Auckland skipper dived back into stormy sea to save mates after boat capsized

A Coastguard Nelson crew trains at Port Nelson with the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter crew using the rescue helicopter’s winch.

A skipper clinging to the hull of his capsized boat dove back into stormy seas in an attempt to save the lives of his mates during Cyclone Dovi.

A group of five “keen fishermen” in a six-metre boat got in trouble in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf on Saturday morning when the boat began to take on water, Coastguard Kawau said.

Within seconds of the bilge pump activating, the boat was capsized by a large wave offshore from Kawau Island.

The skipper, from Auckland’s Glenfield, managed to climb on top of the upturned boat, but saw his mates pulled away by the tempest.

Coastguard Kawau searched for four fishers in the water after their boat capsized in Cyclone Dovi.

By chance, the Coastguard Kawau volunteer unit happened to be on the water. It was monitoring a yacht race from Kawau Island to Auckland when it was alerted to the distress call.

Kawau Rescue found the capsized boat and immediately asked Coastguard New Zealand for assistance from further boats.

“We were preparing for a large-scale search, fearing that the worst had happened,” crewman Luke McCarthy said.

Kawau Rescue located a capsized vessel after receiving a report about a personal locator beacon having been activated.

By this time, the fishermen had been in the water for about an hour.

One was located on some rocks near Kawau Island. The three remaining fishermen in the water were found within another 20 minutes.

McCarthy said it was difficult to spot them among large waves, but fortunately all of them had been wearing life jackets.

He said one had already drifted a kilometre and was fast being sucked out to sea.

“That’s a long way and a long time when you’re a person floating in the wind and waves.”

Three men were transported to hospital from Sandspit Wharf after being pulled from the water.

The three men who had been pulled from the water were transported to hospital with suspected hypothermia.

One of them had a temperature of 34 degrees, down from a normal 37.

McCarthy, who is also president of Kawau Rescue, praised the actions of the skipper for activating his locator beacon, and his mates for wearing their life jackets.

He said there were no other boats out on the Gulf, and for the fishermen to have been found and rescued was an extremely positive result.

“For rough conditions, close to two-metre waves and in 25-knot winds, they were tremendously lucky.”

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