Rescue efforts called off for missing kayaker

December 07, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Rescue teams abandoned the search yesterday for a daring kayaker from Annapolis who tried to paddle across the Chesapeake Bay despite driving, gale-force winds and six-foot waves.

The 43-year-old man, wearing only jeans and a windbreaker, braved Saturday's gusts of 48 mph and a teeth-chattering wind chill in an attempt to navigate 25 nautical miles from Annapolis to St. Michaels, authorities said.

He was missing and presumed dead yesterday after his empty, 12-foot kayak was found drifting two miles south of the Bay Bridge, on the Kent Island shoreline.

"Survival in these conditions is extremely unlikely," said Carol Anders, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "At this point, we would presume that the missing party has drowned."

Maryland Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard combed more than 250 square miles of the bay with helicopters and rescue boats for the missing man, whom they would not identify until his next of kin in France had been notified.

The nightlong search of the rough, chilly waters was called off yesterday morning when rescuers learned that the empty kayak had turned up near Kent Moor Beach.

A windsurfer discovered the capsized canoe about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, the time when the kayaker was supposed to arrive at St. Michaels. Natural Resources police were notified at 8:30 a.m. yesterday and identified the kayak.

Four friends and relatives who were waiting for the man Saturday afternoon at the Crab Claw Restaurant in St. Michaels grew increasingly nervous as each hour passed. At 5 p.m., they called the Coast Guard and reported that he was missing.

"He was supposed to be here at 2 o'clock, and they were getting pretty worried," said Justin Gordy, a bartender at the waterfront restaurant.

The man set off at 9 a.m. from the private Bembe Beach, on the lower Severn River in Annapolis. An experienced kayaker, he apparently had made the same journey across the Chesapeake before, Ms. Anders said.

Rescuers hoped to find the man clinging to rocks or a pier, his best shot at surviving in the 47-degree water, said Lt. Andy Blomme, a spokesman for the Coast Guard in Portsmouth, Va., which oversees regional rescue efforts.

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