A helicopter has winched three people from an eight metre ketch in rough seas off Marlborough.
The Sea Wanderer was hit by bad weather and 90 kilometre an hour winds off Cape Campbell, the southern-most extreme of Cook Strait.
The crew put out a mayday distress call just before 6pm on Sunday, and were off the boat by 7.30pm.
One of the crew aboard the Westpac rescue helicopter, Colin Larsen, says the weather conditions made the rescue extremely testing.
He says a cruise ship, Seven Seas Voyager, had come to the aid of the ketch and was providing shelter from the wind.
Mr Larson says the three Cantabrians were attempting to sail to Christchurch.
The co-ordination centre says the ketch has been abandoned at sea.
The cruise ship resumed her voyage to Wellington from Akaroa, arriving two hours' late.