Four children and an adult were "exceptionally lucky" to get back to shore after their small aluminum dinghy got stuck in rough seas in Golden Bay.
The group were rescued off the coast of Parapara yesterday afternoon after a family member raised the alarm when they failed to return when expected. They are thought to be from Ngatimoti near Motueka, and were holidaying at Parapara.
Constable Bruce Telford, of Takaka, said the group was setting a long line 150 metres offshore when the engine failed about 1pm.
An anchor was put down, but strong winds dragged the boat about 3.5km further out to sea.
General manager of mussel farming company Arista-Cat Mussels Ltd, Kris Folly, said he was asked by the police to send out one of his mussel boats to search for the dinghy.
Mr Folly said he was given good information about where the dinghy set out from, but he knew it could have drifted a long way out to sea. He ordered one boat, the Arista Cat, to go wide of the dinghy's expected location to try to catch it.
A second boat named the Stray Cat was waiting at port, so Mr Folly got on board to go to look for the group. Their search took less than an hour.
"We on the Stray Cat actually found [the dinghy], it was at anchor and its little motor had broken down."
He said the weather was "not pleasant", and he had wondered if the dinghy would be swamped by the time he got to it.
"They were exceptionally lucky. I don't even know if the owner or the adult knew how lucky he was [with] four children and an adult in that little dinghy."
The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter found the group at about the same time as the mussel boats, and an aircraft from Golden Bay Air was also on standby.
Mr Folly's crew helped the group on board the Stray Cat before taking them to Port Tarakohe.
Does Nelson deserve to be classed as a city?Related story: (See story)