- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

11:10 a.m.

ANNAPOLIS — Recovery operations resumed this morning for a Maryland publisher and former diplomat who disappeared over the weekend while sailing the Chesapeake Bay.

Search crews continued to look for Philip Merrill, 72, but rescuers said it was unlikely Mr. Merrill was still alive after so many days missing.

His abandoned sailboat was discovered Saturday more than a dozen miles south of his planned sailing route, an 18-mile round trip from the western shore of Maryland to Kent Island.

Survival time in the 62-degree water was estimated at 28 hours.

Col. Mark S. Chaney, superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said Mr. Merrill’s family was told yesterday morning the search would become a recovery effort.

Search crews have combed 400 square miles of water since Mr. Merrill’s boat was discovered.

Mr. Merrill was an experienced sailor and went out on a breezy, clear day. The publisher of Washingtonian magazine, the Annapolis Capital newspaper and five other Maryland newspapers was sailing alone.

“He had handled that boat in similar conditions with a huge grin on his face,” said John Page Williams, who took his boat into the water yesterday to help with the search.

Mr. Williams is a senior naturalist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a private group that works to restore the Bay. Mr. Merrill was a longtime benefactor of the group, whose headquarters is named for him.

Mr. Williams said four boats from the group were helping search.

Mr. Merrill’s 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.

Col. Chaney said foul play was not suspected. Mr. Merrill’s sailboat was kept by authorities for examination.

Because the search has turned into a recovery mission, the U.S. Coast Guard is no longer assisting, said Lt. Tim Balunis.

Associated Press writer Ben Nuckols in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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Rescue called off for area publisher

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