FOUR Newcastle men rescued after their boat sank off Port Stephens on Monday morning have been praised for carrying safety equipment and wearing lifejackets.
The men, three aged in their 20s and one in his 50s, had to be pulled from the water by a passing boat after their 4.8-metre vessel sank 1.5km north-east of Broughton Island about 7.20am.
They activated an emergency distress beacon (EPIRB) as the incident unfolded which allowed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the NSW Police Marine Area Command to task both the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and Marine Rescue Port Stephens to the site.
The men, who had commenced their spear-fishing trip from Shoal Bay earlier that morning, had a Life Cell on board containing a registered EPIRB and flares.
All four men were wearing lifejackets and were able to use both the Life Cell and two Eskies to help stay afloat in the 1.5-metre swell.
They were in the water for about 45 minutes and it was only once they set off a fifth and final flare upon seeing a fishing vessel on the horizon that they were rescued.
The Westpac helicopter landed at Empire Bay on Broughton Island and its critical care medical team assessed the men, who were shaken but uninjured.
Island residents had earlier assisted the men and offered hot drinks and food.
Marine Rescue volunteers took the men back to Nelson Bay in stable conditions.
Port Stephens Marine Rescue unit commander Ben Van Der Wijngaart said the incident offered a lesson to other boaters.
"It was a very successful outcome and I think there is a very good lesson to be learnt ... and that's the fact they had one of the emergency packs with them which allowed them to float away from the vessel as it sank and the pack contained everything they needed, particularly flares and an EPIRB," he said.
Joseph Zeller, of the AMSA Response Centre, praised the group's preparation.
"Because the vessel owner had done all the right things - registered the EPIRB, told his emergency contact where they were going and when they were expected back home - we were able to initiate a rescue quickly, knowing what we were dealing with," he said.
"Setting off the flare resulted in a rescue soon after their vessel capsized, which meant that when rescue authorities arrived on scene, the four people were out of immediate danger.
"We can't stress enough the importance of having your safety equipment in order. This rescue is a good example of how smoothly rescue authorities and others around you can respond when you have the right equipment, it's accessible in the event of an emergency, and you know how to use it."