Gallery: Behind the scenes at joint rescue task
SITTING on the deck of a rocking boat, Lena Davydenko grimaces as a deluge of salt water washes aboard and drenches her from head to toe.
With her right hand she grabs a rail to steady herself. With her left she grasps the life jacket of colleague Dale Uden, who is holding a rope attached to a helicopter hovering about 30 metres above their heads.
As the helicopter lowers, the force from the blades hits the ocean, sending another torrent their way.
It's 9.30am on a Wednesday, and Lena and Dale are two of seven Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay members who have given their time to help RACQ CQ Rescue practise a high-line vessel transfer.
The VMR crew is a mix of novices and veterans, and opportunities like this are an excellent way for the squad to learn new skills and improve teamwork.
Russian-born Lena (inset right) initially joined the not-for-profit to do a radio operator course to help improve her English. Prior to that her only experience with boats was as a passenger.
Two years later, despite suffering from sea sickness, Lena is a regular crew member.
"I never expected that I would do anything like this," she laughed.
Her progression from beginner to crew member is a credit to the training support provided by VMR.
For senior volunteer Emanuel Darmanin, this sense of community has been a highlight of his 20 years with the organisation.
"At first glance you might think the things that we do are things an everyday person could never do," he said.
"However, when you have the support and encouragement of the other crew members it builds your confidence.
"When everyone works together and watches each other's backs we can do pretty amazing things."
That's why training, like the high-line vessel transfer with RACQ CQ Rescue, is so vital - so that when a real emergency occurs, everyone is prepared.
"It's a real pleasure to do a difficult task - and we have had some really difficult jobs," Emanuel adds with a smile.
"We deal with fishing trawlers that have run aground, breakdowns out on the reef, yachts that have lost their rudders and sails, you name it.
"The effort of all the people on board contributes to make the job look easy.
It isn't easy, but when we work together it looks easy because we rehearse and train for these things."
There are around 60-65 people currently giving their time to VMR Mackay in a range of capacities: crew, radio operation, and administration.
Skipper Charles Linsley said there was always room for more, no matter what kind of skills and experience you have.
"We're much appreciative of anyone who wants to come and spend their time with us," he said.
"You might be of boating experience, have administration skills, or have financial management skills.
"We're always looking for people with that variety of background to come and help."
To join VMR or find out more visit www.marinerescueqld.org.au. You'll find the Mackay page in the 'Northern Zone' section of the locations tab.
If you'd prefer to join in person you can visit the VMR base which is located at the boat ramp end of Mulherin Drive at Mackay Harbour.