Sailors cling to boat in dramatic rescue

AAP

Two sailors are back on dry land after spending more than an hour clinging to the hull of their upturned boat in pitch-black darkness.

Rough seas whipped up by ex-Cyclone Winston caused the 12-metre catamaran to capsize south of Fraser Island on Thursday night.

Tin Can Bay coastguard commander John Van Der Heijde believes the men had to hang on to their boat for an hour and a half.

"They didn't speak too much when we picked them up - they were pretty shellshocked as you can imagine," he told AAP.

Rescue helicopter crews used night-vision goggles to find the pair in near darkness, after picking up a signal from their emergency beacon.

"We were able to detect the faint flicker of the small lights attached to the personal flotation devices that the sailors were wearing," CareFlight Aircrew Officer Dan Leggat said.

"Those lights, however faint, were actually one of the first things we saw."

Helicopter and volunteer marine rescuers worked together to get the pair to safety.

They were assessed by paramedics but did not require hospital treatment.

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Winston, which claimed more than 40 lives and left tens of thousands homeless in Fiji, is causing dangerous conditions and strong winds as it tracks towards the southeast Queensland coast.

On Friday morning, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for an area stretching from Fraser Island to the NSW border.

Lifesavers closed all Gold Coast beaches on Friday and Saturday.