STONINGTON, Maine — After three days of looking for two fishermen from Deer Isle, who had been reported missing off the coast of Massachusetts, the Coast Guard called off its search Wednesday evening.
A family member said the two men, 26-year-old captain, Wally “Chubby” Gray Jr., and his 50-year-old crewman, Wayne Young, were now presumed “lost at sea.”
The 45-foot scalloper left its homeport of Gloucester, Mass., on Saturday morning and was scheduled to return that evening. When the vessel wasn’t back by Monday morning, the captain’s girlfriend, called the Coast Guard around 8 a.m. to report it missing. Coast Guard officials said the last time she had communicated with Gray Jr. was by text message between 6 a.m. and noon Saturday.
Since Monday, Coast Guard crews have searched more than 2,800 square miles of Massachusetts Bay with no sign of the fishermen, the Coast Guard indicated in a news release Wednesday evening.
No distress call from the missing vessel was received, Coast Guard officials have said.
Coast Guard spokesman Adam Stanton said Wednesday morning that a survival capsule from the boat was found Tuesday in a marshy area of the Saugus River, north of Boston. Some fishing gear also was found, washed up about 30 miles to the south on Nantasket Beach in Hull, but it could not be confirmed that the gear had come from Foxy Lady II, he said.
Throughout the day Wednesday Coast Guard cutters plus a helicopter and a jet continued searching the area where the boat’s last position was known, about 15 miles north of Provincetown, Mass., on Cape Cod.
But at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday the Coast Guard called the search off.
The Gloucester (Mass.) Times online edition reported Wednesday night that Jolena Rogers, first cousin of Gray Jr., said the families were informed in face-to-face meetings that Gray and Young were presumed “lost at sea.”
The boat is registered to Foxy Lady Inc., which holds a federal scallop fishing license for deep-sea dragging. According to Maine Department of Marine Resources scallop survey reports posted online, the Foxy Lady II has participated in sea scallop surveys along Maine’s coast for the past several years.
The Rev. Stephen York of Stonington United Methodist Church organized a vigil for the missing fishermen Monday night at the Stonington town pier. About 50 people gathered, he said, to light candles, recite Psalms and pray for the missing men’s safety.
When reached by phone at his home in Deer Isle on Tuesday, Wallace Gray Sr., who usually captains the vessel, declined comment.
An email sent to the Bangor Daily News Wednesday night indicated that the community of Deer Isle-Stonington has established a fund to help the affected families.
Donations may be sent to: Fishermen’s Fund, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, 25 Church St., Deer Isle, ME 04627.
The communities of Deer Isle and Stonington, which combined are listed as the top-ranked port in landings value in Maine, have experienced the loss of fishermen at sea before.
In November 2007, the body of Byron Gross, 65, of Little Deer Isle was recovered off Deer Isle about a month after he had been hauling lobster traps near Weeds Point. His boat, the Ruby G, was discovered on Oct. 27 on the shore with the motor in gear and running. Gross’ death was ruled a drowning, officials said.
In August 2005, Deer Isle resident Edward Smith, 36, disappeared after the Northern Wind, a 50-foot scallop boat he was aboard, sank off the Massachusetts coast. Two of the boat’s three crew members, Andrew Joseph of Easton and Sean Balestraci, were rescued from a life raft after they were spotted by another fishing vessel about 63 nautical miles east of Nantucket, two days after it had last been seen.
Stonington Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris said Wednesday that it is tough on the adjacent island towns when fishermen or one of their local boats disappear at sea.
“We all feel really, really bad,” she said, “because everybody kind of knows everybody down here.”
The Associated Press and Bangor Daily News writer Mario Moretto contributed to this report.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.