The captain of the charter fishing boat Vendetta in Point Loma, Calif., near San Diego changed his itinerary after coming upon a man stranded at sea whose skiff had capsized.
Late Thursday morning, as the charter boat was returning from a fishing expedition, one of the passengers on board heard faint but fearful cries for help coming from somewhere in the choppy waters.
"One of the passengers noticed that a skiff had turned over, so we went up to the scene," Capt. Ray Summer told CBS 8 News.
That 16-foot-skiff had taken on water in the turbulent conditions and flipped over, dumping the sole occupant of the small craft overboard without a life jacket. As the Vendetta approached, the man — clutching a flotation cushion — was desperately climbing onto the hull of the overturned skiff.
"He was definitely scared at that point," Capt. Nick Lambert said. "He was holding on for his life.”
“I remember trying to call to him, but I think the shock had set in," Lambert added. "He didn't really move or talk."
After contacting the Coast Guard, Lambert hurled a life ring 30 feet into the water toward the man. "I'm going to throw this to you. ... Be sure to grab on!" Lambert said he told the man. "I literally got [the life preserver] right behind him, and he was able to reach over with his arm. I said 'Hold on tight, man: we're gonna pull you in!' "
Minutes later, with the help of some passengers on board, Lambert managed to pull the man up and on board the Vendetta.
"He himself said he never thought that would happen," Lambert said. "But since it did, it opened his eyes to be a little more conscientious when you're going out there by yourself."