A dad and daughter rescued after two rough days at sea have described their relief at seeing a police helicopter come towards them.

Great Barrier man Michael Graham said he tried not to panic, despite his boat losing all power, drifting offshore, snapping anchors and almost flipping - all while he took care of his 17-year-old daughter Tania-Rose Turner-Graham.

Graham, 42, spoke to the Herald from the Matiatia wharf jetty on Waiheke Island after the rescue this morning.

Fisherman Michael Graham and his daughter Tania Turner-Graham eat pies on the wharf at Waiheke Island after being rescued by police. Photo / Chris Rudd
Fisherman Michael Graham and his daughter Tania Turner-Graham eat pies on the wharf at Waiheke Island after being rescued by police. Photo / Chris Rudd

He said they were 2km off Great Barrier when they lost all power to their boat. They had no engine, no lights and no communication system - and only half a bottle of water. Then his phone went dead.

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Graham shot off some flares but no nearby boats saw them.

They decided to anchor up for the night until they could get someone's attention in the morning. But both their anchors dragged in the high winds and waves and they drifted about 15km.

Police launch Deodar at Matiatia on Waiheke Island with Michael Graham's boat tied to the wharf. Photo / Chris Rudd
Police launch Deodar at Matiatia on Waiheke Island with Michael Graham's boat tied to the wharf. Photo / Chris Rudd

The boat, an 8m Pelin-style timber launch, was reported missing from Tryphena on Saturday morning.

The "appalling, ridiculous" conditions were so strong it pushed the boat over on one side and Graham and his daughter had to stand on the opposite side to prevent it capsizing.

"We're literally standing on the starboard side to stop the boat from flipping.

"In theory we should have flipped ages ago. We're just lucky it didn't … me and my daughter were almost ready to jump off the ship."

On Saturday night Graham "jimmied up" a light outside to communicate with container ships in morse code. He and his daughter took turns signalling SOS.

"But none of them saw.

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"I never thought this would happen to me, but lo and behold. I just tried to stay calm, tried not to panic too much and use what we have around us.

"We're back on land now so we must have done something right."

Graham said they both wore their lifejackets the entire time and didn't get too cold in their Hunting & Fishing gear. They ducked into the cabin when the winds whipped up.

The pair took off their lifejackets and flapped them around to get the rescue helicopter's attention this morning. When the helicopter noticed them Graham was flooded with relief that the ordeal was almost over. Half an hour later the police boat came to their rescue.

Police help tie up the launch at Matiatia on Waiheke Island. Photo / Chris Rudd.
Police help tie up the launch at Matiatia on Waiheke Island. Photo / Chris Rudd.

"It was total relief. Me and my daughter were doing a high-fives on the back of the boat.

"It was the happiest time of my life I think when I saw that thing come around the corner."

Rescuers greeted the pair with coffee and a pie. They had hardly had any sleep through the ordeal, and were "absolutely buggered", Graham said.

They would stay with family in Auckland for a few days before heading home to Great Barrier. Tania-Rose would return to Rotorua where she goes to school.

Graham said she handled the experience extremely well, but she was very glad to be back on land. One silver lining was that the two had bonded over their ordeal at sea.

"You're not going to let anything happen to your daughter in the middle of nowhere.

"She wasn't going anywhere before me, that's for sure."

Graham urged other boaties to check the forecast before heading out on the water.

"Make sure you've got all the right safety equipment. Normally we do, normally we run pretty sweet, but just one thing went wrong after the other after the other.

"Thanks guys for coming out and saving our butts."

Great Barrier Local Board chairwoman Izzy Fordham said everyone had been very concerned.

She said the man was a "great guy" and like most people on the island, a keen fisherman.

Senior Constable John Burridge said the pair were spotted by the Police Eagle helicopter at 9.38am, 3.3 nautical miles north of Waiheke Island.

The police boat Deodar reached the stricken launch at 10.12am.

Police said it appeared the boat had broken down and become adrift in heavy seas.

Burridge said the pair were not injured, but were shattered and suffered sea sickness.

He said a big swell, lumpy seas and a north-east wind meant it was not possible to get the pair aboard the Deodar, but they had thrown them bottled water for hydration.