The taste of a warm pie was accompanied by feelings of solace after a Great Barrier man and his daughter were rescued from a two-day ordeal of being lost at sea.

Michael Graham, 42, and his daughter Tania-Rose Turner-Graham, 17, tried not to panic - despite their boat losing all power, drifting offshore, dragging anchors and almost capsizing. All while only having half a bottle of water to share.

The shaken up tradesman spoke to the Herald from the Matiatia wharf jetty on Waiheke Island after he was plucked from his stricken boat on Sunday morning.

The pair had set off from the Tryphena wharf for some father-daughter bonding time around 2pm on Friday. They were attempting to catch the biggest fish in the annual Black Jug Fishing Haggle, and be back home in time for family dinner by 5pm.

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But just 2km from shore the duo struck trouble. All the power cut out on Graham's 8m Pelin-style timber launch. This meant no engine, no lights and no communications. Then his phone went dead.

"I knew straight away we were in trouble.

"I looked at my daughter in panic. She's my main priority. She thought it was a joke. [I said] no darling we're stuffed. We've got no power I can't ring anybody."

A relieved Michael Graham and his daughter Tania Turner-Graham tuck in to some pies on Waiheke Island's Matiatia wharf after their almost two-day ordeal at sea. Photo / Chris Rudd
A relieved Michael Graham and his daughter Tania Turner-Graham tuck in to some pies on Waiheke Island's Matiatia wharf after their almost two-day ordeal at sea. Photo / Chris Rudd

Graham set off two flares, hoping some nearby boaties might see them. But the flares burst unnoticed.

As darkness fell they set their two anchors and optimistically waited for a morning rescue. But the "appalling, ridiculous" conditions had another idea. Winds whipped up to 110km/h and waves rocked the boat. By morning, Graham estimated they had drifted another 10 to 15km offshore.

The weather was so strong it repeatedly pushed the boat over on one side and Graham and his daughter had to stand on the opposite side to prevent it capsizing. Waves rose to 7m for a time on Saturday morning.

"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."

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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.

"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.

The police launch Deodar at Waiheke Island's Matiatia wharf after towing the stricken launch and its crew to safety. Photo / Chris Rudd
The police launch Deodar at Waiheke Island's Matiatia wharf after towing the stricken launch and its crew to safety. Photo / Chris Rudd

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

Huddling together in the boat's cabin was the only way Graham and Tania-Rose could keep warm.

They were still clinging to hope when they spotted a helicopter on Sunday morning. The pair took off their lifejackets for the first time since they set out and waved them excitedly at the pilot. The Police Eagle helicopter circled them at 9.40am before flying off to fetch help. At that stage the pair were 6km north of Waiheke.

Half an hour later the police boat Deodar reached the stricken launch.

"It was total relief," Graham told the Herald.

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

"It was the happiest time of my life 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 his daughter 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."