Rough seas and tough work for Coast Guard volunteers

RESCUING a heavy 18m steel ketch in hazardous seas was the riskiest part of a long and arduous shift for Tin Can Bay Coast Guard volunteers yesterday.

"It's dangerous work," skipper Ian Sutton said, "especially for the crew on deck, because they're trying to get towlines on.

"I have to get our boat within 4m of the other vessel so we can get a line across. And in 4m seas, that's pretty tricky.

"But we train for it," he said. "We have training every Monday and on weekends.

"We had three coxswains on board - me, John Jones and Dieter Voss - and two advanced crew members, Fred Fitzsimmons and our deputy commander Phil Feldman."

Mr Sutton crawled out of bed at 1.30am to answer a distress call relayed from night watch at Mooloolaba.

The ketch, Infinity, was stranded 12 nautical miles out, with a sail caught up in its propeller.

By 3am he had his crew on the Cooloola Rescue II catamaran. First light found them pounding through 3m seas on Wide Bay bar.

"It looked like a delivery trip to me, with two people on board. It would have been about 25 tonnes," he said of the ketch.

"From there it was just a big slow tow in heavy seas to get them back to the lee side of Double Island Point."

But it was an even longer night for some crew members, who had earlier rescued stranded visitors from a mud bank in Carlo Creek.

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