Three men are "very, very lucky" to have escaped after they became trapped in the cabin of their overturned boat in the Bay of Plenty.

Maketu Coastguard responded to reports of a 5.5-metre boat flipping at the entrance to the Kaituna River, between Papamoa and Maketu, at about 6.30pm.

Maketu Coastguard president Shane Beech said the men were returning from a day of fishing and diving when the boat flipped near the Kaituna Cut while crossing the bar, trapping them in the cabin.

While one of the men was lucky to escape not long after the boat overturned, the other two struggled as their lifejackets made it difficult to dive down and swim out from under the boat.

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"So they made a decision to take their lifejackets off so they weren't buoyant," said Beech.

"One was actually washed through the front hatch when a big wave hit them ... then the third one managed to get out under his own steam."

The men were left trying to stay afloat with waves of up to two metres in the area at the time. When the Coastguard reached them they were exhausted and clinging onto items from the boat including a chilly bin.

"They were quite shaken and shocked. They were very, very pleased to see us turn up," said Beech.

He said one of the men had a severe cut on his head, while the others were scratched and bruised after being thrown around in the boat. They were treated by ambulance staff at the scene.

Maketu Coastguard's secretary treasurer Geoff Oliver said the men were "very, very lucky".

"When we got them [to shore] they couldn't believe how lucky they were and how scary it was inside the cabin upside down."

Beech said the boat flipped after the skipper decided to overtake the wave instead of follow it.

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A second Coastguard boat was sent out to retrieve the overturned vessel this evening however it was unsuccessful. Beech said they would have a second look at the boat tomorrow.

Beech said the local Coastguard were called to about 12 overturned boats at the mouth of the Kaituna River a year.

He said the incidents were normally a result of factors such as the conditions or people not properly preparing themselves.