Skipper slams rescue service

ULLADULLA Marine Rescue volunteers have rejected claims they “did absolutely nothing” to prevent a yacht from smashing into the breakwall at Ulladulla Harbour last week.

Owner of the Daisy Blue, Peter Barnes, said he was “at a loss to understand” how marine rescue personnel were unable save his vessel after it broke its mooring during Tuesday’s heavy seas.

He claims his boat broke free at about 8am and hit the rocks about 10am.

During those two hours, he said, “several local fishermen” had contacted Marine Rescue offering to secure the boat before it was damaged.

“Each time they were told not to do anything because Marine Rescue was handling the situation,” Mr Barnes said.

He explained his friend pulled the yacht from the rocks using a crane after Marine Rescue had “done absolutely nothing to help”.

“Obviously Marine Rescue, observing the harbour from their vantage point, were in the best position to save my boat from destruction, but they did absolutely nothing,” he added.

Marine Rescue’s Ulladulla unit commander Ken Lambert said the criticism of the organisation was “unwarranted” and volunteers did “all we possibly could”.

“As our name implies, we are a rescue service, not a salvage service and our prime role is to ensure the safety of lives at sea,” Mr Lambert said.

“We have no authority in the harbour and are required to seek the permission of both the Water Police and boat owner before intervening on vessels moored there.”

Mr Lambert said volunteers would have done their best to ensure the Daisy Blue came to no harm had they been notified of the situation earlier.

He denied claims the service was contacted three times by fishermen and said the first it knew of the situation was when another boat owner radioed the base at 9.37am.

“There were no other contacts on this matter before that time,” he said.

“Our duty radio officer has assured me we received no calls from fishermen about the vessel.”

Mr Lambert said the duty crew was called in and the rescue vessel left its berth at 10am to help after trying to contact Mr Barnes.

“There was a small delay leaving our berth because the rescue vessel had to manoeuvre around storm lines rigged to the fishing vessels and in very shallow water,” he said.

“When it arrived it found the Daisy Blue holed and the crew was unable to assist.

“Any attempt to tow the vessel off the rocks would have resulted in it sinking.”

Mr Lambert said Marine Rescue members were “concerned for Mr Barnes”.

“The loss of any vessel has a strong effect on us all, but we believe we did all we possibly could.”

“We sympathise and understand Mr Barnes’ loss but we are not responsible for the security of moorings – this is the responsibility of the owners.”

Mr Barnes, an experienced sailor and former member of the Ulladulla Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, told the Times had he been notified earlier that his boat had broken its moorings, he would have rowed out, started the motor and moved it.

“Local fishermen offered to step in, but they were told it was all under control – I am mortified and fail to see how this has happened,” Mr Barnes said.

MORTIFIED: Experienced sailor Peter Barnes is blaming the Ulladulla Marine Rescue Association for not taking action to save his yacht the Daisy Blue last week. Photo: HAMISH RICHARDSON.

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