Paul Maher, 26, the boat's captain, and John Lynch, 34, who was on his first-ever fishing trip, ran into trouble Friday when their boat began to take on water through a hole in the hull that had previously been repaired. They sent out a distress call saying they were a little more than a mile past the Ballina, Australia, break wall but rescuers were unable to locate them. A full rescue effort began by 5 p.m. when the boat had not returned to harbor, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Air and sea crews scoured the area searching for the pair but it wasn't until a helicopter pilot spotted them clinging to the cooler they were brought to safety the following morning.
"[The men] were pretty exhausted but they seemed healthy and well, just after some water and some warmth," said Jethro Lampe, a member of the helicopter crew.
Emergency crews said the men were wearing life jackets and were smart to stay together.
"The essential factor that saved their lives is that they were wearing life jackets. Plus, conditions at sea remained favorable, so they were very lucky," said Senior Constable Graham Hill.