to rescue the passengers within 20 minutes, and were part of the operation that VMR state training manager Robert Brock said would have resulted in causalities anywhere else in the world.

But here all of the 42 passengers onboard the Spirit of 1770 were off the boat and out of hospital the next morning.

This week another seven people have been coxswain trained like those who took 16 passengers from the sea and put them in the safety of a VMR Gladstone boat.

Two of those were from Tasmania, Paul Hawkins and Boyd Griggs, who made the trip to Gladstone to learn from the best.

Tasmanian Surf Life Savers Paul Hawkins and Boyd Griggs getting a briefing from VMR state training officer Tom Hudson.
Tasmanian Surf Life Savers Paul Hawkins and Boyd Griggs getting a briefing from VMR state training officer Tom Hudson. Mike Richards

With the facilities Gladstone has to offer, and with the help of Mr Brock and VMR state training officer Tom Hudson, the two men will go back to Tasmania with an ability to further help the community.

"This course give you the requirements to have a commercial licence and allows us to go on the police boats when they need us," said Mr Hawkins a former police man.

The training program in Gladstone has become the benchmark around Australia and has opened up for doors for a lot more VMR personnel.

"The biggest outcome you see is younger people come and do the course. It opens up pathways for them to move on to bigger things," Mr Brock said.

New Gladstone VMR president Mike Lutze couldn't agree more.

"In my day the only way was to go to sea and do an apprenticeship under someone."

Phone VMR Gladstone on 4972 3333 to learn more about the next coxswain training course.