Exhausted but overjoyed, Bruce Goodwin thought they'd made it.
Inside the rescue helicopter above turbulent seas, he sought a smile from his sailing companion Stuart Pedersen.
He didn't get one.
It was in that moment, cold and wet, he realised his friend had died.
"It's just devastating," he says, thinking back to that moment.
The two were part of a sailing crew who had fought for their lives in massive seas off the north coast of New Zealand after escaping their sinking yacht.
Here, Goodwin shares his harrowing story of survival.
First light had broken over the Pacific Ocean as Bruce Goodwin woke onboard Stuart Pedersen's yacht.
It was Monday and there were grey skies. He went to take over watch from Pedersen above deck while Pedersen's wife, Pamela, and her brother-in-law Steve remained below.
Sea conditions were reasonably calm. The wind was 20 knots. It was the sailing group's last day on board the 47-foot yacht travelling from Fiji to New Zealand. The four had a big breakfast planned before going through Customs.
But as they crept closer to the Bay of Islands, the winds became stronger and the seas got "steeper and steeper". Soon, gusts grew to beyond 40 knots and massive waves had begun breaking on top.
"It's a really hard thing to think of what size they were," Goodwin said.
"The 6m thing was mentioned but it wasn't the size of the waves that was the problem. It was the size of the break.''
At 1pm and about 30km from Cape Brett in Northland, a surge of water broke over the yacht. Goodwin, 66, and Pedersen were swept off their feet, and off the vessel.
"I went under water. I'm sure Stu went under water as well. I was pulled along at a very painful rate. I was stuck in my harness for some time under water until I just felt Stu pulling me back on board," Goodwin said.
"The deck was a mess at that stage but most things were still functioning. We checked down below to see how the other two were and saw they had their own dramas."
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Pamela and Steve were knee-deep in water. The yacht's windows had been sucked out from their frames, and water from the waves was repeatedly rushing in at a rate beyond what the vessel's pump system could handle.
"That's when I said we need to put out a mayday," Goodwin said.
Radio contact was made while Goodwin searched for the yacht's Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPRIB) and liferaft "but they must have gone out the windows, they were nowhere to be seen".
Everyone went into survival mode, keeping cool heads the entire time. Goodwin who had his own personal locator beacon activated it.
"We were encouraged. We were saying 'we can do this'," he said.
The four gathered in the yacht's cockpit for about 20 minutes preparing to abandon ship. They collected a grab bag, life ring, Dan Buoy flotation device and had planned to click together their harness ropes once overboard to stay together.
"It's just amazing how we all did bits and pieces when Pamela came on deck, she brought a big block of chocolate and a bottle of water. We knew we needed energy and we scoffed the chocolate as fast as we could."
Goodwin said Pedersen and Steve, whose surname he did not know, took turns at manually pumping the bilge pump "to try to give us extra time".
"But unfortunately it got so low in the water, the bow went under."
With water rising around them, Goodwin was first to leave.
He unclicked his harness from the yacht and dived through the water. He pulled Pamela along with him. The two other men followed moments behind and only just escaped.
"The guys only just got clear ... When it [the yacht] went under. It went so, so quick."
Alone, in the ocean, the four sailors clicked their harnesses together and waited. And then the strangest thing happened.
"An albatross came and sat beside us," Goodwin said.
"I saw it as a sign from God. I do have trust in God and I have a personal relationship with God. [I thought] we can make it."
Goodwin did not see the seabird fly away. The sea conditions were still horrendous.
"We struggled with waves coming at us. We took on water and spat it out. We tried to keep each other warm and encouraged."
About 2.45pm, through the sea spray and waves, Goodwin spotted sight of the PC3 Orion above which dropped a liferaft.
"Oh boy, when we first saw the Orion I thought 'you beauty!', 'We are going to do it guys, we are going to do it.'
"I saw this big, long, long rope with flags on it coming down. It landed quite a way from us, maybe 50m away. I swam for it as hard as I could."
Tears well as Goodwin recalled: "I really didn't think we were going to make it but the rope would get picked up and placed closer each time. Those guys in the [rescue] team knew just where to place it."
Goodwin said their rescuers' skill at getting the raft closer to them when they did "absolutely" saved his life. With barely any strength left in his body, Goodwin eventually managed to pull himself on board.
After another exhaustive effort, Steve was next.
The two men pulled on their harness ropes to help get Pamela and Pedersen in but against the surging seas, high winds and a tangle of knots in the ropes, the mission became impossible.
"There was nothing left in us to get them in."
Goodwin said he and Steve were reluctant to cut the ropes because of the risk of Pamela or Pedersen being swept away in the rough seas. Instead, they each held them.
"I took Pamela and Steve held Stu along the liferaft. We had to wait for the helicopter to come and we knew it would come."
Goodwin doesn't know if it was seconds, minutes or hours later when he saw the rescue helicopter arrive. By this stage, all four were too exhausted to talk. But they were still conscious and alive.
"I got a smile from Pam," Goodwin said.
A rescue helicopter swimmer came and took Pedersen and his wife away from the raft and got them winched up one by one. Steve was next up, then finally Goodwin.
"It was just great to get up to that helicopter."
Wrapped in a thermal blanket and given some water, Goodwin reached out to his skipper.
"I tried to get a smile from Stu."
He didn't get one.
Pedersen had died before making it onboard the helicopter.
His wife was taken to hospital but has since been discharged. Steve was discharged with Goodwin this week.
Back home in rural Waihī, Goodwin's voice cracks as he looks back on the fateful voyage.
Both he and Pedersen shared a mutual love for sailing. As members of the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club, it's how they met about four years ago.
"To do something like this, we do it for pleasure. And to have such an outcome, it's just devastating."
But he remains incredibly grateful for the efforts of their rescuers.
"To be living in a country that can throw so much resource without a moment's thought at four people who need them the most ... there must have been no hesitation when they got our mayday and they were so prompt.
''We feel so positive and honoured to live in such a country that cares for people.''