Men rescued after boat capsize off Wellington coast

31 December 2010, 4:00pm

The rescue of a couple who spent a cold night out on a rocky piece of coastline last night highlights the importance of carrying good communications equipment, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand says.

The couple, believed to be from Otago, first radioed for help at 7.15pm yesterday. They said their vessel, a 9-metre former fishing boat, had broken down and they were drifting towards rocks near the entrance to Milford Sound, in Fiordland.

RCCNZ dispatched a rescue helicopter from Southern Lakes Helicopter, in Te Anau, and also sought assistance from Milford Sound tourist operators, who launched four rescue boats to go to the couple’s assistance.

However, at 9.28pm the centre received an emergency locator beacon alert, signalling from Puysegur Point at the bottom of Preservation Inlet, around 100 nautical miles from where the initial report had indicated the stricken vessel was. The weather conditions were rough with 5 metre swells and 35 knot winds.

At 11.30pm, after refuelling, the rescue helicopter located the couple who were on shore near Puysegur Point. The helicopter was unable to pick them up last night, but dropped sleeping bags to them, and returned at 5am today and airlifted them to Kisbee Lodge at Preservation Inlet.

The man had spent the night on the beach and the woman had spent the night on some rocks nearby. RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Ramon Davis said the couple were very cold after their night on the shore, but otherwise well.

It was believed the vessel was intact and aground. "This is a clear case of the importance of carrying good communications equipment. If these people had not been carrying an emergency locator beacon we would not have known where to look for them – as they were well away where the original reports put them.

“This couple were able to radio immediately for help which launched the initial search and then later activate their beacon. They did exactly what we advise all boaties to do which was to carry two forms of reliable communications equipment – and in this situation it may have saved their lives.”

Mr Davis said the case also highlighted the importance of carrying the right navigational equipment and knowing how to use it.

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