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Volunteer Heroes of the Waterways

Volunteer Heroes of the Waterways

The sun is rising over the horizon welcoming another perfect Saturday on the Gold Coast. You have planned for some weeks now to take some friends out on your boat. You meet your friends’ mid-morning at one of the many accessible and spacious boat ramps the Gold Coast and you are on your way. Then, your battery goes flat or you run aground at low tide, and no other boat seems to be close. If you are prepared, you probably already know what to do. If not, you call for rescue.

Who are the volunteers in your waterways?

There are four volunteer water rescue groups on the Gold Coast: Volunteer Coast Guard Southport, Volunteer Marine Rescue Southport, Jacob’s Well Volunteer Marine Rescue, and Volunteer Marine Rescue Point Danger.

The aim of the Coast Guard and Marine Rescue groups is to promote and assist safety in the operation and utilisation of a watercraft. These organisations protect and prevent accidents by watercraft users of the Gold Coast by educating people on marine safety, leading by example and through the practical task of search and operation.

These Coast Guard and Marine Rescue organisations are run solely by volunteers who dedicate their time to ensure that marine safety is paramount and people can be comforted by the fact that their friends or family can receive assistance out on the water. Based on rostering, hundreds of volunteers who are predominately retired or semi-retired dedicate their time to their groups.

The areas of operation are from as far north as Jumpinpin down to the Tweed Heads border. Utilising high-powered vessels as their rescue tool accompanied by knowledgeable and experienced crew, the volunteers perform their duties from the Broadwater all the way into the rivers and canals of the Gold Coast, and all the way out to the ocean through the seaway.

Volunteer Coast Guard Southport deputy commander, Norm Hibbert OAM, emphasises that they are available seven days a week. “The volunteers are on call Monday through Friday and their busiest times are the weekends and public holidays.”

Norm explains the Coast Guard Southport is “broken down into components: Marine operations and communications involve radio monitoring, safety patrols, vessel assistance, vessel tracking and search and rescue, and marine administration involves the daily running of the volunteer organisation.”

Rescue, Education and Public Support

According to Norm, the amount of call-outs each year has decreased on the Gold Coast. The reasons behind the decline in call-outs may be that boaties are becoming progressively knowledgeable about weather conditions through technology, and vessels are equipped with more reliable and high-tech engines. When a call-out does occur, the three most common reasons are motor failure, battery failure and grounding (‘hitting a sandbank’).

Norm states, “You don’t have to be a member of a rescue groups to be rescued.” They do offer a Marine Assist Scheme membership costing $50.00 (including GST) annual fee per vessel. A membership fee is a reciprocal deal with other volunteer rescue organisations. The benefit of becoming a member of the marine assist scheme is achieving ultimate peace of mind to boat owners, knowing both them and their precious cargo on board can be rescued.

Boaties who are non-members cannot expect to be rescued for free. Each call-out for rescue can cost into the $100’s due to fuel and maintenance expenses, so it is not a cheap undertaking. Norm emphasises that, “For non-members, it is expected that a donation is made.” This donation allows the rescued individual to become a member of the Marine Assist Scheme.

The volunteer coast guard and marine rescue groups also provide public education, including basic seamanship classes, coastal navigation classes, marine radio classes and boat license course.

By contacting one of the four organisations will not only equip you with peace of mind but also make your day out on the water a little easier knowing you have contributed to long standing organisations run by selfless volunteers promoting safety and assisting boaties while out on the beautiful Gold Coast waters.


By Paige Hood