'Missing' tourist found sunbathing on beach

An Australian tourist who failed to let family members know where he was heading in a boat sparked a full-scale search operation - with a helicopter search by police eventually locating him sunbathing at a beach.

Senior Sergeant Dave Litton said the man was one of five water rescues emergency services attended in the Waikato area yesterday.

The Australian was reported missing in a boat off Colville after being gone for about three hours.

"This man left Otautu Wharf in a 7ft aluminium dingy that was equipped with oars but no motor about 11.40am. At the time there was a 20-knot [37 km/h] northwesterly wind and a one-metre northerly swell," Mr Litton said.

"Though wearing a life jacket the man had not told anyone where he was going or when he would return and he had no communication equipment."

After his family raised the alarm, the coastguard launched a fixed wing aircraft from Auckland and the police eagle helicopter began an aerial search, Mr Litton said.

Two coastguard vessels were also put on standby, he said.

When the man was discovered sunbathing on a beach at Tiriteka Point, north of Otautu Wharf, by the helicopter, he told the crew he was waiting for the tide to rise before returning.

"If this man had only told other people where he was going and had a cellphone with him the valuable time and resources deployed in the search for him would not have been wasted," Mr Litton said.

In another rescue, firefighters were asked to bring a chainsaw after a man got his leg trapped in his homemade wooden boat in Tairua Harbour.

Further south, a man at Raglan's ocean beach was pulled out of the surf by an overseas tourist.

The man, who was semi-conscious when emergency services arrived at the beach, had become caught in a rip after rescuing his son and another child.

He was flown to Waikato Hospital in a serious condition.

"This incident highlights the importance of swimming between the flags and the excellent work done by the overseas visitor," Mr Litton said.

In another incident at Pauanui, four people - all in life jackets - were forced to abandon their boat after their engine lost power. The boat also caught fire and began taking on water.

The fifth water rescue was at the Manu Bay boat ramp in Raglan after a dinghy capsized in rough conditions.

All three people, who were wearing lifejackets, were thrown overboard. They made it to shore safely and were treated for cuts and bruises, Mr Litton said.

Water safety:

* Swim at beaches patrolled by life guards and swim between the flags

* When boating, ensure your boat is equipped for the conditions and everyone on board is wearing a life jacket

* Carry at least two forms of communication, including a cellphone, a hand held VHF radio on channel 16 or distress beacons. PLBs - personal locator beacons - or EPIRBs - emergency position-indicating radio beacons - are useful.

* Tell people when and where you are going, when you should be returning and when the alarm should be raised should you not return

- Teuila Fuatai of APNZ

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