Sailors abandon sinking yacht off Port Stephens, swim to Shark Island to await rescue

Three sailors have been rescued overnight after their yacht ran aground off the coast of Port Stephens, leaving them with only one option to abandon ship and take to the dark waters of the ocean.

The three men, all aged in their 60s, were travelling near Shark Island when a bombora forced their vessel to run aground about 8pm Wednesday.

The 12-metre yacht was taking on water so they activated a EPIRB beacon and abandoned ship. The men swam for about 40 minutes until they reached the shore of the island.

In the meantime, Water Police, a rescue helicopter from RAAF base Williamtown and the team from Marine Rescue Port Stephens were tasked to the location and all arrived about 9pm.

Marine Rescue had a head-start, having already been out on the water doing a routine night training exercise.

"During towing practice our vessels were tasked through our radio base by the Water Police, to go offshore to the scene of an EPIRB activation," a statement from Marine Rescue Port Stephens said.

"We arrived in the vicinity at the same time as a rescue helicopter.

"The helicopter winched three people off the beach. These are treacherous waters, a quick response by all involved.

"Skilful work by the crew of the rescue helicopter in so quickly locating the survivors and getting them safely on-board."

According to police the men suffered "nothing more than a few scratches".

They were flown to RAAF base Williamtown for the night.