About 50 survivors and rescuers gathered in Wellington on Wednesday to mark the 45th anniversary of the Wahine disaster.
Fifty-one of the 734 passengers and crew died after the ferry coming from Lyttelton ran aground in a storm in Wellington Harbour on 10 April 1968.
Jim Mason, who was a policeman in Lower Hutt at the time, was one of the first rescuers at Eastbourne where many people washed ashore and says it was a day he will never forget.
But he says Wednesday's event helped survivors by allowing them to talk about their memories of the day and remember those who died.
The annual commemoration was hosted by the Museum of City and Sea, which rang the Wahine's original bell.
A wreath was laid in remembrance of those who died and people who took part in the rescue.
Survivors were taken from the museum to where the ferry struck rocks in one of the buses that transported survivors 45 years ago.