Tod Friend, an owner of Tomales Bay Oyster Company, disappeared on Tuesday afternoon, sparking a search and rescue effort that continued through Wednesday.
An employee of Hog Island Oyster Company spotted his unmanned motorboat driving in circles near Cypress Grove Preserve at around 3:15 p.m. A 911 call indicated that someone was also seen in the water.
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 with sonar equipment. Helicopters from the California Highway Patrol and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office were deployed, along with jet skis and search dogs.
The fire department reported challenging conditions on the bay on Tuesday: water temperature was 54 degrees, there was an outgoing tide and winds were blowing steadily at 30 m.p.h. from the northwest.
Mr. Friend had not donned a life jacket and was likely wearing the waders that he always wore while working, allowing him to harvest in the intertidal zone. He’d been out on the water earlier with a few workers, and had subsequently gone out alone, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office Press Log.
Mr. Friend, 70, assumed co-ownership of the oyster company in 2009 and ran the business, along with The Marshall Store, with his step-daughter Heidi Gregory and step-son Shannon Gregory. He’d previously worked for nine years at Hog Island.
On Wednesday, the Hog Island office was closed while employees aided in the search, and the Marshall Store was closed until further notice.