By Tom Murray /
March 11, 2019
Sailboat in the middle of the sea
Credit: Getty Images

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"Without the jeans, I wouldn't be here today — they were really the thing that saved me," German tourist Arne Murke told press after being lost for hours at sea.

Murke, 30, was found by rescuers three hours after being knocked off a 12-meter yacht, which he had been sailing with his brother in Tolaga Bay, New Zealand.

Tolaga Bay wharf panorama, New Zealand
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Murke brothers had taken a commission to deliver the yacht, Wahoo, from Auckland to Brazil, The New Zealand Herald reported on Sunday.

However, disaster struck when the yacht's mainsheet came loose, causing the boom to swing around and knock Murke overboard.

For a few seconds, Murke was dragged along beneath the boat after his arm became entangled in a rope, he told the Herald, but he managed to break free.

"I was floating in the water not wearing any life jacket. Just my t-shirt, my jeans, that was all," he said.

"My brother started directly to get me but the swell was like three meters. He threw a life jacket with a rope overboard. I couldn't reach that, it was already too far away. Then I think the motor exploded."

The situation looked dire for Murke but, fortunately, he remembered a trick he'd seen being used by US Navy SEALs.

"I saw it many years ago and I always thought if I ever go overboard without a life jacket I'm going to do that," he said.

"I took a deep breath, took out my jeans, made knots at the end of the legs and inflated the jeans; pull it over water and get air inside and then push it under water — I had like an improvised life vest."

Murke said the thought of his 10-month old daughter, who lives with his girlfriend in the Philippines, kept him going in the hours he spent in the water.

"I was underwater and I just thought ... do it for your daughter. I managed to somehow get the jeans right and floated again. That was one moment where I really thought I might die, if I don't give all my energy," he said.

After almost four hours, Murke was spotted by a Hawke's Bay Rescue helicopter, who were conducting a massive search along with the Coastguard and the Air Force.

The rescue helicopter service posted a video of the rescue on their Facebook page, writing: "He [Murke] is so incredibly lucky to be alive."

"I really want to thank all everyone who was involved in the search and rescue operation, they did an excellent job and I'm very, very thankful," Murke said, adding that the near-death experience hasn't put him off the ocean.

"I know the risk but I'm not scared of it. I'm just going to be super careful in the future. I would never say I'm not going out any more, or I'm too scared."

You can see how the US Navy does it below: