Candles remained lit by windows in homes from Gloucester to Deer Isle, Maine, Tuesday, a gesture of hope from family, friends, and even strangers that two missing fishermen would be found safe.
But hope turned to sorrow by Tuesday evening, as items from their boat, missing since Saturday, washed up in waters of the Saugus River and on Nantasket Beach in Hull.
Fishing equipment belonging to the Foxy Lady II washed up in Nantasket Beach, while a survival capsule belonging to the vessel washed up in the Saugus River, said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Stanton. The empty capsule, which can hold up to four people, was found by members of the Saugus police and fire departments, he said.
The men, both from Deer Isle, set off from Gloucester on a daytime scalloping trip Saturday aboard a 45-foot boat.
The girlfriend of the 26-year-old boat captain, Wally “Chubby” Gray, reported the men missing Monday morning, setting off a Coast Guard search that covered more than 360 square miles from Gloucester to Provincetown, the last-known location of the boat, Stanton said.
Three Coast Guard cutters led the search Tuesday, but inclement weather grounded a helicopter that was ready to assist, Stanton said. Coast Guard officials hope the weather will improve enough Wednesday to allow it to widen the search by air. “Our emphasis will now be closer to shore,” said Coast Guard Commander Sean Carroll in Boston.
Gray set off Saturday with crew member Wayne Young aboard Foxy Lady II, a boat he saved to buy and named after his father’s boat, Foxy Lady I, said Gray’s cousin Jolena Rogers. They were supposed to return to Gloucester, where the boat is based, the same day.
“No one is thinking the worst right now, as hard as it is,” Rogers, of Gloucester, said Tuesday afternoon.
Young is a friend of the family and is married with three children, Rogers said. When reached by telephone, Young’s wife, Shirleen, said only, “We’re praying.”
Gray is the father of 3-year-old Wallace Gray III, whom he affectionately calls “mini me,” Rogers said.
Gray acquired his love of fishing from his father, Wallace, a lifelong fisherman who is well known in Deer Isle, said Steve Johnson, harbormaster in neighboring Stonington, Maine.
“The community is not taking this well at all,” Johnson said, adding that he spoke with Gray’s parents, Wallace and Carol, by phone Monday.
“They were pretty calm. I was feeling sorry for them, they were kind of — I would say you can’t describe it from their voice. You think about your kid being lost at sea at this point.”
The Coast Guard did not receive a distress call from Foxy Lady II, a well-equipped vessel with up-to-date emergency provisions, including a radio beacon that can be activated manually or the moment it touches water, Stanton said.
“The boat was up to spec,” Stanton said. “There was no distress call, but we act as if they need our help.”
Gray was texting his girlfriend Saturday until about noon, said Stanton.
“They were in communication and then, when they didn’t show up at night, she didn’t report anything Sunday and decided to report it Monday morning,” Stanton said. “So by the time we started the search, they were at least 24 hours behind schedule.”
The lack of a signal from the boat is telling, said Angela Sanfilippo, president of The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, a nonprofit group assisting fishermen and their families. A signal would have alerted the Coast Guard of the boat’s latest location.
“That’s what makes this more difficult, because no one knows what happened,” said Sanfilippo. “If they lost power and were within the vicinity — people have cellular phones today, and there was no phone call made.”
Sanfilippo said she got in touch with Gray’s father, describing his mood as “very sad, painful, hurting.”
Last month, around the same area off Provincetown where Foxy Lady II transmitted its last known ping, a 40-foot scalloping boat, Twin Lights, capsized, taking the life of its captain, Jean Frottier.
Sanfilippo said it’s easy for smaller scallop boats to get caught on something underwater and flip. “But the [beacon] should go off no matter what,” she said, “and that’s the big mystery.”
Gray’s family, well versed in the realities of life at sea, relied on hope and prayers, said Rogers, his cousin. A Facebook page asking people to light a candle through the end of the month for Gray and Young had gained 610 members by Tuesday afternoon.
Rogers said Gray made light of almost every situation. He enjoyed spending time in Gloucester and participated in the greasy pole contest at the city’s annual St. Peter’s Fiesta.
She said friends and family were hanging on to hope that the boat lost power and that the men are safe, waiting to be found. It is the way Gray looked at life. “He tries to make everything negative into a positive,” she said.
The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association has established a fund for the families of the men of Foxy Lady II. Checks can be made out to F/V Foxy Lady II Fund, c/o Bank Gloucester, 160 Main St., Gloucester, MA 01930.
Katheleen Conti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.