Owner of the yacht Bulletproof, Peter Hackett, at Brunswick Heads.
Owner of the yacht Bulletproof, Peter Hackett, at Brunswick Heads.

Yacht journey almost a disaster

On November 21 my family was saved from a frightening situation at sea by Brunswick Heads Marine Rescue. 

 From Cloud 9 to chaos in a blink of an eye, that’s how quickly it all happened. Here we were on the beginning of our voyage from Brisbane to Melbourne, sailing along in ideal conditions just off Cape Byron, a dozen dolphins playing off the bow when CRACK, the rudder broke and we completely lost all steerage of our 30-ft yacht.

With my wife and two young kids on board, I was full of fear at the prospect of our predicament – drifting helplessly towards the cliffs and rocks along the Cape Byron coast. We had no choice but to radio for immediate and urgent assistance.

The sight of the bright orange Sea Rescue One boat dispatched from Brunswick Heads was one of utter relief. I shudder to think what would have happened without their immediate response.

The rescue was extremely difficult and challenging, with conditions rapidly deteriorating as winds increased to over 30 knots and confused seas built to over three metres.

After an epic seven-hour tow operation, countless broken tow lines and contending with seasickness, tears and panic, the boat was secured to a mooring behind Julian Rocks in Byron Bay and the four of us transferred to the safety of the rescue boat.
It was a weird experience meeting our rescuers, Les Szabo, Atmo Kusseler and Michael Reina, for the first time. Through the ordeal we felt we had already developed a special bond with them, born out of their courage and resolve to help us in a crisis situation.

How can you express enough gratitude for the efforts of Brunswick Marine Rescue? And there were those involved behind the scenes that we never even got to meet – manning the tower and operating the radio communication.

 Their efforts and commitment to help others in trouble is worthy of praise but what amazes me is that it is not even their job – this is how they volunteer their time.

I think it is extremely important to acknowledge this because I’m sure their efforts, like so many other volunteer organisations, go unrecognised and unappreciated by the broader community.

Following the rescue operation itself, the help we received didn’t end there. Whilst our lives were safe, there was much to be done to get back on our feet, not least of which was recovering our boat, effectively our home, to the safety of Brunswick Harbour and making repairs.

Again, the generous support we were given, particularly by those within the rescue squad, who drove us around, lent us cars and assisted with finding accommodation at Ferry Reserve Holiday Park was nothing short of incredible.

Brunswick Heads is a special community which, from our misadventure, we were lucky to experience for the four weeks we were ‘stuck’ there.

I think that this community spirit which we were privileged to enjoy doesn’t just happen by some mysterious magic.

 It’s generated by community leaders behind the scenes who step forward selflessly to help and support because they want to and they care about it, not because they’re seeking praise or recognition.

The experience has taught me that volunteer organisations such as Brunswick Marine Rescue are extremely valuable, not just in their service they provide but also in their contribution to the character and spirit of the community. It has taught me how powerful community leadership really works.

On behalf of Jo, James and Jasmine, I’d also like to personally thank those who helped us and there were too many individuals to mention. But in particular, Atmo and Les, who both went to extraordinary lengths to help us get back on our feet.

Their generous support won’t ever be forgotten and great friendships have come as a result.

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