"Wear a life jacket if you are going out on the water. It could save your life."

It's a clear and simple message and Amber Anderton and her family are living proof that wearing a life jacket works. They survived after clinging to the hull of an upturned boat for more than three hours before they were rescued by Coastguard.

"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," Anderton said today.

The 29-year mum from Hokianga has made the emotional plea to wear correctly fitted life jackets as summer approaches and after surviving a terrifying boating incident last Sunday.

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An afternoon fishing and scallop trip on the Hokianga Harbour took a nasty turn when the boat flipped.

Anderton said a second sweep with a new scallop dredge was when the dredge must have snagged on something in the water and caused the boat to flip near Rangi Point about 3pm.

Anderton said they were under the boat 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 ok. I stayed calm and positive."

Anderton and Rob knew they had to make a plan to get help as it was going to be dark soon.

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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 Anderton waited.

Mason started saying karakia and waiata he had learned at school to keep them entertained. She said the lifejackets kept them warm as they waited.

Anderton has since learned her partner made it to shore and 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. At about the same time Coastguard were on the water and they arrived to the stricken boat about the same time.

Nick had spare, dry jumpers for 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.

Later in the night the family were eventually reunited.

Anderton thanked everyone who helped them and Coastguard.

"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."