Search resumes for publisher Merrill

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12:30 p.m.

BALTIMORE — Search crews looking for publisher and former diplomat Philip Merrill, whose sailboat was discovered empty in the Chesapeake Bay, resumed their search this morning.

Mr. Merrill often sailed alone, as he did on Saturday, when he failed to come home.

The 72-year-old publisher typically followed an 18-mile round trip from near his home to Kent Island without wearing a life jacket, said Col. Mark S. Chaney, superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

The overall search area includes about 100 square miles, stretching from Annapolis to Plum Point in Calvert County, with the northernmost point of the area running all the way across the Bay.

Considering the conditions and the 62-degree water temperature, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Timothy G.M. Balunis Jr. estimated survival time to be about 28 hours.

“As time goes by, chances of survival are less and less,” Col. Chaney said.

Mr. Merrill is an experienced sailor and has been sailing on a breezy day, said Tom Marquardt, executive editor of the Annapolis Capital, one of seven periodicals Mr. Merrill publishes.

Mr. Merrill “has been an avid yachtsman since he first learned to sail at age 7. He has been actively cruising the Chesapeake since 1958,” his wife, Eleanor, and children said in a statement released by Mr. Marquardt. “If there was anyone who could captain a boat competently alone, it was Phil. … He just couldn’t resist a sunny day with the wind at his back.”

Mr. Merrill has had a broad career in public and private service. He is chairman of the board of Annapolis-based Capital-Gazette Communications Inc., which publishes Washingtonian magazine, the Capital and five other Maryland newspapers.

His 41-foot sailboat, the Merrilly, was found drifting in shallow water at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday near Plum Point by two persons on personal watercrafts, who boarded the vessel and found no one there, Col. Chaney said.

The boat’s sails had been up, so they started the engine to get the vessel into deeper water and called authorities.

 

When Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials arrived, they found Mr. Merrill’s wallet on board. There was no indication of damage to the boat, Col. Chaney said.

Mr. Merrill set sail around 2 p.m. from the pier at his Arnold home. Someone reported to the Coast Guard around 6 p.m. that Mr. Merrill was overdue to return, and his boat was found about an hour later.

The search includes boats from Natural Resources Police and the Coast Guard, which also was using airplanes, including a C-130 plane that flew about 1,000 feet above the water. About 25 persons were part of the search.

Mr. Merrill last contacted his wife before leaving, and nothing indicated he was out of his normal route, Col. Chaney said.

The 18-year-old vessel was taken to a DNR facility on Kent Island to be examined, Col. Chaney said.

Mr. Merrill took leave from his publishing duties in December 2002, when he was sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney as president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. He stepped down when his term expired in July.

He served as assistant secretary-general of NATO in Brussels from 1990 to 1992.

Between 1983 and 1990, he served on the Department of Defense Policy Board. From 1981 to 1983, he was counselor to the undersecretary of defense for policy.

In 1988, the secretary of defense awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest civilian honor given by the department.

Mr. Merrill has represented the United States in negotiations on the Law of the Sea Conference, the International Telecommunications Union and various disarmament and exchange agreements with the former Soviet Union.

He is a former special assistant to the deputy secretary of state and has worked in the White House on national security affairs.

The college of journalism at the University of Maryland is named for him, as is the headquarters of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation — both after multimillion-dollar donations.

Mr. Merrill graduated from Cornell University and the Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development.

His three grown children, Douglas, Cathy and Nancy, were with his wife at the family’s home yesterday, Mr. Marquardt said.

• Associated Press writers Amanda Kell in Annapolis and Brian Witte in Baltimore contributed to this report.

 

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