A father and son on kayaks were rescued yesterday after being hit by the strong north-westerly winds as they were diving off Turihaua.
Another of the man's sons made it to shore safely in a small runabout that was nearby.
The three were diving for paua and crayfish on a reef about a kilometre off Turihaua when the wind struck.
“They had anchored their kayaks together while they were diving, but the anchors didn't hold, and the kayaks started to drift away from them,” said Sergeant Greg Lexmond, from the police, who co-ordinated the rescue.
“When they realised they were in trouble. the youngest son, aged in his teens, climbed into the runabout that another diver was using nearby, and was taken ashore,” Sgt Lexmond said.
“He flagged down a passing motorist to raise the alarm at around 10am.”
The Trust Tairawhiti Rescue helicopter and the Lion Foundation Gisborne Coastguard were called out.
“The chopper crew located the man's other son, aged 21, on the reef they had been diving on, in the water, hanging on to his kayak.
“They hovered over him until the Coastguard boat arrived to pick him up.”
Coastguard crewman Adrian Brown said when they got to him at about 11.30am the man told them he had not seen his father for about an hour.
“He told us his dad had been blown out to sea by the wind.”
The chopper had to return to the airport to refuel at that stage so the Coastguard boat, skippered by Aaron Boyle with Tony Watson as the second crewman, began a grid search out to sea.
“We were into the second leg of our search pattern when Tony saw the father. He was about eight kilometres offshore at that point,” Mr Brown said.
“. . .and he was still being blown further out to sea. We could not believe how far out he was.”
He was out near the Aerial Reef.
They picked the 53-year-old and his kayak up and took both him and his son back to the port to be reunited with worried family members.
“The father was sitting on his kayak when we got to him, but he told us the wind had knocked him off his craft a couple of times.
“There was a choppy swell of 1.5 to 2 metres out where he was.”
Mr Brown said the man was calm and in good condition.
“His thick wetsuit had helped keep him warm.”
Neither man needed medical treatment.
“They were both OK, but they were really lucky, and so relieved to be rescued,” Mr Brown said.
“Their whanau were likewise very happy to see them safe when we got back to the port.”
Sergeant Lexmond said everyone was elated with the outcome of the incident.
“Two lives were saved. It could easily have been a tragedy.
“The chopper crew and the Coastguard crew did a great job.”
The Character Roofing surf lifesaving emergency callout squad were also on standby on shore, and a second rescue helicopter was called for from Hawke's Bay. It was recalled once the men were found.
One of the sons rescued yesterday posted on Facebook, “it's time to buy a Lotto ticket”.
“Me and Dad are the luckiest people on earth right now.
“Our gratitude and thanks to the Coastguard heroes, the helicopter rescue and police who saved our lives.
“Tangaroa has blessed us today. We're very lucky to be alive and safe,” the older son said.
“Thanks to all the whanau who showed up at the harbour boat ramp.
“I can only imagine the thoughts that went through everyone's minds.”
He helped wash down the Coastguard boat afterwards as a gesture of gratitude.