Missing boaties had no working communication gear - police

The no-longer-missing boat.
The no-longer-missing boat. Photo credit: NZ Police

A father and daughter pair whose boat broke down in the Hauraki Gulf are lucky to be alive, police say.

The 42- and 17-year-olds were taking part in a fishing competition on Friday when they suffered what police say appears to be a mechanical failure.

A search on Saturday failed to find the pair, before they were spotted on Sunday morning by a police Eagle helicopter on the north side of Waiheke Island.

"The vessel was adrift," Snr Const Peter Comer told Newshub. "It appeared to be a bit beaten up, a bit battered from the sea. The two people on board were waving life jackets for attention."

Due to the large area, search crews took to the air on Sunday. Not only was the Eagle helicopter sent up, but a Coastguard plane and even a Defence Force P-3 Orion. Each was searching a different part of the massive gulf, with the heavy seas making it hard to predict where they might be.

"The police Eagle helicopter did a wonderful job and located the vessel just north of Waiheke," said Snr Const Comer.

The father and daughter were "worse for wear", but medically fine.

"Indications are they may almost have been rolled over at one point by the sea, so they have been through quite an ordeal."

The heavy seas were part of the reason they gave up looking on Saturday. One of the boats searching for the pair itself had to be rescued.

"We were in an 18.5m high-performance catamaran. These people were in a smaller 8m timber boat. We were getting smashed about, so I can imagine it wouldn't have been very nice for them."

The pair didn't have any way of calling emergency services.

"Having those communication lines so we can call for assistance and give our position probably would have saved a lot of this work. If they had a couple of forms of communication on board and been able to call us and let us know where they are, we probably could have avoided a lot of this."

The boat was towed to Matiatia on Waiheke Island on Sunday.