Local Teacher Rescues Distressed Boaters At Long Beach

Liz and David Cataletto with Vivien and Theo Bay at Long Beach. KITTY MERRILL

Like most parents with babies, Elizabeth and David Cataletto cherish rare moments of peaceful relaxation. But a morning trip to Long Beach in Sag Harbor on July 30 for a quick swim was anything but calm for the two local school teachers — as they were called into action to help save two men whose boat had capsized.

“As soon as we got here, David saw the boat,” Ms. Cataletto recounted on a return trip to the beach on August 6. Two young men were hanging on to a small, capsized boat about 100 yards offshore, calling for help.

“I could just see the bow, and I could tell the stern was under water,” Mr. Cataletto, who identified himself as a boater, related.

Onshore, the couple began to yell for help, too, as Mr. Cataletto considered the options.

“I didn’t know if I should swim out, or …” he said, turning to look at paddleboards leaning up against the building at the Waterside condos about a quarter mile away.

“It was rough and windy, and I didn’t think I should swim, so I thought, maybe I can get one of those kayaks.” He took off down the beach, sprinting about a quarter-mile, only to find the best option was an old fiberglass board.

Launching it into the water, he said, “I just laid on it and used my hands. As I got closer, they noticed me.”

He checked to make sure there were just two victims. Altogether, they angled the boat up and pulled a section onto the paddleboard.

“One guy was in the bow trying to pull it and the other guy was in the back pushing and I was on the board,” the East Hampton Middle School history teacher said. “I had a kayak paddle and I used that to basically paddle us all in here. It took, like 20 minutes.”

“The 911 call, they made me stay on the phone, [asking] ‘What’s happening now?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, but I think my husband’s towing everything in to shore.’ Everything … and the boat … It definitely took 20 minutes to a half-hour and I had these little guys with me,” Ms. Cataletto  said, gesturing to her 2-year-old, Theo Bay, with the newborn Vivien in her arms.

The engine was way too big for the 15-foot aluminum dory, Mr. Cataletto took note when he got close to the victims. “The stern was down because the heavy motor was under water,” he said.

“They had just put it on,” Ms. Cataletto, who teaches art at Pierson High School, explained, “They were talking about it onshore. They had just put it on that morning to give it a spin, they had never been on it before. And they didn’t realize it was just way too big for that size boat. So a wave took on the boat, because it was so rough.”

The pair of distressed boaters hailed from up-island, “I think he said Smithtown,” Mr. Cataletto said. They were  both 18 years old, but the rescuers never got their names. Southampton Town Police responded to the site and ended up giving the boaters a variety of summonses for  having an unsafe, unregistered vessel.

They just about reached the shore when emergency help arrived by boat and by shore. “The two boaters were safe and there were no injuries when we left — except for David’s arms that were completely covered in fiberglass from the old paddle board he borrowed,” Ms. Cataletto reported.

They brought the borrowed paddle board back to its resting spot unscathed, and Mr. Cataletto said, “The cop was funny, he said, ‘Thank you, but we’re gonna have to take you in for grand larceny.’”