A woman spent an agonising overnight vigil stranded on a Coromandel beach waiting for her husband only to see his body had washed up on the shoreline the next morning.

The family of well-known Whangamatā identity Alwyn Keith Klein have spoken to the Bay of Plenty Times about the boating tragedy which claimed his life over the weekend.

Keith Klein, 73, is remembered as a beloved family man, a "legend", and the "go-to" man for most things and a hugely respected community stalwart.

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Sergeant Will Hamilton said police received a report from members of the public about two people being found near the secluded Pokohino Beach, Onemana, about 1 pm on Sunday.

Keith and his wife Maralyn, 70, were fishing from their 5m aluminium boat in the vicinity of Pokohino Beach on Saturday morning when they got into difficulties, he said.

Hamilton said a longline they had set became hooked on some rocks and while Keith was trying to free the trapped line it appeared the boat's propeller became entangled in it.

Suddenly a big wave came over the back of the boat and for some reason, it started taking on water and it began to sink, and the Kleins tried to swim to shore, he said.

Keith did not survive the swim to Pokohino Beach and his death had been referred to the Coroner.

Married in 1967 in Te Kuiti, the Kleins raised three children - Warren, 49, Dion, 46, and the late Carl who died in 1984.

Warren Klein, who lives in Hamilton, said his parents had set off from Whangamatā Harbour to do some fishing mid-morning on Saturday.

Warren said he was not sure of the exact area they were fishing but it was close to shore and the boat had yet to be recovered.

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Keith Klein. Photo / Supplied
Keith Klein. Photo / Supplied

"Mum made it to shore late afternoon and when she couldn't find dad, she made herself comfortable as she could, and during the cold and wet night she took shelter in a nearby bush and waited for daybreak," he said.

Warren said after a long anxious cold night in the morning his mother found that his father's body had washed up on the beach.

"Dad was an extremely fit person and a good swimmer, the exact opposite of mum, and that's why we still can't get our heads around why he drowned," he said.

"My parents were safety-conscious people and both were wearing life jackets."

Warren said despite earlier reports, his mother was not hospitalised, but she was taken to a medical centre and then she returned home.

It was too soon for his mother to talk publicly, Dion, who lived in Te Kuiti, said.

"It goes without saying it's been a huge shock and still feels raw and surreal," Warren said.

"Our dad was just a legend both as a dad and family man and he was always there for so many other people, and he was hugely respected in the Whangamatā community.

"He was a very generous person, a great problem-solver and lots of people went to for support and advice, and he respected everybody no matter who they were.

"Our dad was a man of great integrity, honesty and he was a very selfless person, and if anyone needed a hand he would always offer to help," Dion said.

Born in Kiritehere about an hour from Otorohanga, Keith was the youngest brother of Brian Klein who lived in Te Awamutu, and sister Mary Sircombe who lived in Otorohanga.

Educated at New Plymouth Boys' High, Keith worked on his parents' dairy farm for about a year, and at age 19 secured an apprenticeship at Southend Service station in Te Kuiti.

He completed his apprenticeship in 1967, and after further studies, was promoted to service station manager in 1970 and worked in that role for several years.

Keith served with the NZ Territorial Army in Waiouru from 1966 to 1970.

In 1981 he moved to State Insurance as one of their motor vehicle assessors.

This included a long stint at the Hamilton branch from 1999 to 2006 and he continued working in this same role from his Whangamatā home from 2006 to 2015.

Well-known in the Whangamatā boating fraternity, he was a member of the Whangamatā Coastguard, Whangamatā Trailer Boat Association and for a time was honorary enforcement officer for the Whangamatā Harbourmaster

Warren said his father was "very passionate" about motor vehicles all his life and raced rally cars for several years and was NZ Goldstar Hillclimb champion in the 1980s, in partnership with Noel Aymes.

Close friend Doug Walters, who also lived in Whangamatā, said Keith's death was a "huge blow" to him and his wife Rua and to the wider Whangamatā community.

"I have known Keith for four to five years since we moved to the area and became firm friends, and my wife and Maralyn are very close through their quilting interests.

"I'm very saddened by Keith's death. We still can't believe it and are still coming to terms with this tragedy. Keith did a lot for this community.

"Keith was our 'go-to' man. If you needed anything fixed, built or manufactured or need help, he was your man. He will be deeply missed, " Walters said.

A memorial service will be held at the Whangamata Volunteer Coastguard headquarters from 1pm on November 16.