Boat comes in for keen volunteers
The arrival of a new boat for the island's volunteer coastguard is charting a course for even more successful rescues following accolades last year.
The shiny, new red vessel swept into Matiatia harbour on Sunday afternoon flanked by four escorts from other coastguard crews on the mainland.
Cheers went up from Waiheke Coastguard volunteers and onlookers as the escort vessels Lion Foundation Rescue, Trillian Rescue Alpha, Howick Rescue 1 and NZCT Rescue North Harbour sounded their horns in unison to announce the new arrival.
Waiheke Coastguard crew chief and senior master Robb Henry skippered the boat alongside senior master John MacDonald.
Senior master Guy Brown and senior crewman Peter Cox from the island were also aboard as the boat moored alongside the new wharf, while the escort boats moored up in a row at right angles to the pontoon.
The new vessel had been due to arrive the previous morning but extra oil checks caused delays, which came on top of a six month wait already.
Delivery had been scheduled for November last year but crew chief Mr Henry says the unfortunate death of the boat builder's wife and technical problems meant the coastguard had no boat at all throughout the busy summer.
Rescues normally carried out by the island's boat had to be covered by parent body Coastguard Northern Region.
But now Waiheke Coastguard members are looking forward to taking the reins again and continuing their glowing record of success.
Before retiring the old boat last year, an island crew carried out a particularly hazardous rescue that won them recognition and accolades at national and regional level.
They received a special commendation and certificate from Coastguard New Zealand and an engraved plaque from Coastguard Northern Region's Hauraki Operational Committee for a rescue off Rangitoto Island.
A boat had hit the island's rocks in darkness and its skipper went to investigate a hole in the bilges.
His clothes became tangled around the pump and he drowned as water continued to gush in.
Waiheke coastguard senior master Guy Brown, who was involved in the rescue, says two other Aucklanders aboard the boat did not know what to do next or even exactly where they were.
They were eventually located by marine police and taken to Westhaven marina, leaving the Waiheke crew to deal with the boat.
It had been badly holed and was taking in huge amounts of water but leaving it to disintegrate on the rocks was not an option.
Mr Brown says he and fellow crew members John MacDonald and Lance Crossland towed the boat back but the journey was a dangerous one.
The crew were putting their own lives at risk as they frantically pumped water out throughout the entire crossing.
Their efforts were rewarded with the accolade at the coastguards' national conference in September and later on with the engraved plaque at the regional gathering.
Mr Henry says he is looking forward to hearing from any other islanders who want the chance to join such a skilled team.
"We are looking for people with commitment, dedication, and availability," he says.
New recruits undergo a series of theoretical and practical training modules that can eventually lead to the top senior master qualification.
He says the numbers of call outs vary but people have to be available at all times of the day and night.
"One Christmas period, we were called out seven days out of eight. Other times it can be quiet but you have to be ready to go whenever the pager goes off."
Financial donations are also a huge help as they fund training, extra equipment, ongoing maintenance, and fuel.
Contact Waiheke Volunteer Coastguard president Rebecca Armstrong on (09) 372 2175 or 021 129 3802 to join up or make a donation.