Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter and water police searching for sailor missing off a yacht near Broughton Island

A SECOND helicopter has been called in to help search an area near Broughton Island on Wednesday after a sailor was washed off a yacht and into rough seas churned up by the low pressure system off the coast.

Water police and the Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter had begun searching for the man after he was last seen in water about two nautical miles north of the popular island, about 14km north-east of Port Stephens.

Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter crewman Graham Nickisson said the conditions were bad and worsening.

“The conditions are some of the worst for this sort of search and rescue operation,’’ Mr Nickisson said.

“The visibility is extremely poor and the seas are huge.’’

Port Stephens Marine Rescue unit commander Tony O’Donnell said that early reports indicated that the man was swept overboard in heavy seas.

‘‘Details are very sketchy ... a call came in at about 11.45 am reporting a man had been swept overboard from a 36ft yacht in rough seas north east of Broughton Island,’’ Mr O’Donnell said.

‘‘Both the water police vessel and rescue helicopter have responded to the distress call. There are no reports of damage to the vessel.’’

Mr O’Donnell said the unit’s Danial Thain had also been called out to tow in another distressed vessel east of Port Stephens.

It is understood the passengers on board are not in any danger.

The east coast low, which is sitting off the coast of Port Stephens, has created massive swells.

More to come