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Man rescued after treading water miles off California coast

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. --  It was strange sight several miles south of Huntington Harbor: a 14-foot dinghy circling in the water, with no one on board.

CBS Los Angeles reports the U.S. Coast Guard started searching for a man overboard, and in this case, it was Tony White.

"We were obviously concerned because there was no driver in the water or near the boat," the Coast Guard said.

White explained what happened.

"My hat blew off. And I instinctually reached to grab it," he said. "Normally, (it) might not have been a big deal, but on this particular boat it always wants to turn to the right when you're going fast. And when I let go of the wheel, (it) did six revolutions to the right and (the) boat made (a) 90 degree turn and went flying over the side."

With the dinghy circling out of control and no way to get back on safely, White swam about two and a half hours trying to get to a buoy, and by then, it was 2 miles from his boat.

"At first, I was swimming with it thinking I could somehow action movie climb in and grab it, but (I) realized that was a pretty stupid idea. I was going to get injured by (a) prop or have it run me over," White said.

Survival mode kicked in. He kicked off his flip-flops and used them as fins.

White was working when he went overboard and lost an underwater drone. But at least he didn't lose his life, with the Coast Guard coming to his rescue.

"When he said, 'Thank God you guys saw me,' it's literally like finding a needle in a haystack in the ocean," the Coast Guard said.

"For the first time in my life, it was probably the closest to near-death experience I've had," White said. "You're out there, and it's 155-feet deep and nothing for miles."

White has since changed his policy. He does not go to work alone in the ocean and plans to wear a life jacket or bright clothes as recommended by the Coast Guard.