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Boat owners in Dunkirk-style evacuation in Tasmania

by Peter Campbell on 8 Jan 2013
Tasmanian boat owners have come to the aid of bushfire victims in southern Tasmania © Andrea Francolini Photography http://www.afrancolini.com/
Tasmanian boat owners did not think twice to give help to the residents affected by a bushfire that wreak havoc across the Tasman Peninsula, south-east of Hobart last weekend.

With no road access out of the Peninsula, an estimated one thousand tourists visiting the Port Arthur historic site, plus Tasmanians camping at various beaches or at their holiday shacks, have been ferried back to Hobart or nearer safe waterwide towns and suburbs by a flotilla of craft led by Pennicott Wildernerss Journey’s 40-seat fast boat. Privately owned craft have been co-ordinated via a Facebook page/

The craft, large and small, have ferried in donated food and other essential commodities to the stricken communities and have returned, where suitable, with marooned visitors to the Peninsula.

Many yachtsmen will have seen the horrific damage to the township of Dunalley which they have frequently passed by through the Denison Canal on their return voyage after the Sydney Hobart and Melbourne Hobart races.

The Canal is closed until further notice as there is no electricity to the town. One impact of this has been that the East Coast Classic Cruise conducted by the Derwent Sailing Squadron has been cancelled due to the Denison Canal being closed.

Meanwhile, MAST (Marine and Safety Tasmania) in a Notice to Mariners has advised that boats heading to the Tasman Peninsula to assist in the current emergency should be adequately equipped and manned to be able to safely complete such a voyage.

All boats should register the voyage with either Coast Radio Hobart or Surf Life Saving Tasmania. Recreational boaters are encouraged to register their voyage using a centrally monitored database so that no one goes missing.

There are problems in the affected area with both radio and mobile phone communications due to smoke and lack of mobile phone infrastructure. Navigation in the area is also difficult due to smoke.

Boaters intending to head into the affected area need to carefully check that:

1) The boat is seaworthy and capable of handling the prevailing conditions
2) They have registered their trip with either Coast Radio Hobart via VHF Channel 16 or SLST on 0417 338 706 or 0447 287 847
3) You have backup communication systems
4) Your navigation equipment will enable you to navigate in restricted visibility
5) The weather report is favourable for both the trip out and the return journey
6) There are adequate PFDs and relevant safety equipment for the outbound crew plus any passengers possibly returning
7) You do not exceed the vessel’s load capacity.
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