From her post at the Marine Rescue radio base at Town Beach, Patricia White has the best view of all, seeing dolphins and whales play in the surf just off the shore, but the moment a boat calls the base in distress it is action stations.
Mrs White started with Marine Rescue as a radio operator and doing the rosters more than 15 years ago after retiring and wanting to do something different, and said she has enjoyed every moment.
“Initially I joined as a hobby to fill in my time after retirement but everyone who volunteers becomes part of the Marine Rescue family,” Mrs White said.
“Some days can be incredibly busy, especially during the holidays or on the weekends when most people decide to take their boats out, but then other times we might only have contact with one or two freight boats passing by us – so it really depends.”
Mrs White said that life as a radio operator means talking to boats who pass past Port Macquarie as well as those based in Port Macquarie who go out for day trips.
“Our job means that we are usually the first port of call for boats if they go out or get into trouble on the water,” she said.
“When a boat registers or logs their trip with us we take down all their details including how many people are on the boat, the boat’s registration details, a phone number for some on the boat, the names of people on board as well as destinations and expected times to be back.
“It is important that we get as many details as possible because if something does go wrong our Marine Rescue boat crew and other emergency services have as much information as possible to help as quickly as they can.”
Mrs White said when emergency situations happen, the radio operators role is important as it is vital to keep accurate records of what is happening.
“We have at least one person at the radio base all the time, 24 hours a day seven days a week we are monitoring the radios, and the boat crew have to be no more than 10 minutes away when they are on call.
“When we get an emergency situation we have to monitor the radio traffic to make sure everyone knows what is going on.
“We have to record all the conversations that are happening accurately and ensure that our crews are safe on the water while helping others.”
Mrs White said the thing that continues to surprise her is the amount of people who do not log their trips with Marine Rescue and then get in to trouble, and those who don’t realise Marine Rescue volunteers do not get paid.
“Logging your trip with us is free and might just save your life, no one expects to get into danger or trouble when out on the water but accidents and unexpected things happen and it is always better to be safe.
“The other thing people often forget is that we are all volunteers, from our unit commander to the boat crew, radio operators and the fundraising team none of us get paid to be here, we do it because we want to help people.”