VICTORIAN Marine Rescue Mornington president Tim Warner returned from a six-week holiday last weekend just in time for an emergency callout in the bay off Safety Beach.
His crew quickly set out for an area 100 metres off the marina – only to find they were “rescuing” the Safety Beach Coast Guard boat, which had run out of fuel.
Now, anyone with an insight into the rivalry between two of the state’s peak marine rescue bodies will understand the sensitivity of that situation.
“Yes it was a rather unusual call,” Mr Warner said, stifling a grin. “We have a rather interesting relationship but it was all handled with good grace.
“When we realised who they were we just treated it as a training run.”
Coast Guard commodore Mark Brookes said the incident was “not a rescue”.
“We’d had a motor change-over and the fuel gauges had not been calibrated correctly, so they showed we were full when we weren’t,” he said. “These things happen from time to time.”
The two groups had scheduled a get together on Sunday afternoon to socialise and discuss the coming season’s activities.
Mr Warner said the VMR was the busiest rescue service in the state, with two boats on Port Phillip and one on Western Port all year.
“We perform 235 police-activated rescues a year,” he said. “And if you take out the quiet times – such as mid-winter – we can be out on the bays six or seven times a weekend.”
Often VMR crews are called to rescue sick seals or penguins. “People look up marine rescue and our number comes up,” Mr Warner said.
“One weekend over summer we had two calls for sick seals at Mt Eliza and Sorrento.”
Mr Warner said boat users, or their worried families, should call 0419 233 999 as soon as they fear for their own or someone else’s safety.
“If dad says he’s going fishing and will be back at 4pm, people should call us straight away if they don’t hear from him so we can start the search immediately,” he said.
“We would prefer to start an emergency search at 4pm rather than the family waiting until 9pm to call us and then having to start searching in the wet and cold.
“We don’t mind if we find dad happily fishing. We treat false alarms as good training.”
Mr Warner has served the VMR for 37 years, including three terms as president.