By Richard Gaines
---- — The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for the scalloping boat Foxy Lady II and its crew of two at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday, ending a three-day effort to find the vessel and ending the crew men’s families’ hopes their loved ones would return.
Jolena Rogers, first cousin of the captain, Wally “Chubby” Gray Jr., 26, said the families were informed in face-to-face meetings that Gray and his mate, Wayne Young, 50, were presumed “lost at sea.”
The Foxy Lady II was homeported in Gloucester, though Gray and Young were from Deer Isle, Maine.
The Foxy Lady II had left Gloucester on Saturday for a day trip to Stellwagen Bank. Gray had text-messaged his girlfriend through the morning until around noon; she contacted the Coast Guard on Monday morning when the boat had not returned.
The Coast Guard said the vessel had not issued an SOS or any electronic emergency signals. The Coast Guard searched Massachusetts Bay Monday through the daylight hours Wednesday. Crews searched more than 2,800 square miles with no sign of the fishermen.
The decision to end the search was made by the commander of Coast Guard Sector Boston, John O’Connor, but the agency will investigate to try to determine what happened to the vessel and its crew.
Hopes for the scalloper’s crew dropped when an unopened survival pod from the Foxy Lady II was found in a marsh in Saugus about 5 p.m. Tuesday, but the family maintained hope while the Coast Guard was actively looking for the boat and the crew.
The last signal emitted by the boat’s automatic vessel monitoring system came late Saturday from due east of Boston and equidistant from Gloucester and Provincetown. The VMS beeps every half hour for law enforcement monitoring, but is not considered by the Coast Guard in search and rescue calculations.
The Foxy Lady II’s EPIRB signal — a floating transmitter with an antenna that begins sending signals for search and rescue when it hits the water, but must be afloat — never activated, according to the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard spokesman Jeff Hall said the search and rescue command was forced to withdraw its two 110-foot patrol boats earlier Wednesday due to high seas of up to 12 feet and winds at 24 knots, but the 270-foot cutter Spencer was still at work as the last light disappeared, working with radar and search lights. A Coast Guard helicopter and Falcon jet also searched as weather permitted.
Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, said she believed Gray to be the only full-time scalloper working out of Gloucester. Among other customers, the Foxy Lady II supplied scallops to the Cape Ann Fresh Catch community-supported fishery cooperative, an affiliate of the Fishermen’s Wives Association.
Sanfilippo said the association has set up a fund for the families of the crew. Contributions can be made at BankGloucester, or sent to the Foxy Lady II Fund, care of BankGloucester, 160 Main St., Gloucester MA 01930.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.