A yachtsman was lucky to survive 90 minutes in the water at Careys Bay last night.

His cries for help were heard by the crew of Port Otago's pilot boat Potiki.

The man, who lives on a yacht, was taken conscious, but suffering from hypothermia by ambulance to Dunedin Hospital.

Port Otago harbour control Calvin Whitty said Potiki had arrived back to its berth from a job at 7.33pm, and when the engine was shut down, the crew heard cries for help, about 100m away.

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"They were able to shout back and locate him at his yacht," Whitty said.

Potiki cast off from its berth and hauled the man from the water. It was understood, but not confirmed, he may have fallen from either a dinghy, or the yacht, and had maintained some sort of handhold while in the water.

"It was the right time and the right place for him ... he was conscious but very hypothermic when he got to the ambulance. Lucky," Whitty said.

It took 45 minutes to get ashore.

The low tide meant he could not be taken up a ladder, nor be hauled up to the wharf, so Potiki cast off and drew alongside the tug Taiaroa, which has a gangway to the wharf, where a St John ambulance awaited at 8.15pm.