Close call for boaties rescued after 50-foot yacht lost power, waves swept life jackets overboard

It was a lucky rescue for two men on board a 50-foot yacht in distress off the east coast of Marlborough last night.

Yacht (file picture). Source:

Police were alerted just after 8pm by one of the men aboard the ex-fishing trawler, which had lost power in big swells.

To make matters worse, the vessel’s lifejackets had been lost overboard in the swell.

While police and the Rescue Co-ordination Centre had a general idea of where the boat was thanks to their cellphone, rescuers did not officially have a location for the trawler.

Typically, helicopters would be utilised in such situations to help with location, but it was not possible in the weather conditions.

“We didn’t know how quickly they were drifting, but we knew there was a reasonable wind,” police search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Peter Payne says.

A search and rescue operation was launched in conjunction with Maritime NZ.

An Interislander and a Bluebridge ferry both responded to the distress call, as did two commercial fishing boats.

Payne says the potential was there for the situation to end very badly.

“I started to have some concerns early on in the piece. Given the weather conditions, we couldn’t fly, and you’re really limited in the number of vessels that can head out to assist,” he says.

Around 9:50pm the Interislander ferry located the vessel, approximately four nautical miles out to sea, and one of the fishing boats towed the stricken boat to safety.

By midnight, it was anchored safely at Port Underwood.

“The pair on board were understandably quite distressed at the situation and very grateful for the rescue,” Payne says.

“It was really pleasing to see the co-operation of vessels in the area result in a successful rescue.”