A pair of stricken boaties rescued off the Northland coast are relieved a plan hatched from watching rescue shows worked after searchers spotted a fire burning on the beach of an uninhabited island.
The thankful men are now safely back with family after being rescued from Taranga Island - part of the Hen and Chicken Islands - late last night after they sought refuge on the nearest bit of land to where their small tinny had broken down yesterday.
A major rescue was launched last night after the pair were reported overdue from a day out on the water, and neither boatie was answering their mobile phone. They had intended to be back early in the afternoon after leaving Mangawhai at dawn.
The pair were spotted on the remote island by the police Eagle helicopter around 9pm. It took another hour before they could be reached by sea and taken back to shore.
"They were really grateful to us for coming to rescue them," said rescue vessel skipper Jo Norgrove.
Coastguard New Zealand spokesperson Georgie Smith said after leaving at 6am yesterday from Mangawhai Heads for a fishing trip, the men's 4m vessel started having fuel problems.
They decided to row back to Mangawhai some 18km away but soon realised that due to challenging conditions this was not going to work, with strong winds blowing them back towards the islands.
Police say at this point the boat sunk in rough seas.
"They made the decision to land on the nearest point they could and having watched a lot of rescue shows they knew they needed to stick together, stay warm and await a rescue. They lit a small fire where they were able to keep warm and attract the attention of rescuers," said Smith.
Smith said the police Eagle helicopter spotted the vessel and two men waiting for rescue on shore on the southern side of Taranga Island shortly before 9pm.
Soon three rescue craft were headed to their way. Difficult sea conditions meant a police officer from the Police Deodar and a coastguard volunteer were needed to get the men off the shore and back on to a Coastguard vessel.
"Both fishermen were cold and wet when located and extremely grateful for the rescue. Thankfully neither of them sustained any injuries," said a police spokesperson.
They were checked over by coastguard volunteers before being ferried back to Marsden Cove where they were reunited with family at the coastguard base.
Police said while both men wore life jackets and told someone where they were going and their expected return time they did not have adequate forms of communication with them to call for help.
"It appears the vessel had run into mechanical difficulty, a common theme as we head into summer, with many boats having sat around for the winter months. It's great that they told someone where they were going and when they planned to be back but with limited or no communications with them they were unable to raise the alarm when they found themselves with no way to get home. This also would have helped rescuers to narrow the search area quickly," said Coastguard duty officer Nico Dooderman.
Rescue Co-ordination Centre of New Zealand senior search and rescue officer John Ashby said while a distress beacon was never sparked, maritime police asked for drift modelling to work out where the two boaties could possibly be.
They were told the pair had left Mangawhai and headed to the Hen and Chicken Islands.
He said they had been reported overdue from a day out on the water around 7.30pm.
Ashby said while they were preparing the modelling the rescue centre was told the police's Eagle helicopter had located the missing boaties on Taranga Beach on the Hen and Chicken Islands.
"By the time police found them they were on a beach and had a fire going," said Ashby.
The stricken vessel was still anchored and there were plans to retrieve it today.
"It appears the vessel had run into mechanical difficulty, a common theme as we head into summer with many boats having sat around for the winter months. It's great that they told someone where they were going and when they planned to be back but with limited or no communications with them they were unable to raise the alarm when they found themselves with no way to get home, this also would have helped rescuers to narrow the search area quickly," said Coastguard duty officer Nico Dooderman.