12 February 2021

A group of five fishermen were successfully located by Coastguard crewmembers after their vessel capsized off Kawau Island this morning.

The keen fishos were prepared for their day on the water, wearing lifejackets from the minute they left the wharf and caring communications equipment on board, but unfortunately things quickly took a turn for the worse.   

Once anchored at their fishing spot, the vessels bilge alarm starting going off as the six metre vessel began taking on water. Within seconds the boat began leaning, no match for the oncoming waves that filled the boat full of water, capsizing the vessel and throwing the five men into the sea.

The vessels skipper managed to stay with the boat, climbing on to its hull as his mates were carried away with the tide. With no communications equipment on his person and knowing the seriousness of the situation, the fast thinking skipper swam underneath the boat, managed to locate his in-reach SOS device, resurface and raise the alarm.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) alerted Coastguard of the incident after receiving the SOS signal just after 11:00am, volunteers on board Coastguard Kawau were then tasked to the scene at 11:10am.

On arrival to the south-east corner of Kawau Island, the volunteer crew on board Kawau Rescue, found the overturned vessel and its skipper sitting on the boats hull. He immediately told the rescue crew that there were four people still unaccounted for.

He was brought on board and Coastguard swiftly began a search of the area, scanning the water down-swell for a sight of the missing people.

Within minutes the crew sighted one of the men on the rocks around 700 metres away from the overturned vessel, he gave a reassuring wave as the rescue vessel made its way towards him.

Kawau Rescue Skipper Luke McCarthy, was happy that he was safe in this position for the time being, so the vessel continued to look for people in the water before they recovered him.

Shortly after, volunteers sighted the three other fishermen in the water who were exhausted and extremely cold. The trio were recovered and attended to as the vessel made its way back to the fishermen on the rocks.

At 11:33am, all five people were on board and Coastguard began making its way to Sandspit to meet Ambulance crews. The fishermen were suffering from suspected hypothermia, with one of the group members in a Status 2 condition.  

Once on shore the fishermen were assessed by ambulance crew and three of the five men were transported to hospital.

Coastguard Kawau Skipper Luke McCarthy, commended the group on the measures they took to keep themselves safe.

“For rough conditions, close to two metre waves and in 25 knot winds, they are tremendously lucky. They were all wearing lifejackets, had safety equipment on board and the skipper did a fantastic job in helping us locate his mates.”

“This rescue had an extremely good outcome and my crew are ecstatic with the result.”

This rescue is a good reminder of what boaties should do in the event of an emergency. Make sure everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket and carry two forms of water proof communication, ensuring you’ve got one on you just in case. In the event your vessel capsizes the best thing to do is to stay with the boat. Your chance of being found quickly are significantly higher this way. For Coastguard’s full boating preparation checklist head to



Coastguard’s top safety tips to get home this summer:

  • Lifejackets – Take them – wear them. A lifejacket never ruined a day on the water. Time and time again we see the victims of boating tragedies are typically those who do not wear life jackets, it is hands down the single most common denominator we observe and it is one of the easiest things for people to do.
  • Tell us your plan– Carry two forms of water-proof communication (a phone and a charged and working VHF radio), then when you head out - log a trip report with your VHF, *500 on your mobile or on the Coastguard App. When crossing a bar, always log a report with your VHF or by *500 on your mobile.
  • Skippers'responsibility– Every skipper has a legal and moral responsibility for everyone on board. Bring your family and friends home safe.
  • Check the weather and conditions – It’s vital to check the weather before going boating. Keep a keen eye on marine conditions as they can change quickly. If in doubt, don’t go out. You can check the weather and more specific weather conditions at your favourite fishing spot on the free Coastguard App.
  • For Coastguard’s full preparation checklist, including how-to videos, go to


For more information, contact:
Madi Hale
Coastguard New Zealand Communications Coordinator
021 578 982
[email protected]

Thanks to our life-saving partners:
  • Auckland Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Hutchwilco
  • Marine Deals
  • Tower
  • Kordia
  • Hyundai
  • Line7
  • Century Batteries
  • Half Moon Bay
  • NZCT
  • Lotteries Grants Board
  • Lion Foundation
  • Pub Charity