Two men were rescued off a 50-foot yacht which had lost power in big swells off the east coast of Marlborough last night.
Police were alerted just after 8pm by one of the men aboard the former fishing trawler.
The vessel's lifejackets had been lost overboard in the swell and wind.
A search and rescue operation with Maritime New Zealand was launched, but they did not have the official location of the trawler.
Senior Sergeant Peter Payne said the situation could have ended very badly.
"I started to have some concerns early on in the piece," he said.
"Given the weather conditions, we couldn't fly, and you're really limited in the number of vessels that can head out to assist.
"We didn't know how quickly they were drifting, but we knew there was a reasonable wind."
Two ferries and two commercial fishing boats responded to the distress call.
The Interislander ferry located the vessel roughly four nautical miles out to sea shortly before 10pm and one of the fishing boats towed the boat to safety, he said.
The vessel was anchored safely in Port Underwood by midnight.
"The pair on board were understandably quite distressed at the situation and very grateful for the rescue," he said.
"It was really pleasing to see the co-operation of vessels in the area result in a successful rescue."