Sailors saved on way to Australia from NZ

·3-min read

Two men in their 70s stranded in the Tasman Sea for three days after their yacht was badly have been reunited with their relieved families, after the farthest maritime rescue in NSW Police history.

John McEnallay, 74, and Keith Turner, 70, were plucked for the sea by patrol boat Nemesis and arrived at the docks of NSW Police Marine Area Command headquarters at Balmain in Sydney's inner west on Thursday afternoon.

Both were in good spirits despite their ordeal which happened as they were sailing from New Zealand to Moreton Bay north of Brisbane.

The pair, who met about four months ago after becoming neighbours when Mr McEnallay and his wife moved to Queensland's Karragarra Island, said were sure they were going to be rescued.

Their yacht became damaged in severe weather, stranding them about 330km east of Lord Howe Island.

The storm occurred in the early hours of Monday morning and after assessing the yacht once the sun rose they decided to activate an emergency beacon at about 8am.

Mr McEnallay then used a satellite phone to call his wife and tell her the beacon had been activated.

"She said 'I already know'," he said on Thursday.

The Joint Rescue Co-Ordination Centre had already called her to say two vessels and a jet were on the way.

"That was within two minutes of us pulling the pin (on the beacon)," Mr McEnallay said.

"From the minute we pressed the beacon, the professionalism of the whole system has been absolutely amazing," Mr Turner added.

The two men also discovered muscles they didn't know they had after having to bail bucketloads of water out of the yacht.

They also said the crew of the Nemesis deserved medals and a pay rise.

NSW Police credited the successful rescue to the preparations the sailor made ahead of their trip.

"They did the right thing," Marine Area Command Superintendent Anthony Brazzill said.

"Both these gentlemen are extremely experienced sailors and they were on a boat that was very well equipped, had just been refitted, had all the safety equipment, which is a credit to these gentleman and their experience," he said.

Search and Rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Ryan Spong said the operation was a test for the Nemesis, which is usually tasked with deterring drug traffickers.

"It's really at the extremity of our capabilities in terms of this vessel, but well, once we knew they were in distress there weren't many other assets that could assist," he said.

NSW Police said it's the furthest maritime rescue operation it has conducted in recorded history.

It took 35 hours to reach the two men after a journey of around 925 kilometres.

"Their mood was quite ecstatic," Sgt Spong said.

"They've been laughing and joking the whole time back so they're very happy, and very pleasant people to have on board with us," he said.

But it looks like their sailing days will be curtailed.

"I'm not allowed to go (sailing), Keith's only allowed to sail on lakes," Mr McEnallay said.

"So my daughter tells me," Mr Turner replied.

The yacht is now sitting at the bottom of the Tasman Sea.