A Napier couple's planned weekend fishing expedition on Lake Taupo ended in a dramatic early-morning rescue after strong winds drove their launch towards a rocky stretch of shore.
"They were well anchored in a good area but the conditions can change so quickly on the lake - it took them completely by surprise," Coastguard Lake Taupo spokesman John Bates said yesterday.
The couple, in their 40s, had spent the day fishing in the Western Bay area of the lake and had anchored late on Friday afternoon ready to settle for the night.
Just after sunset a strong south-easterly wind blew in and the 6-metre launch's anchor began to drag.
Mr Bates said the conditions changed and dragging anchor gave the couple little time to react.
"They said later waves started coming over the back and they were going toward the rocks under the cliffs."
He said the area they were in was known for "nasty disturbed waters" when the weather turned, but they were lucky the launch beached on a small clear area of shoreline, although rocks surrounded it on both sides.
About 11pm, realising they could not get the boat free, they put out a mayday call on their marine VHF radio, which was picked up by the duty operator at the Coastguard Radio Centre in Auckland and passed on to Taupo police and Coastguard.
Mr Bates said when the Coastguard rescue boat reached Waihora Bay they could see the couple on the beach, fending their launch away from the rocks.
The conditions and rocky shoreline meant they could not get their boat closer, so the Taupo-based Greenlea rescue helicopter was called in.
Using a "nitesun" lighting system, and crew wearing night vision goggles, they were eventually able to deliver a swimmer to the beach just after 3am.
He attached a line to their boat and with the motion of the waves it was able to be pulled free. The couple were taken aboard the rescue boat and, along with their launch, were taken safely back to Kinloch. "They were cold and wet but okay otherwise," Mr Bates said.
"It was a long night - we went out about 11pm and got back in around 6am the next morning," he said.
The couple praised their rescuers. "They expressed their gratitude for all the effort made," Senior Constable Barry Shepherd.