Three "under-prepared" police staff had only one lifejacket, a dead radio and an almost dead mobile phone when they sparked a night-time sea rescue.
The men, all in their 40s, are trainers at the New Zealand Police College in Porirua.
They had borrowed a 4.2-metre runabout from a Porirua sergeant, but failed to check that the radio worked or that there were enough lifejackets on board.
The situation could easily have turned out much worse for them, Coastguard Mana search vessel master Trevor Farmer said. "They were very close to having a long ride in a small boat in a big sea."
Their "saving grace" was that they had a torch and a cellphone, though the phone was running low on power.
It was a "classic case of under-preparation", he said.
The men had been diving about 1km off Mana Island, north of Porirua, and had been due back at 6pm on Tuesday.
At 5pm they realised they had a fuel problem and were unable to start the motor so called emergency services.
They were able to alert rescuers to their location by text message. Once the coastguard was near enough, they flashed the torch and were found and returned to land at 8.15pm.
They were cold when they were found and one of the trio was seasick, Mr Farmer said.
Police spokesman Nick Bohm said the three non-sworn police staff were back at work yesterday.
None of them were available yesterday for comment.
"I don't think the staff were ill-prepared, but they certainly could have been better prepared," Mr Bohm said.
While they had only a single lifejacket, their wetsuits were adequate and legal replacements. They had food, water, lighting, and a form of communication.
Maritime law dictates there must be enough lifejackets on board for every passenger. However, for recreational dive boats less than 5 miles from shore, a full-body wetsuit that is worn at all times can suffice.
The boat did have a radio, but it had not been checked before leaving land.
Maritime New Zealand say all boats should carry two communication sources, from distress beacons, radio, cellphones and hand-held flares.
The incident would serve as a "reminder to check equipment before you go out", Mr Bohm said.
After realising they were in trouble, the men did the right thing by dropping anchor and calling for help.
Maritime NZ spokesman Steve Rendle said a lot of effort went into making sure people knew to go to sea prepared.
"Could they have done better? I guess they could have," he said.
The Maritime NZ-run Rescue Co-ordination Centre was involved in 271 sea rescues in the 2010-2011 year and 251 sea rescues the following year.
The rescue of the three police staff happened the same day that National MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga announced his bid to launch a bill to make lifejackets compulsory for boaties under the age of 15 on vessels of up to 6 metres.
It is the skipper's legal responsibility to ensure lifejackets are worn only in situations of heightened risk.
In some regions, Wellington being one, council bylaws require that skippers ensure that lifejackets are worn at all times, except in specific situations deemed low-risk.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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