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Rescue of teen boater leads to award for local captain

By CJ HADDAD / cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com - | Jan 5, 2021

Capt. Craig Stransky

Sea Tow Capt. Craig Stransky had just settled into his evening shift earlier this year when he heard the call over dispatch to assist a grounded boat. A phone call to the first number listed on the account resulted in a dead line. On the other end of his second call were the voices of distraught parents worrying about their child.

Stransky soon discovered he was now in search of a young man who had taken the family boat out just before sunset to collect bait for a fishing trip the next day. A routine journey had taken a concerning turn when the teen had not returned for hours following what should have been an hour-long trip. To make matters worse, his cell phone was just about out of power with no reception and the 16-foot vessel was not equipped with a radio.

After finally being able to get a rough idea on the youth’s location and navigating dark shallow waters in the Red Fish Pass area near Captiva, Stransky rescued the clearly shaken up youth and towed him and the remarkably undamaged boat back to the family’s dock in Fort Myers.

For his actions, Sea Tow recently bestowed Stransky, 45, with the “Efforts Above and Beyond Award” during its annual meeting. He has been with Sea Tow Fort Myers in Cape Coral for over a year-and-a-half and has been a captain for more than two years in what he said was a late calling in life.

“It makes the job worthwhile to be able to help with something like this,” Stransky said. “We were able to reunite the family. I felt for them. I have kids of my own and I would have been a wreck.”

For a moment the teen was able to gain service and his parents sent the pinged location to Stransky for guidance.

“As I came into the Red Fish Pass area, I saw a faint light in the cove in the distance and figured that had to be him,” he said.

Stransky positioned his Sea Tow boat roughly 1,200 yards from the teen, making sure he himself would not get trapped in the shallow waters.

“I dropped my anchor in about 5-feet of water. If I went any further I would have been stuck,” he said. “There’s a very thin margin of error in that spot.”

He yelled out to make sure the youth was OK, and he was. Stransky’s towline was only 600 yards so he put his gear on and hopped in the water.

“I started pushing the boat up and down and I was able to get it free of the sandbar and actually pulled his boat back to my boat through the mud,” he said. “I rocked it and was able to get it free enough to get the suction of the mud off of the hull.”

It was about 10:30 p.m. when Stransky and the teen finally made their way back.

“I put a blanket on him and gave him something to drink and tried to help calm him down. He was very thankful,” he said. “I called his parents to let them know he was OK and they were ecstatic.”

The boy told Stransky that he was chasing baitfish in one area and lost track of his positioning with the tide. Next thing he knew, he turned around and he was looking at land and became stuck.

Stransky said being prepared is the best tool to take with you as a boater.

“Have plan and stay with your plan,” he said. “If you don’t know the area, stay within your means.”

The Red Fish Pass area is a common spot for stuck boats, Stransky said.

“We rescue a lot of boats there on sandbars — a lot,” he said. “People try to take shortcuts.

“I enjoying coming out and helping people and it’s one of my favorite things about working with Sea Tow,” Stransky added. “It’s nice to be on the water, too.”

Sea Tow Services International CEO Joseph Frohnhoefer III said, “We are grateful to have captains like Capt. Stransky in the Sea Tow network. We are honored to present him with our company’s Efforts Above and Beyond Award for his commitment, response and success in this situation.”