Six people rescued at sea in the past year would be dead if not for the Port Fairy Marine Rescue Service, the service’s president said.
During the 2016/17 financial year, the emergency service group rescued 22 people in 11 rescues.
President Russell Lemke said it was a vital service for those who ventured to sea.
“At least six people would have been fatalities if not for Port Fairy Marine Rescue coming to their aid,” Mr Lemke said.
He said in one incident, a boat carrying four people was swamped by water.
The local residents were in the water for up to an hour and were “severely hypothermic”.
It took paramedics more than an hour to restore their temperatures and pulse rates, he said.
“Their bodies had gone into shock,” Mr Lemke said.
“They were shivering uncontrollably and their temperatures had dropped right down. It was fairly severe and they were just damn lucky we were there at that time. Those are fairly critical situations. If we hadn’t have been there, there would have been four funerals in the town.”
In two other separate incidents, boaters were near rocks at Killarney and at the back of Griffiths Island and raised the alarm “desperate to be hauled out”.
“They’re situations where it was close,” he said.
“They were in a panic when they rang up and said ‘we’re going to go over if we don’t get hooked up soon’.”
The figures were presented at the group’s annual general meeting on August 13.
Mr Lemke said they conducted their first rescue for the financial year three weeks ago after four men and a five-year-old child called for help when their boat broke down. Only the child was wearing a life jacket.
“You shake your head when you see those things.”
Mr Lemke said the marine rescue was a “forgotten service” and without flashing lights and sirens like other emergency services, the public were unaware of the role they played. The group plans to raise its profile.
“Our work is mostly done out of sight of land,” he said.
“We quietly depart the port and return after completing a rescue and very few are aware of what has transpired. We’re starting to realise we have an image problem. People who (deal) with us understand the importance of the service but the majority of people have no idea what we do.”