Sunderland's Coastguard team and its RNLI lifeboat crew have been called to deal with their first incident at the Northern Spire bridge.
The report was received at 6.30pm yesterday, while the Coastguard team was gathering for its weekly training session.
Three adults were on board the boat after the starter cord on the outboard motor snapped.
A spokesman for the Coastguard said: "We were tasked to assist RNLI - Sunderland Lifeboat Station after the Coastgaurd had taken a 999 call from a boat that had lost power and was drifting in the river.
"We maintained visual of the vessel and provided communications for the inshore lifeboat whilst it towed the tender to the slipway at South Hylton, where Coastguard officers met the owner and provided safety advice over the use of such things like life jackets."
It has issued a reminder people should call 999 in a coastal emergency and ask for the Coastguard.
The lifeboat launched under the command of Luke McGill along with another two volunteer crew and the team quickly located the vessel before taking it in tow back to South Hylton Slipway.
Mr McGill, helmsman at Sunderland RNLI said: "Thankfully the crew onboard the boat had a working mobile phone which had stayed dry allowing them to make an emergency ‘999’ telephone call.
"We always recommend boat owners carry marine VHF radio’s as their primary form of calling for help as they are much more reliable and will also ensure any other vessels nearby are also aware that someone is in difficulty nearby."