A group of grateful boaters thanked Suffolk police Marine Bureau officers Monday for rescuing a pair of swimmers caught in a tidal current off Kismet on Fire Island Sunday evening.

"They took care of all of us," said Robyn Ciano, 38, of Babylon Village. "They were wonderful."

Ciano had owned her 1996 Sea Ray 21-foot sport boat for less than a week when she dropped anchor in the Great South Bay a quarter-mile north of the Fire Island Lighthouse about 7 p.m.

StoryOfficials: Cops rescue swimmers from current

Ciano, her 13-year-old daughter Jade-Ashley Stetler, and her boyfriend, Brian McDaniels, 38, of Levittown, jumped in the water to swim, while Ciano's mother, Anna DeCanio, of Port Charlotte, Florida, stayed aboard the boat.

"It was fun at first," DeCanio said. But she soon realized the three were struggling to return.

"I was shouting 'Come back, come back!' but they were having a hard time," she said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The group had unwittingly anchored directly in a boat channel with a strong tidal current, police said.

The swimmers were drifting a quarter of a mile away from their boat in water police said was 15 to 20 feet deep -- and they were tiring and starting to panic.

Swimming harder didn't work: It "felt like being on a treadmill," recalled Jade-Ashley, an eighth-grader who is home-schooled.

They had two flotation devices between them, said Ciano, who called the experience "insanely scary."

DeCanio called the police. Jade-Ashley made it back to the boat as she started to cramp, yanked up one anchor and prepared to motor downstream to rescue Ciano and McDaniels, who'd found refuge on a sandbar shallow enough to touch ground, they said.

But Marine Bureau Police Officers Christopher DeFeo and Kevin Comiskey soon arrived aboard the Marine Juliet to pull them from the water.

The officers wrapped the swimmers in warm blankets and delivered them to medics with the West Islip Fire Department for evaluation, police said. The three declined further medical treatment.

"It could have turned out a whole lot worse," said DeFeo, a five-year veteran of the Marine Bureau. "It's basically just like a riptide -- they were fighting it and not making any headway."