Two young fishermen might have saved the life of another boater on Saturday morning when they plucked him from the waters of Shinnecock Inlet after his boat was hit by a large wave and capsized.
Ryan Horowitz, 21, and friend Jay Sozkesen, 33, both of East Quogue, were striped bass fishing in the notoriously hazardous inlet when they saw another boat get hit broadside by a large wave and roll over.
“We were at the beginning of the inlet, and out of the corner of my eye I saw his boat sideways and a big wave hit him,” Mr. Sozkesen recalled on Monday. “He flipped, and I said to Ryan, ‘We’ve gotta get over there and help him.’”
The upended boat’s captain, Chris Furnari, 45, of East Quogue, was tossed into the water, according to an account of the incident that he gave to Ryan Horowitz’s father, Scott, later that day.
“He got stuck between the waves and just went over,” the elder Mr. Horowitz said after visiting Mr. Furnari, at Southampton Hospital on Saturday afternoon.
As the pair pulled up alongside the capsized boat’s hull, they saw Mr. Furnari, who was wearing heavy fishing clothes and no life jacket, pop to the surface next to his boat. They tossed a line and pulled him to their boat but could not lift him out of the water, because his clothes were waterlogged and heavy. Mr. Furnari could do little to help boost himself out of the water.
“Getting him into the boat was the hardest part,” Ryan Horowitz said. “He was exhausted—he’d swallowed a lot of water and couldn’t do anything.”
Hoisting the limp, waterlogged man out of the water was complicated by the current, which was rushing out the inlet and sweeping both boats straight into the teeth of the breaking waves that form near the mouth of the inlet.
“On the outgoing, the first half of the inlet, the north end, is calm, but right in the middle there’s a rip, and it was ripping—the waves are big and breaking. You could almost surf them,” Mr. Sozkesen recalled. “We were getting tossed around. Ryan held on to him while I kept the boat faced into the waves. And his boat was drifting right along with us, and we had to be careful of the props not hitting him. Things were going in all sorts of directions.”
With Mr. Sozkesen jumping between steering the boat, keeping it from getting hit broadside by waves and flipping as well, and helping Mr. Horowitz lift Mr. Furnari, the pair managed to pull him onto the engine well of their outboard-motor boat, then roll together the rest of the way into the boat.
But just as they got Mr. Furnari into the boat, both of the outboard engines stalled—possibly from being dunked beneath the water when going through the maelstrom of the inlet rip. They also realized that the current had swept them well out into the ocean, which was cloaked in heavy fog.
“We’d been drifting out the inlet the whole time,” Mr. Horowitz said. “When we looked up, we couldn’t see the jetties anymore.”
They managed to get one of the boat’s motors started again, but considering the thick fog and the dangerous wave conditions in the inlet, they opted not to approach the rough waters again and decided to wait for assistance.
Captain Les Trafford, owner of the local SeaTow marine towing service, was the first to arrive, having been told of the situation by the captain of another boat who heard a distress call by Mr. Horowitz in the midst of their rescue efforts.
“He came racing out so fast we couldn’t believe it, and went right past us—he didn’t see us,” Mr. Sozkesen said. “We grabbed a horn and blew it, and he turned to us. That’s when I finally thought: Everything is going to be all right. It all went down so fast.”
Mr. Trafford towed the hobbled boat and its three soaking mariners to shore, where an ambulance was waiting to take Mr. Furnari to the hospital.
The elder Mr. Horowitz said that Mr. Furnari was exhausted from the ordeal but otherwise uninjured. Mr. Furnari declined to comment on the incident this week.
“He said to me, ‘Scott, if those boys hadn’t been right there, I wouldn’t have made it,’” Mr. Horowitz said on Saturday. “He was real lucky.”