The chances of finding alive missing crayfishing boat skipper Bruce Gordon (42) and crew member Darren Allen (37) are now "very slim", the police commander of the search and rescue operation says after a third day of combing Doubtful Sound.

"Given the length of time that's now transpired, the chances are now obviously very limited," ," Southland area commander Inspector Lane Todd told the Otago Daily Times from Te Anau last night.

"Given the weather conditions on the day the vessel went missing and also the wreckage we've now located of the dingy and the inflatable raft, the chances are very slim."

Asked what caused the loss of the crayfishing boat K-Cee, Insp Todd said the inquiry was just starting and it was too early to indicate.


He declined to speculate as it was not fair on the families of the men, he said.

The operation was today expected to enter a "limited continuous phase".

The team would continue to evaluate the latest information supplied from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre about tidal patterns, current movements and debris already located to identify potential actions or directions for any future searches.

A fixed-wing or a helicopter may conduct another shoreline search in the next few days, depending on weather conditions and tide, Insp Todd said.

The measures followed a narrowed search operation in good weather yesterday afternoon which did not discover new information.

Two teams of five personnel on foot covered about 1km of shoreline near Rocky Pt, where the bow of the K-Cee was found on Tuesday.

Two helicopters and a boat were also involved yesterday, with management in Te Anau police station.

Insp Todd said morale among the searchers was "as good as can be expected'.