I wanted to start off this article by saying a big thank you to our previous columnist, Dale Hodson, who is moving away from the coast to take up a new job in Tauranga. Dale has been a member of the Hibiscus unit for around three years and will be sorely missed by all of us and we wish him and his family well in their new adventures.
Over the winter months, crew members from the Hibiscus Coastguard unit spend many hours training around the Hibiscus Coast honing the skills they need to operate the unit’s two rescue vessels and to provide assistance to our local community. Labour weekend is traditionally the time when, weather permitting, boat owners around the Hauraki Gulf bring their boats out of hibernation after the winter months and coastguard units get busy. This year has certainly lived up to that tradition! Over the last month the unit has responded to around 15 ‘taskings’ from the Coastguard Operations Centre based at Mechanics Bay, mostly mechanical breakdowns and a fair few that had run out of fuel.
I sat down to write this column one evening and at 9.30pm the pager alert went off for a call out to Hibiscus Rescue 1 based at Gulf Harbour. I switched off the laptop and headed out, on arriving at the boat the skipper for the evening informed the crew we were heading out to south of Little Barrier where an 8.5m boat had broken down and if needed, a tow to Omaha. A long night was ahead of us seeing as the wind was in the 25-30 knots range. After finding the vessel we towed them back to Omaha and headed back to Gulf Harbour, then refuelled, cleaned down and left the boat ready for the next call out. All done by 2.45am and home at 3am, luckily for me I already had Friday off work, but at times Coastguard volunteers have to have very understanding employers and family.
As we move into the warmer summer months the life of a Coastguard unit is not all about spending time out on the water – it’s also one of our busiest fundraising periods, with the Coastguard Summer Lottery being the main fundraiser at this time of year. To run Coastguard across NZ costs around $20 million and the majority of that has to be raised by Coastguard volunteers, selling lottery tickets, sausage sizzles and other fundraising events.
This month you will see our local Coastguard volunteers at the Orewa Santa Parade where we will have one of the Coastguard Summer Lottery Prize boats on display with crew selling tickets for the lottery.
As always be safe on the water, for advice about safe boating check out the Coastguard NZ website coastguard.nz/boating-safely
Dave Tilley of Arkles Bay has been a Coastguard Hibiscus volunteer for more than five years and is currently crew chief. Raised in London, he didn’t get out on the water until he moved to NZ. He soon realised he needed to know more about it and got involved with Coastguard after seeing an ad in Hibiscus Matters. His day job is as property manager for healthcare company Bupa.