About four weeks ago, on August 5, a distress call came through that a boat was going under about eight nautical miles off Nambucca on NSW's Mid North Coast.
It's the kind of news that instantly makes one's stomach drop, and there was a nervous wait until the next piece of correspondence came through.
Mercifully, the two locals on board that day - Macksville's Matt Barber and Bowra's 'Joe' Mitchell - lived to tell the tale of their rescue from the open sea. This is their story, as told by Matt.
Matt and Joe were on their fifth stop that day, after a morning of fishing.
Both are seasoned recreational fishermen - known to spend an entire day on the water together, only coming in when nightfall makes visibility an obstacle.
Matt got his sea legs while he was still in nappies. And he spent 24 years on tuna longliners.
"I've been around Australia twice, the Phillipines ... Antarctica - you've got to go around and hit the ice off the boat, which keeps you warm," he said.
"This wasn't my first time sinking - I've sunk a few times on the pro boats. But this was my first time bobbing around in the water - all the other times I'd had a lifeboat."
The first the pair knew that something was off was when Joe reeled in a fish and pulled it into the boat. It flopped on the floor into a puddle of water.
Matt had had his 5.4 metre boat for about six years - it was an ex-pro fishing rig, built for Sydney Harbour during the 1988 bicentenary.
He'd done a bit of maintenance on it - welding a seam on the outside, and fitting a plate over it.
"But it seemed fine. There was a tiny leak - it was an old boat - but we'd take on no more than 2L of water during a five-hour trip," he said.
He still doesn't know exactly how the boat failed, "but my best guess is that the transom split".
Even with an 800 gallon per hour bilge pump working overtime - "miles more the the boat needed" - and Matt madly scooping out water with a 20L bucket, they quickly realised they were fighting a losing battle.
Once we started going down I knew there was no hope for the boat.Matt Barber
With the few minutes they had before the boat was completely consumed by the sea, Matt phoned in a distress call to Trial Bay Marine Rescue (before calling Nambucca and Coffs too).
"I rang South West Rocks and gave them my GPS coordinates and told them I'd be somewhere close to that - because I ain't gonna last long," he said.
He fitted a second lifejacket to Joe - an old yellow foam one - after realising the first was too small with the four layers of jumpers and coats Joe had on.
He also triggered two EPIRBs, tying the second one to Joe.
"I made sure it wasn't going to come off him - if nothing else, at least they'd find him," Matt said.
My main priority was to get the old fella home safe. I'm the captain, and a captain has a duty of care to keep his crew safe.
As a last resort they tipped their day's catch out of the eskies to use them to float on. But the wind soon laughed at that attempt - knocking the eskies around and blowing them out of reach.
An hour and a half ticked painfully by while the pair treaded water - they know that for certain because Joe glanced at his watch just as the two-and-a-half tonne boat slipped below the water surface.
Matt said he didn't have time to feel worried - he busied himself by focussing his attention on Joe.
As the senior deputy captain of the Newee Creek RFS Brigade, Matt has had ample experience keeping car crash victims calm through some of the most stressful moments of their lives.
But there are flashes of technicolour moments from his time in the water that have seared themselves into his brain forever ...
... the freshly-caught morwong jumping for joy over the sinking boat to freedom - "I reckon that's the luckiest bloody morwong alive" ...
... Joe's lifejacket popping up around his neck - "I thought oh hello, he's gonna fall out the bottom of this"...
... Joe's tucker bag floating just out of reach - "he was starving but we just couldn't get to it" ...
... Joe's humour during the painstaking wait for help - "he said 'shit! we should have brought a rod while we're waiting'" ...
... hearing the sound of a chopper overhead and a boat arriving which overshot them - "we couldn't see anything from the water level, but we heard it go past us - they found our debris field" ...
... and the feeling of elation when the Trial Bay 30 crew finally spotted them - "it was the best sight I've seen for a long time when that boat pulled up alongside us - I'll never forget it".
The rescue vessel didn't have a ladder, so three of the crewpersons had to drag the men up into the safety of the boat.
With nothing more required of him, Matt's body collapsed underneath him from the exhaustion of the ordeal.
"I was standing one minute and the next I was out like a light - I was that exhausted from keeping the old fella afloat," he said.
He'd also broken a couple of ribs falling onto the side of the sinking boat while trying to keep Joe from tipping overboard.
That night he struggled to sleep. Insomnia plagued him for a while afterwards.
"I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened - second guessing myself the whole time, wondering what I could have done better," he said.
"But I must have done something right - we're still here aren't we?
"I'm just so glad it happened during the middle of the day - Joe and I are known to not come back in 'til after dark.
And if it had happened right when it fell dark it could have been a very different story.
Matt is incredibly grateful for the efforts put in by the various emergency services - particularly the first responder Trial Bay Marine Rescue crew.
When COVID restrictions ease, the pair plans to visit the crew at South West Rocks to say a proper thankyou for saving their lives.
While Joe hasn't been out on the open water since, Matt said he was out on one of his other boats the very next day.
"I'm now in the process of looking for a new boat - one that knows to float," he said, wryly.
But Matt said he has taken one thing from the experience: while he was appropriately prepared, the incident has reiterated the importance of knowing your safety gear, and how to use it.
"I can't stress that to people enough," he said.
"And lifejackets should be fitted specifically to the clothes you plan to wear out on the water."