Two men used life-jackets and a chilly bin to help them swim two kilometres to shore when their dinghy sank off Papamoa Beach last night.

Police said the pair both aged 39 from Tauranga and Mount Maunganui were in the water for about three hours before they reached land.

They were fishing off Papamoa Beach when a wave swamped their three-metre aluminum dinghy and it sank about 8.30pm.

Police said both were wearing life-jackets and they used a chilly bin to swim to shore.

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"This is the best outcome of a bad situation," Senior Sergeant Glenn Saunders said.

"The wearing of life jackets by these two men certainly avoided a tragedy vindicating the safe boating message of wearing life jackets at all times."

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Sea conditions at the time were slight to moderate, police said.

Although cold after their time in the water, neither man required medical attention and they were both looking forward to a hot shower.