MATINICUS, Maine — The Coast Guard has suspended its search for a local lobsterman presumed lost on Monday in waters off the Zephyr Ledges.
Chris Whitaker, 24, last was seen in his 21-foot open skiff about noon Monday. He left alone earlier that day to tend his traps, Chief Warrant Officer Chris Bartel, commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Station Rockland, said Tuesday.
The Coast Guard made its decision to suspend the search after a Falcon jet completed a final sweep at 6:03 p.m. Tuesday without spotting Whitaker or his boat.
Bartel said the Zephyr Ledges are located about two miles from the north end of Matinicus Island and searchers in that area had recovered items believed to have come from Whitaker’s boat. A lunch cooler, boot, rain gear, a life jacket and oilcan were located between the ledges and the island.
Some of the recovered items were identified by his mother as belonging to Whitaker, according to Bartel.
While local fishermen began working the waters immediately after it was determined Whitaker was missing, Bartel said the official search began around 3:30 p.m. Monday. At its onset, the search involved the Coast Guard, Marine Patrol and about a dozen local lobster boats. A search plane from Brunswick Naval Air Station also took part in the search.
The Coast Guard’s 110-foot-long Jefferson Island out of South Portland and the 87-foot-long Moray out of Jonesport arrived in the evening Monday and continued to search throughout the night. Bartel said the Rockland station’s 47-foot-long motor lifeboat gave up the search at 10:30 p.m. Monday but was back at the island located 25 miles off Rockland by first light Tuesday.
Bartel said the seas around the island Tuesday afternoon were running 2 to 3 feet and the winds were 15 knots. He said it also “was foggy, and that kind of weather makes it a little bit more challenging.”