Northland Search and Rescue says a fishing trip that went wrong on Whangarei Harbour last night could easily have ended in tragedy.
Five people in a dinghy managed to clamber to safety near Busby Head after their engine failed, and boat drifted towards rocks.
Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said the three men and two women had gone out from Urquharts Bay, with only three life jackets between them.
"When their engine failed they got into some serious trouble and were blown, thankfully, towards the shore," he said.
"Had this happened outside the harbour I'd hate to think what would have been the likely outcome."
Mr Metcalfe said when emergency services arrived, one of the people had jumped into the water to keep the boat off the rocks; one had hypothermia and another had cut feet .
"Not only were there five people in a 3.6m dinghy, which was overloaded, but there were only three lifejackets between them.
"With the current air and water temperature. anyone in the water would have struggled to stay alive for any length of time."
Mr Metcalfe said the incident was a reminder that people need to be well prepared when they go boating, with life jackets for everyone and the motor in working order.