Joking and laughing around in the boat shed you would never know that Ray Angel and Dave Bigeni are Port Macquarie Marine Rescue’s newest skippers.
But when the phone rings the pair’s jovial nature quickly turns to business and upholding Marine Rescue’s motto of saving lives on the water.
Mr Angel passed the eight-hour skipper assessment on July 12 followed closely by Mr Bigeni on July 18 and unit commander Greg Davies said both did extremely well.
“It is a solid 12 months of dedicated training on top of the usual training for those who want to go for skipper – it is certainly not an overnight thing,” Mr Davies said.
“The role of skipper is a big responsibility.
“They are the person in charge when our boats leave the shed; they are responsible for all the crew, ensuring they do their job properly as well as the people we are going out to help.
“As well as being in charge of the crew, they have to know absolutely everything about every part of our boats and their operations, along with being experts on the radar and charting to ensure the crew stay safe.
“They are now responsible for millions of dollars of equipment.”
He said only the best of the best end up being skippers and with two more skippers now qualified in the Port Macquarie unit, the total number of qualified skippers goes up to four.
“I am so proud of Ray and Dave for what they have done and the feedback I received from the independent examiners were they both passed with flying colours,” he said.
“With the addition of Ray and Dave we now have four skippers who are regularly on call and will be deployed when we get call outs.
“Our boat crew get deployed at any time of the day or night so the pair had to train in all kinds of conditions and weather so they know what to do in any situation.”
Mr Angel said after 12 months of hard training, passing was a great feeling.
“It was a long day, my assessment started at 8am and eight hours later we came back,” Mr Angel said.
“Over the year we worked through all possible situations the skipper would have to deal with but on assessment day you go through them all in a few hours.
“The idea is to make it as stressful as possible so in a real situation everything goes according to plan.
“The hardest part was learning all the things you had to remember, but that is why it is a 12 month process with a very intense final assessment.”
Mr Bigeni said he too was excited to take on the new responsibility.
“It is a big thing to become qualified as a skipper and it is a great feeling to know I have qualified,” Mr Bigeni said.
“To pass the assessment we had to be comfortable in all weather and conditions; be able to run detailed searches and have full comprehension of all the electronics, radars and equipment on the boats because at the end of the day decisions on the water would fall on our shoulders.
“We also had to practice managing emergency situations including boat collisions, fires, men overboard, searches and towing to name a few.
“It was full on but knowing we have passed and will be able to use our skills to help people in need makes it all worth it.”