Boaties have been urged to download a Coastguard safety app after two divers spent around six hours marooned on an island off the coast near Kāeo after their anchor broke and their boat drifted.
Coastguard Whangaroa president Chris Wilkins said it was imperative that small boat users, who would probably not have a VHF radio, used the Coastguard app to log a trip report to ensure their safety.
"It means everyone has an idea of what the plan is. So rather than saying 'See you later,' people will know when they should start raising the alarm," he said.
That advice was prompted by a Coastguard Whangaroa callout sparked by a dinghy adrift with no one onboard near Stephenson's Island, off Whangaroa Harbour, on Friday. It wasn't anchored and the keys were in the ignition/.
"We thought whoever was on it had gone, so there had to be a problem somewhere along the line," Wilkins said.
A cellphone was found on board the boat as rescuers searched for clues to identify the occupant, and the police were involved given the potential for the situation to become a missing person case.
Customs officers, initially on the Cavalli Islands, were contacted by New Zealand Search and Rescue in Auckland and asked to complete a shoreline search starting on Flat Island, north of the Cavallis, where two people were found. The pair, described as in their late 20s or early 30s, had gone diving at 7am. When they surfaced one of the men tried to swim for the boat, which had broken free of its anchor, but it was drifting too quickly for him to catch up with it.
The pair swam to the nearest island, where they spent almost six hours trying to wave passing vessels down from the shore.
Wilkins said they towed the boat to Flat Island, the divers swimming out to the Coastguard vessel as large swells made it too risky for them to tow it ashore.
"They were very appreciative," he added.
The men were unhurt and had all of their gear on them, minus their boat. They had even managed to catch some crayfish.
Wilkins said a logged trip report would have meant rescuers could have established the diver's plans for the day, including where they were and an expected return time, adding that it was just as important for people to remember to close their logged trip once completed to avoid any mishaps.
The Coastguard App could be downloaded from App Store or on Google Play. In addition to logging a trip, it allowed the user to save a location, get live weather updates, and get five-day forecasts for wind, weather, swell and tides.
Coastguard Whangaroa had responded to five callouts this year to ensure boaties had got home safely, involving boats that had broken down, requiring a tow or a jump start.
"Fortunately no medical emergencies," Wilkins said.
The Whangaroa volunteers covered the area between Cape Karikari and Cape Brett, a distance of almost 100km, and sometimes the Bay of Islands if the local Coastguard crew was unavailable. And they could always do with more volunteers to ensure the unit could continue to respond to incidents 24 hours a day.
"People are always welcome to join our big happy family and enjoy the camaraderie, social functions and learn a lot of new skills," he said. Volunteers had the opportunity to learn basic medical skills and gain boating qualifications that matched the depth of a commercial skipper's education.
Anyone who was interested was welcome to contact Whangaroa Coastguard at firstname.lastname@example.org