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Daughter was 'biggest motivation' to survive as man floats for hours off Gisborne coast with jeans rigged as life jacket

A man has survived more than three hours in the water off the Gisborne coast without a life jacket - thanks to a pair of jeans.

Arne Murke, 30, had been sailing with his brother when he was knocked off the yacht, Wahoo, near Tolaga Bay, north of Gisborne, on March 6, Herald on Sunday reports.

The pair were tasked with the job of delivering Wahoo from Auckland to Brazil. Mr Murke said he intended to use the money he earned from the job to supoort his 10-month old daughter in the Philippines.

Mr Murke, from Germany, had been on a working holiday in New Zealand before the sailing mission.

Mr Murke was knocked overboard by the yacht's swinging boom in rough sea conditions.

"I was floating in the water not wearing any life jacket. Just my t-shirt, my jeans - that was all," Mr Murke told Herald on Sunday.

Mr Murke said he was lucky he "knew the trick with the jeans" - a technique used by Navy Seals to keep them afloat.

The technique involves inflating the jeans with air to make them into an an "improvised life vest".

"They were really the thing that saved me. I saw it many years ago and I always thought if I ever go overboard without a life jacket, I'm going to do that."

Mr Murke said his daughter was his "biggest motivation" to stay alive.

"While I was in the water I was just thinking, I can't leave my daughter behind without a father. That was the biggest motivation."

His improvised life vest worked and after around three-and-a-half hours in the water, he was picked up by a Hawke's Bay Rescue helicopter.

The ordeal hasn't put Mr Murke off sailing, telling Herald on Sunday, "I'm just going to be super careful in the future".

Tolaga Bay, north of Gisborne. Source: istock.com