Body of missing oysterman recovered in Tomales Bay

07/27/2017

Four days after oysterman Tod Friend disappeared on Tomales Bay, friends located his body, which was pulled from the waters on Saturday afternoon. 

The cause and manner of his death are pending toxicology results and the conclusion of an investigation by the Marin County coroner’s division. 

Family members, friends and colleagues combed the shoreline and waters from morning until night ever since Mr. Friend, a 70-year-old Oakland resident who co-owned Tomales Bay Oyster Company since 2009, went missing near Cypress Point, north of Marshall. Employees of nearby Hog Island Oyster Company first spotted the unmanned boat and a person in the water, and called 911. 

Officials from the Coast Guard, the Marin County Fire Department, the National Park Service and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office began a search that lasted late into the night and continued on Wednesday. Helicopters, jet skis and search dogs were deployed. 

After official search efforts ceased on Wednesday afternoon, friends and family persisted, despite difficult conditions. 

“It’s a body of water with very low visibility and the winds have been very strong, so the conditions were very difficult to conduct a search,” Terry Sawyer, a co-owner of Hog Island who knew Mr. Friend well, said. 

Mr. Sawyer and his wife, Laurie, were on the water, speaking with Mr. Friend’s step-children Shannon and Heidi Gregory, who were also in a boat, when they heard someone shout that a body had been sighted, Mr. Sawyer said. 

A search and rescue team from Oakland that had a personal connection with Mr. Friend removed it from the water. 

It was typical, multiple sources said, for Mr. Friend to be where he was. He had dropped off some employees at their cars, which were parked at Miller Park Boat Launch by Nick’s Cove. He was likely headed back to Tomales Bay Oyster Company, but never arrived. 

Folks at Hog Island called Mr. Friend’s employees to report the skiff, which was idling in circles, but by the time Hog Island employees, the first responders to the scene, had jumped in a boat to investigate, the boat had stopped running and Mr. Friend had vanished. 

Mr. Friend assumed co-ownership of the oyster company in 2009 and ran the business, along with the Marshall Store, with his two step-children. He’d previously worked for nine years at Hog Island after managing his father’s vineyard near Healdsburg.

“Tod was very passionate,” Sean O’Brien, who has worked for the Tomales Bay Oyster Company for nine years, said. “He helped out people tremendously, and that was his life’s work: helping people, and giving and creating happiness.”

Louis Jaffe, a longtime friend and Point Reyes Station resident, called him “a tremendously gallant, larger-than-life character who played a foundational role in many people’s lives.”