Unit History

The Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol was established in 1937 to provide education to boat owners and search and rescue services. At the instigation of the Navy, yachtsmen and others were trained by Navy personnel who donated their time. At its peak in 1940, the Patrol had over 2000 operational members and 500 small ships in three states. The contribution to fire fighting, air-raid warnings, port security and coastal defence were recognised. After the war, the then Police Commissioner, agreed that the Patrol should adopt a role of civilian search and rescue. In 1974, the Volunteer Coastal Patrol was recognised by the addition of the title ‘Royal’ and in the same year the NSW Police awarded the Patrol the ‘Nemesis’ pennant.

 

1972 It was about this time, in fact 1972, that the new RVCP Division of Shoalhaven was being formed, based at Hyam’s Beach in Jervis Bay. Doug McNeice had had some contact with Wollongong RCP. He and the others called a meeting in Nowra to gauge local interest. This occurred after a group of young people had been found drifting in St George’s Basin holding their towels as sails! They were towed to Paradise Beach. About twenty people joined up at the first meeting that was held at the School of Arts in Berry Street, Nowra. Local personalities joined up including Dick Young. Alf Settree became search master, Des Jarrold the first divisional commander – thus the Patrol base was set up in the rear of the shop at Hyam’s – Des ran the shop! Dick Young, now 80 years old, is telling the story. He is, with others, credited with starting both the Ambulance and Bush Fire service in Huskisson. ‘Dick was always involved as he was with Coastal Patrol and later the Lady Denman museum’, said Ross Thorby. ‘But that, says Dick, is another story’. The division’s first boat was called ‘Aquarius 1’, a 15’ runabout. Later the base was moved to a site office owned by real estate magnate Warren Holloran in Holden Street, Vincentia, near the ramp.In an incident involving a Dutch Freighter 30 to 50 miles SE of Jervis Bay, the runabout got into trouble and the vessel took the crew on board after responding to a 27Mhz radio call. The stranded crew ended up in the vessel’s next Port of Call, Melbourne. The Federal Sea Rescue Service had just been opened in Canberra, now called AMSA, and 27Mhz radios were still illegal. This incident was talked about a lot and became instrumental to the granting of 27Mhz frequency for boat safety. Dick recalled a further time when all four RVCP divisions at Broken Bay, Sydney, Wollongong and Shoalhaven were attempting to help a Bob Roberts who was towing barges from Papua New Guinea and needed a tug to help in bad weather off the NSW coast. By then Shoalhaven Division had replaced the runabout with a one-man operated 36’ fishing boat. ‘Aquarius II’ that was equipped with twin diesel engines. Dick Young recalls, ‘We had an exercise in Jervis Bay for all five boats from all divisions including a vessel called ‘South Pacific’ which acted as radio ship for the Hobart race. Later a wreck was salvaged from Plantation Point, a 24’ wartime built (Slazenger) diesel plywood boat. This became the first Patrol owned vessel and was named ‘Westgate 2’. It later went to Greenwell Point. In the late 70’s, Des Jarrold handed over divisional command to Allan McGilvray who lived over Greenwell Point way; he followed the tradition of previous commanders and moved the base from Vincentia to near his home at Greenwell Point. The Shoalhaven Marine Rescue Association was born out of this move. Jervis Bay was without a volunteer rescue base until 1991, although some attempts were made in the early 80’s to raise interest. However, Jervis Bay was served by the Federal Police vessel stationed at HMAS Creswell, the 34’ Stebar replace in 1990 with the new, purpose built, 43’ Stebar, the current ‘Lifeboat Colin Woods’. During the in-between period, over ten years, SMRA ran the rescue service for both Jervis Bay and Greenwell Point. This continued until 1991 when it became obvious that the population increase, both ashore and on the water, demanded a local rescue organization based in the Bay. This course of action was proved to be a correct decision when eight years later the Federal Police pulled out of marine rescue, selling their vessel to the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol for the continuance of the service in Jervis Bay, albeit now, through volunteers.

 

1991 Commander Ian Bates became the first divisional commander of the new Jervis Bay Division of the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, which was formed on October 19, 1991. The private vessel ‘Batehaven’ was used as a rescue vessel initially. A caravan donated to the RVCP was located at Tapalla Point as a base radio station, in Huskisson at the White Sands Caravan Park, not far from the current location of the base. The first vessel owned by the new patrol ‘JB Alpha’, was purchased over eight years from the Vincentia Sailing Club in February 1993. It was an 18’ half cabin Savage replaced in 1996 by the Tony Onorato, a Broadbill with twin 90 hp outboards provided by HQ in Sydney. 1999 saw many changes for the division as Warren Hadfield handed over command to Wayne Walker. Patrol member numbers varied from 10 to 20 with around 100 boat members, the annual budget was $3,500. In November 1999, the same year, it was announced that the Federal Police were pulling out of marine rescue work. There was immense speculation as to what would happen to the Lifeboat Colin Woods. SMRA initiated a petition, Johanna Gash MP mobilised support and some serious wrangling went on to ensure the vessel was retained in Jervis Bay. At the hand over to RVCP on 27 November 1999, the small division in Jervis Bay became the proud owner of a boat probably worth $250,000. It was all a bit of a shock! The first task was to train skippers and crew and somehow find a way of paying for fuel, at 1800 litres a tank full, this was no mean task – that’s $1800 a fill!

2001 By the time we reached our 10th anniversary in October 2001 we had, in 2 years, increased membership to around 50, boat memberships to around 250 and our annual budget from $3,000 to $72,000. In the recent 2 years we have had some generous support from the most unlikely places for which we are most grateful. The chief financial support has come from a Shoalhaven City Council grant of $5,000, St George Basin Country Club with 2 annual fundraising golf days and a separate donation of $5,000. Dolphin Watch, Dolphin Explorer Cruises, DMS at HMAS Creswell, The Navy, fishing and diving clubs and many other corporate and private donations from $1 to $1,000 have helped us maintain and develop the rescue service. Huskisson RSL and the Club committed to assist us over three years. Our big task ahead was to build a base station in Huskisson, possibly adjacent to the RVCP wharf. There were many local government issues to be realised before the site was rejected. Jervis Bay was the only marine rescue service in the region without a permanent base station near the water. Unexpectedly, Shoalhaven City Council came up with an offer to develop a base station for us in a re-modelled building next to the swimming pool in Voyager Park, Huskisson. This is the site that Greg Watson, Mayor of Shoalhaven will dedicate at 1300 hours on 18 November 2001. This year the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol in NSW has 26 divisions, 1 in SA, 5 in Tasmania and 3 in Victoria. Local divisions include Jervis Bay, Sussex Inlet, Ulladulla and Kiola. Lifeboat Colin Woods has been refitted with the latest electronic equipment – thanks to both the NSW State Government grant of $23,000 and a generous commercial gift of $10,000 this year. Further up and down the coast the Waveney class lifeboats obtained from the UK make RVCP the best equipped service it has ever been, to meet the ‘challenge of safety of life at sea’. The remaining dilemma for all of us in volunteer marine rescue is to attract boat owners to join up and log on and to maintain fresh crews and radio operators for volunteer marine rescue work. The community continues to help us raise funds for the ongoing service. The raffle this year raised over $10,000. This fundraising culminates in the ‘Colin Woods Golf Classic’ charity golf day at the St Georges Basin Country Club, Sanctuary Point, now an annual event. We sincerely hope that all, who attended the celebration cruise, BBQ and opening of our new base station, the party and presentation that followed in the RSL Club auditorium, had a great day.

For further information about Marine Rescue NSW please contact either Commander Alex Ross at the Jervis Bay Unit on telephone number 4441 5433 or write to us at PO Box 93, Huskisson, NSW 2540.