Friday, 27 July 2012


The main lesson learned from my recently completed 1800 nautical miles in Tekani 11 from Cairns to Mooloolaba and return along almost the full length of the Queensland coast has been the abysmal communications situation for small ships which now exists: due to what can fairly be labelled as dereliction of duty by both state and federal governments.

Some 15 years ago, a similar journey in TEKANI 1 was made far safer by OTC Coastal Radio stations which covered the whole coast with high frequency, long-range transmissions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Any problems, either sea-induced or medical met with instant professional response and action….not so today…
All this has been “replaced” by Volunteer Coastgard stations manned by volunteers of varying degrees of proficiency and nautical expertise…the irreverent, but sometimes deservedly appropriate label of “Dad’s Army” is often used.

These ameteur volunteers deserve full credit for trying, but they are no substitute for the real thing as the unforgiving sea continually demonstrates when emergencies occur. Most are open for business during daylight hours only, some only on weekends and all are really there to serve the weekend recreational fisherman in his small outboard powered open boat in semi-sheltered waters for a few hours.

The serious sailor can use the AIS automatic reporting system used by commercial shipping which can and does indicate his identity, position and speed 24/7, but this requires the installation of special equipment costing many thousands of dollars and more battery power than the average small boat can offer as it must be operated non-stop to be effective.

A cheaper alternative is to have a satellite phone on board with access to satellite coverage. The illegal people smuggling industry uses these by providing boatloads of illegal fare-paying illegals ( average cost $10,000 per person) with one which is used in the Indian Ocean to call AusSAR in Canberra direct. AusSAR contacts the Royal Australian Navy and issues orders for a tow into port and eventual Australian citizenship.

I already have an Australian passport, but prudence has prompted the purchase of an INMARSAT satellite phone for access to help in any real emergency on TEKANI 11.