Five volunteer members of Maketu Coastguard spent seven hours out on the water in rough conditions after a call out from a yacht in trouble.

At 11.30pm on Tuesday, March 20, Maritime NZ received a call from a person on board a 13m sail boat which reported a ripped sail, no steering and a very sick crew member, with the weather closing in.

With more than 2m swells and little, if any visibility, it was 50/50 whether even Eastpack Rescue would be able to make it out across the Kaituna bar safely.

However, the decision was made by skipper Andy McRae to go.


The crew, including Andy McRae, Roger Hintz, Joel Collins, Todd O'Connell and Shane Beech, headed out - and it was another seven hours before they would return to shore, exhausted, wet and cold.

After crossing the Kaituna bar the situation at sea was not much better with gale force wind, and huge seas. The location given by the stricken sail boat was they were somewhere off Motu island, which was actually Motiti.

Mr Beech who was managing the call from land, made the request for additional support, but there was none available.

With little or no light, and limited navigational information it took three hours of difficult searching before the crew of Eastpack Rescue finally located the boat, which was only visible by one small white riding light on the top of the mast.

For the two people on board - one of whom was severely ill with seasickness - with no steering and no sails, there was little they could do but wait for the rescue.

The stricken vessel was towed by Eastpack Rescue all the way back to the Mount, up the harbour to the Bridge Marina in Tauranga.

The conditions were difficult, hampered by increasing wind and swells.