I thought our readers may be interested in the history and activities of a volunteer organization in Mackay, that has been keeping watch and saving lives and vessels of the seafarers in the Mackay and Greater Region off our coast since 1965. Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay (VMR) was originally known as Air Sea Rescue Mackay and was formed in May of 1965 after a boating accident in our area which claimed three lives.
Originally all rescue work and searches were done by members boats, aircraft were hired to locate missing boats as there were no GPS’s and only limited radio communication in those days.
My good friend and neighbour, Bob Ford, who was the president of VMR Mackay from 1980 to 2005 and his wife Lurline recounted many a story to me about barbecues at the Mackay Sailing Club, and dinner dances held at Mackay Golf Club, as fundraisers so as the squad could purchase its first rescue vessel, which was a 23ft Shark Cat. This initial vessel in fact was smashed on the Mackay harbour walls while attempting to save other boats in a wild storm. The squad then went on to purchase another 23ft Shark Cat, which was later upgrade to a 28ft Cougar Cat, pictured below, and a further 10m Cougar Cat.
Initially, radio bases monitored by squad members were formed at Clairview, Sarina, Keswick Island, St Bees Island, Slade Point, Seaforth, Halliday Bay and St Helens Beach. The squad also purchased a van, which was located at the Harbour and later upgraded to a small hut located at the top of the then boat ramp.
There is a picture of the inside of the hut in the 1988 Mackay bicentennial book, a copy of picture below, which is of great personal interest to me, as the person photographed on radio duty is my late cousin, Peter Camilleri.