Search halted for fisherman from Ocean City

June 19, 1994|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Ed Heard contributed to this article.

The Coast Guard reported yesterday that it has stopped searching for an Ocean City man missing since being yanked into deep Atlantic Ocean waters by a blue marlin 60 miles off Morehead City, N. C., on Thursday.

Meanwhile, relatives and friends in Howard County, where Chris Bowie, 29, grew up, and in Ocean City, where he lived and worked, were planning memorial services.

Petty Officer Fred Kephart of the Coast Guard station at Fort Macon, N. C., said yesterday that the last search for Mr. Bowie ended at 7:23 p.m. Friday. The two-day quest to find Mr. Bowie included five helicopter sweeps and two searches by divers from cutters, he said.

"There was a possibility of finding him alive," Petty Officer Kephart said. "But we extended all resources and turned up nothing."

Mr. Bowie was not wearing a life jacket while trying to get a large blue marlin aboard during the 36th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin pTC Fishing Tournament and had wrapped part of the line around one of his hands when the fish pulled him overboard. He was presumed drowned.

"You're dealing with a very powerful salt-water game fish," said Petty Officer Kephart, who noted that a mature blue marlin -- which could be 15 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds -- is capable of towing a 30-foot boat.

Anglers say big fish will head for the bottom when they are trying to escape, taking the line with them. Mr. Bowie apparently could not free himself from the line.

In Ocean City, where Mr. Bowie had worked in sport-fishing jobs since his teens, he was fondly remembered yesterday.

"He's one of the finest fishermen I know," said Ken Forti, the owner of the Robin's Nest, a fishing boat docked in Ocean City. "He knew what he was doing on the back of the boat. He'd been a mate and a captain since he was 15 years old. He knows how to fish -- this has to be a freak thing," he said.

"He taught me an awful lot about fishing," said John Knight, a fisherman and former football player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mr. Knight owns the Green Machine, a sport-fishing boat in Ocean City, and was Mr. Bowie's friend for more than a decade. "He was one of the most experienced and capable mates in the business -- it had to be a freak thing," he said.

"This was a very freak occurrence," said Diana Walker, who is the cousin of Mr. Bowie's wife, Laurie. "We're all completely knocked over by the news."

Mr. Bowie's wife is expecting the couple's first child in August, Ms. Walker said, and that has made her husband's death particularly difficult for the family.

"She's holding up very well," Ms. Walker said. "We have a lot of family support -- we have a large family."

Mr. Bowie was employed full time as captain of a deep-sea fishing boat called The Midnight Hour in Ocean City and had gone to the North Carolina tournament as an extra job because friends were competing.

"He was really a good person," Mr. Forti said. In a business where fishing boat mates can sometimes be more rowdy than reliable, Mr. Bowie stood out because of his dedication.

"Fishing was his life," Mr. Forti said. "You get up at 4 a.m., get your coffee and doughnut, get the boat ready to go and leave at six. Fish all day, get back at 6 [p.m.], clean up, fix up on the boat what you broke that day, make up your baits for the next day, get dinner, shower and go to bed. That's why Chris was so good -- he didn't go to bars like a lot of the guys."

He was skilled as a captain and a mate, and was able to work

year-round at it, friends and relative family said, fishing in Mexico and Florida during the winter, then coming home to Ocean City in the summer.

Mr. Bowie grew up in Woodbine in Howard County, graduated from Glenelg High School and attended the University of Maryland College Park.

Two memorial services will be held for Mr. Bowie. One will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 16457 Old Frederick Road, Poplar Springs. The other will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul's By the Sea, Third Street and Baltimore Avenue, in Ocean City.

Two memorial funds have been set up for Mrs. Bowie and her unborn child, one in Ocean City and one organized by the North Carolina fishing tournament in which her husband was competing when he went overboard.

The Chris Bowie Memorial Fund's Ocean City address is: Calvin B. Taylor Bank, P.O. Box 520, Ocean City, Md. 21842. The North Carolina fund can be written to in care of The Big Rock Tournament Committee, First Citizens Bank, P.O. Box 959, Morehead City, N.C. 28557.

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