If there was one thing Timothy Miller knew, it was this: Saturday was not his day to die.
Miller, 39, of Patchogue, spent the day kayaking in Bellport Bay, much like he had for the past 10 years, when he decided he'd visit the breach that had opened after superstorm Sandy in Old Inlet.
He ended up being one of three people rescued from the waters near Fire Island that day.
The others, a couple on the maiden voyage of their 28-foot motor boat, were plucked from their sinking vessel about an hour later.
Miller's voyage to the inlet was uneventful -- at first. "I kayaked over and got out of my boat and walked around for a little while," Miller said.
But when he started to paddle back to the Bellport dock, around 7:30 p.m., a rogue current flipped his craft, landing him in the water and sucking away his paddle. Miller, wearing his life vest, swam to nearby Pelican Island and tugged his kayak onto land.
He rested for a few minutes, then decided to swim to shore. What he didn't realize is that he was colder and more tired than he had thought. And that the water current was stronger than it looked.
He made it about halfway to shore before water conditions became too difficult for him to continue. He swam to some nearby pylons, where he wedged himself, hung his dry bag on a nail and took out his cellphone to call for help.
"I said to myself, 'Is this how I'm going to die?' " Miller recalled. "I said, 'No, I'm not going to die today.' I figured I was just going to give it everything I had."
He estimates he spent about 45 minutes holding onto the pylon, waiting as the Suffolk County Marine Bureau maneuvered their boats close enough to float a life ring to him and tow him in.
Miller was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, where he was treated for mild hypothermia and released.
On Sunday, Miller, a blacksmith, expressed gratitude to his rescuers and advised anyone to avoid the inlet.
"It was my first time over there since Sandy, and Bellport Bay was a very calm, tame kind of place. Since the inlet opened up, it is not tame or calm anymore. It is the big, wild ocean."
Meanwhile nearby, a Kings Park man taking his newly purchased boat out for the first time had to be rescued by the Coast Guard as the boat sank.
David Grossman, 43, a lawyer, said he had bought the craft on Saturday and set out for Fire Island along with his girlfriend, Alexa Greves, and dog Pebbles, when they encountered choppy waves and began smelling smoke from the engines. He turned them off but said water started pouring in from the engine compartment.
The couple and their dog were rescued by the Coast Guard at 9:44 p.m., just as the boat sank. They were uninjured.
"I lost my car keys and shoes and everything else," he said. "I'm walking around in shock. We almost died."