An Auckland yacht that came close to sinking in "extreme" conditions was turned away only minutes from hitting the bar off Bowentown, at the northern head of the Katikati entrance to Tauranga Harbour.
The 16m Giverny sent out a mayday call early on Monday afternoon that it was taking on water.
The call coincided with the launch of a huge rescue effort co-ordinated by Tauranga Coastguard to find a missing runabout off Maketu.
Giverny struck trouble between Waihi Beach and Whangamata and limped down the coast until it was off Bowentown. It was sighted just in time by Waihi Beach's Coastguard.
Duty officer Noel Haszard said Giverny was in imminent danger of running onto the bar. "We told them to turn hard to port and go seaward."
The yacht responded, narrowly avoiding the bar, and continued to struggle until a Coastguard boat reached it.
Two women and a boy were taken off, leaving the skipper and a friend on board.
"It was extreme conditions - our boys were taking a real hammering," Mr Haszard said.
Despite twice losing the tow line, Giverny was towed into more sheltered waters and the two men taken off at nearly 9pm.
It was still afloat yesterday.
- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES