The six adults and children were sailing up the river Tyne from South Shields in an inflatable dinghy powered by a small outboard motor when they ran out of fuel near Hebburn at 6pm.
They called 999 for help and were put through to UK Coastguard who requested the assistance of Tynemouth RNLI inshore lifeboat which launched just a few minutes later.
The two volunteer lifeboat crew sped upriver from the lifeboat station on North Shields Fish Quay and reached the drifting dinghy ten minutes later.
The volunteers checked to make sure all of the six were well, then attached a tow rope to the boat which was then towed to safety at South Shields slipway.
Once the people were safely ashore the lifeboat returned to station.
Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station, said: ‘The six adults and children were adrift in the river after running out of fuel, having apparently miscalculated how much they would need.
‘The Tyne can be a dangerous place for small boats and a number of large vessels including a dredger and a cargo ship were passing the area at the time.
‘In another incident that occurred at the same time, The Northumbria Police Marine Division launch Sabre, which had been on duty for Sunderland airshow, towed three men to safety in a boat that was dangerously close to rocks at Marsden, South Tyneside. It had broken down for the second time that day and had already been towed to safety earlier in the day.
‘It’s a timely reminder of the RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign that aims to drastically reduce drowning in the UK from all causes including boating incidents.
‘The RNLI urges anyone going out in a boat to make sure their vessel is mechanically sound, including ensuring they have enough fuel for their journey.
Comprehensive information on how to stay safe on or near water, at the coast or inland, can be found at rnli.org/respectthewater.’