To the rescue on the high seas
To the rescue on the high seas

Rescuing boat crews and whales is all in a day’s work for the outgoing commander of Rockingham Volunteer Sea Rescue Group.

Peter Edwards has spent more than two years at the helm of the rescue service, working out of its Point Peron base with a team of more than 60 volunteers.

The keen fisherman got involved with the organisation in his retirement after attending a course in radio transmission to improve his skills when he was out on his own boat.

Mr Edwards, 69, who had a career in newspaper production and advertising, was nominated as commander more than two years ago, a promotion from his role as secretary with the group.

‘‘It’s a full time job being commander, because there has to be a service available at all times of the day and night,’’ he said.

‘‘I would get called out at all hours to coordinate a rescue or to help out.

‘‘It has been pretty full-on. I’ve learnt a lot and spent lots of time at sea.’’

Mr Edwards said volunteers were from all backgrounds, including ‘‘incredibly skilled’’ retired women who operated the radios.

‘‘It carries a lot of responsibilities,’’ he said.

‘‘If you get the coordinates wrong of where the boat might be and it’s the middle of the night, the rescue team can’t find the vessel in distress.’’

Mr Edwards, who lives in Baldivis, said the most common reason for a call-out was to a vessel which had run out of fuel.

‘‘It never ceases to amaze me the amount of people who get themselves into trouble with silly mistakes,’’ he said.

‘‘They start out in the dark, driving for miles for a day’s fishing but by the time they reach the ocean the wind may have picked up. They go out anyway because they have come too far to turn back, but then they get into all sorts of disasters.’’

Mr Edwards said that yacht rescues were ‘‘the worst’’.

‘‘We’d get called out to a boat which had run out of fuel, and then get there and find it’s a yacht in trouble in rough seas,’’ he said.

‘‘We’d suggest to the crew that they raise their sails and get back that way, but they don’t know how to put them up. They only would use the motor on a sail boat.’’

Mr Edwards said working in sea rescue was always unpredictable.

‘‘You never know what is going to come in, we could get four calls a day,’’ he said.

‘‘It could come in the middle of the night and it’s very hard to find a boat in the pitch black.’’

One of the most exciting calls during his time as commander was when a boat’s crew sought to be rescued after a whale breeched just yards from them.

‘‘They said it was only two metres away but thankfully it was heading in the same direction as the boat,’’ he said.

‘‘You don’t want to be hit by one of them.’’

Mr Edwards will continue as duty skipper every Friday, but is looking forward to having time for land-based activities—including caravaning.

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