GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 3, 2008

A Missing Ship

Richard Salit

The Coast Guard continued searching today for a fishing boat due back in Gloucester last Friday from a trip to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, Canada.

The 70-foot Andrea Gail was supposed to have returned to port by Saturday with its crew of six fishermen, according to Chief Petty Officer Alan Burd.

Several Gloucester fishermen were said to be aboard the vessel, but Coast Guard officials were withholding crew members' names this morning pending notification of their families.

The vessel has not been heard from since Thursday when it was reported to be 180 miles east-northeast of Canada's Sable Island.

The crew of the New Bedford fishing vessel Mary T. reported to the Canadian Coast Guard in Halifax that it had communicated on Thursday with the Andrea Gail, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Brannan.

The missing vessel was reported to be encountering 30-foot seas and 50- to 80-knot winds kicked up by the northeaster that devastated coastal New England last week.

"The brunt of the storm was off Cape Cod," Brannan said. "But it did affect that area. Not as badly as it was here."

Robert Brown, owner of the Andrea Gail and a resident of Bray Street, said last night, "We have hope the boat is OK and that it's just lost its communication."

The Andrea Gail's home port is documented as Marblehead. But the swordfish boat regularly fishes out of Gloucester, unloading its catch by Old Port Seafoods on the State Fish Pier.

The Andrea Gail was fishing with the Hannah Boden, said Brown who owns both vessels. The Andrea Gail then headed in to port alone, he said.

The Coast Guard has been searching for the Andrea Gail for three days. Today a Coast Guard cutter and long-range airplane were assisting four U.S. Coast Guard an one Navy aircraft.

Authorities were searching an approximately 18,000-square-mile area between Gloucester and the Grand Banks. On Saturday, one Coast Guard airplane searched 21,000 square miles. Yesterday five airplanes covered and additional 9,670 square miles.

Harbors from Woods Hole to Cape Breton Island, Canada, were also checked.

The Andrea Gail was equipped with a six-man life boat and two emergency beacons, which automatically transmit signals when immersed in water, Burd said. One was a Category 1, 406-megahertz EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) -- the most advanced required by the Coast Guard.

Burd said that many EPIRBs were set off in the North Atlantic during last week's foul weather. Some were knocked loose or blown completely overboard, but all of the signals have been checked out and none turned out to be the Andrea Gail, he said.