HMAS Toowoomba was temporarily diverted from large-scale war games last weekend to assist in a real emergency off the coast of Hawaii.
The ship was participating in the final maritime warfare phase of Exercise RIMPAC 2018 in waters off the island of Oahu, when she received a distress call via the United States Coast Guard from a stricken yacht with a broken mast.
The yacht, Gypsy, carrying three adults and one child, was listing dangerously to port and drifting out of control with cables strewn across the deck and under the keel, fouling its rudder.
A response team was assembled within minutes and Toowoomba dispatched one of her Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIB) to render assistance, rendezvousing with Gypsy and holding her in a position so that large waves would not capsize the 40 foot vessel.
Able Seaman Boatswain’s Mate Darren Young was in control of the RHIB and said it took more than an hour to cut the tangled cables away in three metre seas and 60kph winds.
“The yacht was drifting and out of control so it was important to keep the vessel with the waves rolling along its length, not only to keep her stable, but to assist our team in cutting the mast and cables free,” he said.
“It required total concentration, communication and team effort to conduct this tricky operation but our rigid inflatable sea boats handle very well in rough seas.”
The team from Toowoomba remained on Gypsy with her crew, using their RHIB to help the yacht remain stable in the rough seas, until a US Coast Guard Response Boat arrived to tow the craft to Kaneohe Bay.
Toowoomba’s Commanding Officer Commander Stuart Watters said being able to respond with short notice to a call for rescue during the middle of exercises demonstrated the versatility of naval forces.
“One minute we are conducting anti-submarine warfare exercises and the next we can respond to a call for assistance,” Commander Watters said.
“This not only proves just one of the many capabilities of our ship but the adaptability, resourcefulness and the commitment of the entire crew.”
Toowoomba has been deployed since February and has spent the past six months visiting countries throughout the Asia Pacific region prior to her arrival in Hawaii for RIMPAC.
She will return to her home port at Fleet Base West in August.