It all unfolded last September when Joe Blushtein and his brother Igor were coming back from Santa Barbara Island.
Joe went to the back of the boat to clean fish and fell over the side. Igor was at the helm and didn't see his brother fall in the water. The boat kept going.
"Everybody goes to sleep and I drive back, and he just got up and decided to clean the fish," Igor said.
Joe spent nearly seven hours fighting for his life in the frigid ocean water.
"I didn't realize that I had it in me to survive that long," he said.
It wasn't until Igor had docked in Marina del Rey that he realized his younger brother was gone and called for help.
As Igor frantically headed back out to sea, Joe had seen the light from a Coast Guard boat and started whistling and yelling.
"I just sprinted for that life ring like it was my last shot. It was," Joe said.
The rookie on board was the one who heard Joe.
"The fact that we were able to hear him, and then we were actually able to find him, it made us all feel really good," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Faustino.
Friday, Joe got to hug the people who saved his life and boarded the vessel that plucked him from the ocean.
In the daylight, Joe took a celebratory ride. He said his new lease on life has changed him, and he hopes others can learn from his experience.
"Tell people that you love that you love them if you haven't, because it could be over in a split second," Joe said.
Joe now says he celebrates his birthday on the day of that rescue and that he has made positive changes in his life, including losing 30 pounds. His brother, Igor, says he makes a point of stopping to help other boaters whenever he can.