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Cell phone aids teen's lucky escape after dinghy broke down during Cook Strait crossing

An 18-year-old man who crossed the Cook Strait overnight in a dinghy and got stuck off Mana Coast has had a lucky escape thanks to his cell phone.

Police come to aid of teen after his dinghy broke down during a Cook Strait crossing. Source: NZ Police

The man took off from Kenepuro Sound in the South Island last night before crossing the Cook Strait. This morning, he called the Harbour Master alerting that he had broken down off the Mana Coast.

Police were able to locate him from his cell phone and found that he was around 12 km west of Mana Island. Police said he was found and taken back to shore in “reasonably good condition”. They said he was slightly cold but not hypothermic.

“If it wasn’t for him ringing and us being able to locate him from his phone data it could have been a very different outcome,” Senior Sergeant Dave Houston said.

“The battery on his cell phone was becoming flat.

“If we didn’t have the mobile locate we would have had a massive search. The mobile locate literally saved his life.”

A teen's dinghy broke down during a Cook Strait crossing. Source: NZ Police

Mr Houston said it was a reminder that Cook Strait was a dangerous stretch of water.

“You need to have all proper safety equipment and be an experienced and capable seaman if you are going to make this coastal voyage,” he said.

“While the man did have a life jacket on and carried his cell phone, he had not checked the weather conditions and was not an experienced seaman.”

Conditions were rough overnight for a small boat. 

A Westpac helicopter directed Police to his location.

Police urged people to check the conditions before heading out to sea and only go in daylight.