SAN PEDRO (CBSLA.com) — A Coast Guard crew was honored Friday with saving the life of a man who survived hours in the water after falling off a fishing boat.

Joseph Blushtien wiped away tears as he met the 11-member search and rescue team who saved him on the night of Sept. 9, 2014.

Blushtien, who was on a birthday fishing trip with his family, fell overboard around 6 p.m. about 10 miles off the coast of Marina del Rey. He spent seven hours in the water without a life preserver.

“One of my worst fears, drowning, and it basically became a reality at that point,” he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard started their search hours later, battling six-foot waves over a large search area.

“Against all odds, the crew detected yelling and a faint whistle in the darkness,” officials said.

The crew located Blushtien and pulled hin from the water after midnight.

The crew was honored with achievement medals.

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