The man was spotted waist-deep in the Firth of Forth 600 yards from shore, prompting an RAF helicopter to be scrambled and the launch of a Queensferry inshore lifeboat at 7:50pm.
However, when rescuers arrived on scene the man had driven off in a black car seemingly uninjured. Coastguards estimate the total value of the operation at more than 6,000.
A coastguard spokesman said: "The tide was coming in at a great rate of knots and he was lucky that someone spotted him because if he lost his footing he would have been extremely fortunate to make it back to land.
"It's a nightmare coming back from there when the tide is rushing in. A lot of the time it is thoughtlessness which leaves people in a precarious position. The undercurrents can be vicious and can easily sweep you away.
"Our advice to everyone is check the tide times and do not try to race the water because ultimately the water will beat you."
Tom Robertson, Queensferry RNLI station chief, said the fact the man was in the water made this scenario more "more urgent" than some previous Cramond rescues.
"This had the potential to be very serious." he said.