I discovered that one of the VMR guys had posted to a thread on another forum.
Thought I'd repost it here, as it gives a good account of how difficult a rescue
it was for them, and what a great effort these VOLUNTEERS make for us at times. David's post follows:
"I came across this post by accident
when I was looking at some pictures of Pancake Creek a while back. I was one of the crew on the VMR vessel Gladstone One, that responded to the distress
call from the 44' yacht "Seasprint", that ran aground that night at the entrance to Pancake Creek. Passage
from Gladstone that night was very uncomfortable as we were trying to beat out 24 to 26 knots given the urgency of the situation and conditions in the channel weren't very good. On the way, we would witness an incredibly spectacular light show from the electrical
storm that appeared to be coming in from the West. We were communicating with our radio
operator back in Gladstone and heard the transmissions to 44c and their valiant efforts to reach the stricken yacht. On arrival near the entrance channel, we could really appreciate the smart decision to turn back and return to your vessel given the conditions. When we were visual with the yacht, the crew were still up in the cockpit
and the yacht was rocking violently from side to side, stuck between the rocks with it's bow facing the ocean. The constant flashes of lightning
made the sight even more spectacular, if not ominous! Not long after arriving, we experienced electrical
issues with one of our outboards and our skipper
made the decision to withdraw away from the rocks and swell, to sort it out. The last thing we needed, in those kinds of conditions, would be to lose both engines so close to the shore. The crew of the yacht, with no way of communicating with us, apparently thought we were calling the rescue
off and made the decision to abandon ship onto the rocks. After some fault finding, the engine
issue was sorted, now.....how to rescue two survivors off rocks, at night, in a storm and with breaking waves. Initially, we launched our inflatable tender
and by myself, I would make a recce to see where we could extricate the crew from. With the Northerly still blowing, there was simply no safe area to land the tender
. I returned to the rescue vessel and we quickly came up with plan B. With another crew member
on the tender, we 'rode in' and positioned ourselves behind the red beacon, slung a rope
around the pole and let the tender slide backwards with our bow into wind
. The waves at this point were about 1.2 to 1.5 meters and our skipper
would later comment that he would lose sight of us as the waves rolled in. After several attempts, we managed to throw a life ring to one of the crew, who dived in off the rocks, so we could pull him in to us. When we got the elderly man on-board, he commented that his partner had injured herself on the slippery rocks. She didn't appear to want to move at this point, and it was then that I would make the decision to swim into her with the life ring. After climbing out of the surf and up onto the rocks, she eventually made her way to me. She assured me that she could still swim ok and, after counting the breakers, I gave her a gentle shove and holding onto her lifejacket, we dived in and swam. My partner Mick, in the tender, was still holding our heaving line, that was wrapped around the beacon and with his other hand, he pulled the life ring in with the female survivor hanging on. It was a super effort from him, particularly in the breaking surf. By the time we got to the tender, Mick was about spent, in terms of fatigue. I asked the woman if she could hold the side of the tender, as it was just to hard to get us both in with the tender heaving up and down in the waves and Mick still holding the line around the beacon. With myself behind her hanging on to the side, I told Mick to 'give it to it', on that, he let go of the heaving line and gunned the engine
on the tender, to get through the breaking surf. By this point, we were all so exhausted, it was easier to keep hanging on to the tender until we reached our mother vessel. A while later, as we started motoring away from Pancake Creek and back to Gladstone, I was sitting on the back of the deck
and had a quick chuck over the side, not sure if it was all the saltwater I'd swallowed or the adrenaline from what had just happened.
For me, that would undoubtedly be the most awkward, if not hairy, rescue I would ever be involved in. It was a good feeling to have the two crew safe on-board though. Sad to see such a good looking yacht in those circumstances and later, it's total loss.
As you described in your initial post, how a nice day can, in a short while, turn into the stuff of nightmares, this was one of those days indeed!
From myself, and no doubt, the rest of our crew, thanks for your efforts that night 44c.