“We managed to anchor ourselves as it was actually quite rough, and my son was only young then so he was freaking out a bit,” he recalls.
The Coastguard turned up and towed them to Kawau Island as it was getting dark. They also rescued another boat on the way, making it a double tow. Roger didn’t know much about the coastguard then, and wasn’t a member, which certainly would have saved the towing bill, but after his experience he decided to join up.
He was self-employed and had the flexibility to down tools for a callout, and from his home in Pohuehue, he was just within range, as volunteers need to live within 20 minutes of the launch pad in Sandspit.
Roger has been involved in dinghy racing and sailing since he was 8 years old and he had already completed a couple of skipper courses. This background meant he found the coastguard training easy, but he has also upskilled over the years, including gaining a VHF radio operator licence. His initial volunteering has led to more than a decade of service, including as previous president and he is currently a skipper. His wife was also in charge of fundraising.
Roger says he has stayed involved for the thrill of the challenge and to help out other boaties.
“You get a bit brassed off about things like people running out of petrol, but I’ve been to some interesting callouts, too, including a tug boat fire near Mangawhai.”
Current president Luke McCarthy says tragedies can be difficult but they are rare and the coastguard has counselling services.
There are also many more success stories than tragedies, which helps to balance things out.
Procedures and training have changed over the years. Luke points out that you do not need previous boating experience to join, although it can be a bonus. There are different stages, from induction to trainee to operational, which can take several years to finish completely, but to become a trainee crew member can take just a few months. During that time, volunteers learn about medical and fitness, marine operations, and search and rescue training. There is a further one week block course, or night training, to become a fully operational crew member, and further training includes VHF radio operation, navigation, towing techniques and helming.
Luke says they take interested people out on the water first to make sure they like it before they spend thousands of dollars on their training, which includes travel to Auckland for courses, and practical elements at Sandspit. They are still invited to join the crew and observe during that time.
Once they are part of the crew, the obligation is to be on duty one in every three weeks and respond to callouts, or arrange cover. This includes training on a Sunday during your duty week.
“We just encourage people to get in touch. Everyone is different and we can have a sit down and talk about what is expected,” Luke says.
To be a ‘wet crew’ on the boat, volunteers need to live within 20 minutes of Sandspit, but other volunteers for shore-based activities can be from anywhere in the Mahurangi region.
Can you help?
Kawau Coastguard is in urgent need of more volunteers including ‘wet crew’ on the boat and shore crew to help with tractor driving, fundraising, and shift co-ordination. Anyone aged 16 or over is eligible.