A man was forced to swim to shore and spend a night in the Cape Brett hut after abandoning his sinking boat.

Senior Constable Mike Gorrie, of Russell Police, said the man was travelling from Tutukaka to the Russell area in his boat, a 10-metre launch with twin outboards, on Monday afternoon.

"He started taking on water just the other side of Cape Brett."

It is believed an internal fitting had broken and caused the leak.

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"He knew if he made it around Cape Brett he'd be able to pull into somewhere safe," Gorrie said.

The man managed to round Cape Brett, and took his boat as close to shore as he could before it sank and he was forced to abandon it about 7pm.

As the light continued to disappear, the 53-year-old man swam around 30 metres to shore and walked up to the Department of Conservation Cape Brett hut where he spent the night. A tourist at the hut loaned him some dry clothes.

On Tuesday morning he arranged for a helicopter to pick him up from the hut, which is an 8-hour walk from Rawhiti.

The man, believed to be from outside the region, then visited the Russell Police Station to report what had happened.

Gorrie said the man was today feeling pretty lucky and thankful.

His launch was completely submerged. Gorrie said the harbourmaster and other relevant authorities had been notified and would be working on a salvage plan.

Gorrie said the man had a lifejacket and other safety equipment on board and had put his phone and personal locator equipment in a ziplock plastic bag.

"He's done all the right things."

Gorrie said it was a good lesson to learn for all boaties.

"To make sure they've got all their equipment with them."

The man who was forced to abandon his boat declined to comment to the Northern Advocate about the incident.