A relay of three Coastguard crews pulled a stricken launch more than 90km over nine hours in "gnarly" conditions last night.
Maketū Coastguard president Shane Beech said the call came in about 3pm that a 16-metre launch had motor troubles just off the coast of White Island.
There were seven people on board and they needed a tow back to Tauranga.
The Whakatāne Coastguard took the first leg of the roughly 95km journey, hauling the launch west for several hours.
Beech said Maketū Coastguard then took over the tow.
It was tough going in the dark with 25-35 knot winds, swells up to 3m and weather worsening.
"The conditions were quite gnarly. We were pounding into it on the way back to Tauranga."
Maketū met Tauranga Coastguard at Mōtītī Island and transferred the tow to them for the last leg of the journey.
Beech said they reached Tauranga safely around midnight.
He estimated that at least 18 volunteers were involved in the operation.
"We used all three Coastguard crews to bring them back safely."