Clinging to the hull of an upturned boat for over three hours with her two young sons, Amber Anderton realised the value of being equipped with lifejackets.
"They kept us afloat and kept us from freezing while we waited to be rescued," said the 29-year-old Opononi mum.
Ms Anderton has spoken out about the terrifying ordeal in a bid to encourage people heading out on the water this summer not to "risk it"but to always wear a life jacket.
"It could save your life. It's common sense. When you hop in a car you do your seatbelt up. You love your kids and you make them wear a seatbelt. When you get on a boat you wear a lifejacket, it's that simple."
Ms Anderton and her family are living proof that wearing a life jacket worked.
"It's an absolute must to wear a life jacket, it could save your life. It saved my life and my two boys and my partner," Ms Anderton said.
A Sunday afternoon fishing and scalloping on the Hokianga Harbour took a nasty turn when their boat flipped about 3pm.
Ms Anderton said they were on a second sweep with a new scallop dredge when the dredge must have snagged on something in the water and caused the boat to flip near Rangi Point.
"Normally we just get out in the water and pick up the scallops but we thought we would try this new dredge."
Ms Anderton said when the boat flipped they were underneath and managed to push the two children out first, followed by her partner Rob. As she tried to get out she became tangled in the anchor rope and was pulled free by Rob.
They were all wearing life jackets including her two sons Mason, 6, and James, 4.
The two young boys were thrust on to the top of the hull, while the two adults stayed in the water themselves, afraid if they tried to clamber up it would flip the boat again and it would sink.
"I saw the look on their faces. It's a look I never want to see again. They were really brave. I had to sell it to them that we were going to be okay. I stayed calm and positive."
Ms Anderton and Rob knew they had to make a plan to get help as it was going to be dark soon.
Their phones had been lost to the sea and the radio was under the water. Their cries for help went unheard and there were no other boats nearby.
They decided Rob would swim to shore for help. Stripped down to a singlet, undies and a life jacket Rob swam 1.3km against the tide to come ashore near Pungaru where he raised the alarm. On the hull of the boat, Ms Anderton and the boys waited.
"I was paranoid about keeping still. I was scared if I moved the boat would move. So basically we sat like statues for three and a half hours.
"The boys wanted cuddles and they wanted kisses and it was so hard. I had my arm over James and my hand on Mason."
Mason started saying a karakia and waiata he had learned at school to keep them entertained. They talked about sharks and the sun. She said the lifejackets kept them warm.
Ms Anderton has since learned her partner made it to shore and went to a caravan that was empty. No one was home at a nearby home and eventually he flagged down a passing motorist who drove him to a house where they called 111.
A man, she knows only as Nick, launched his tinnie boat and was motoring to help them.
Hokianga Coastguard were also on the water and they arrived to the stricken boat about the same time.
Nick had dry jumpers for Ms Anderton and the two children, who were then taken to Rawene Hospital by Rawene police officer and Coastguard skipper Jeff Cramp. They were suffering from mild hypothermia.
"I knew we had to make it. there was no way I was going to let my kids die. It wasn't my time. It was a hell of a warning and a wake up call and it was a lesson to value life and value loved ones."
Later in the night the family were eventually reunited.
Ms Anderton thanked everyone who helped them and particularly Coastguard.
An emotional Ms Anderton said she had family members she knew went to sea without lifejackets.
"I just want to reach out to everyone to say don't go on the water if you don't have a life jacket. You might think it's flat when you go out on the water but things can change in a blink of an eye. Wear a life jacket ... it's a must."