ADRIFT: Ron Calman, Commander of Marine Rescue Newcastle, at the wheel of the organisation’s boat in Newcastle Harbour. Picture: Scott BevanKEVINHammanentered Newcastle Harbour in his 38-foot cruiser, but not the way he intended.
After striking trouble off Anna Bay on Tuesday morning, he had to be towed by skipper Ron Calman and crewman Rick Nevilefrom Marine Rescue Newcastle in the unit’sboat, Newcastle 30.
“Theseguys are superb,” said Mr Hamman, with his vessel safely berthed at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club’s marina.
This was the eighth vessel Marine Rescue Newcastle hadhelped so far this month, and its volunteer membersexpectthe next few weeks will be busy. Yet the unititself is still waiting to be rescued from the uncertainty it has been drifting in for more than 18 months.
“It’s terrible, absolutely atrocious,” said RonCalman, the Commander of Marine Rescue Newcastle.
Mother Nature forced the serviceout of its base in the Shepherds Hill Cottage,when the historic building was badly damaged in the April 2015 super storm. The volunteers have been waiting ever since to hear from Newcastle City Council when, and if, they can return to the cottage.
“I’ve been very concerned since the roof blew off whether we’ll continue to operate,” Mr Calman said.
Since late last year, the volunteers have been monitoring their radios from a building lent to them by the Newcastle Coal InfrastructureGroup on Kooragang Island.
They have been grateful for the lifeline, but being out of sight of the public has seen membership more than halve. What’s more, being out of sight of the sea, Mr Calman said, was affecting their ability to do their job.
“AtShepherds Hill, I’ve had operators say, ‘There’s a boat that could be in trouble out there’, and we’d go out, find they were in trouble, and we’d pull them in,” Mr Calman said.
The council commissioned a conservation management plan for Shepherds Hill.Acouncil spokesman saida draft had been sent to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for review.Hesaid a range of uses would be considered for the cottage, “including the return of Marine Rescue”.
The Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club has written to the council, supporting the Marine Rescue unit returning to Shepherds Hill. The club’s CEO Aaron Harphamsaid it was Marine Rescue Newcastle’s“natural and logical home”.
“We identify with the benefits of having them in the port and close at hand to the ocean itself,” Mr Harpham said.
For Marine Rescue Newcastle, time for an answer aboutabase is running out. The service has to leave its temporary headquarters in May.
“After then, we don’t know what we’re doing,” Mr Calman said.