Gurney's Inn
December 06, 2006

Plucked From The Surf

"It wasn't really a big deal," Jim Mangano said Friday. "It was a nice day out. We would probably eventually have drifted in to the beach." Senior Harbormaster Frank Kennedy saw it a little more dramatically — the quick thinking of Harbormaster Dan Lester, he said, "probably saved two people's lives."

Last Thursday morning, Mangano and Mike Havens were gillnetting off the beach near the White Sands in Amagansett. They'd set the net when a rogue wave hit the boat and flipped it. Mangano said he was watching the net, his partner at the helm. Havens saw the wave coming and warned Mangano to hang on. "I looked over my shoulder and all I saw was this thing cresting." Like the mammoth wave in the 70s flick Poseidon Adventure, the freak sea rolled the dory over, spilling out gear, and the crew into the water.

Luckily, it wasn't too icy. Mangano said he and Havens knew what to do. They quickly doffed their boots, stayed with the craft and stayed calm till help arrived.

It came in the form of Harbormaster Dan Lester. Lester was up the beach about a quarter of a mile with the crew from another gillnetting boat when the emergency call went out. His father Calvin and brother Paul were on that crew and had just brought their dory ashore. It was already on the trailer, so the crew was able to ride down the beach and launch right away. Dan Lester, who is also the chief of the Amagansett Fire Department, had an EMT on the scene in minutes. The two men were checked out and both refused transportation to the hospital. "We got dressed and were back working that afternoon," Mangano said.

On Friday, Councilwoman Pat Mansir, the town board liaison to the marine patrol, ballyhooed Lester's Bonac know-how. "He knew just what to do," she said. "Another person might not have had a clue."

Downplaying the danger, Mangano emphasized that the water was unseasonably warm, and the wind was on the beach, pushing them towards, rather than away, from the shore. Summarizing, he said, "We got washed over. We got wet. We couldn't just walk in and we were helped out of the water by another crew."

"Danny did good, " he said, adding, "The boat washed in about a half hour after us."

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