ROCKVILLE -- The Coast Guard is searching off the coast of Florida for a locally based commercial fishing boat that has not been heard from since Sunday.
At least one of the four crewmen aboard the missing longliner is a local resident, Walter F. Schwuchow III, 35, of Wadmalaw Island.
The boat, the Whitewater II, spends about half the year working out of Cherry Point. It was expected to return May 5 from a two-week trip with a load of swordfish and tuna.
The Coast Guard said the 63-foot vessel had last made contact with its shore station via satellite phone about 5 p.m. Sunday. Before Sunday evening, the crew had been contacting the boat's owner and its sister ship, Whitewater I, every 10 hours, the Coast Guard said.
The boat's last known location was about 230 miles off the coast of Mayport, Fla. A Coast
Guard C-130 long-range surveillance aircraft was searching the waters off the coast of Jacksonville on Tuesday.
The boat's operator, Steve Sozio, is from New York, Coast Guard Petty Officer Cynthia Beckert said. She did not know the hometowns of the other two crewmen, Larry Dermes and Shawn Lawson.
Schwuchow's father, Buddy Schwuchow of Wadmalaw Island, said his son has worked on the water most of his adult life. "He's been shrimping for a long time, and he's done some longlining," Schwuchow said.
"This isn't his first trip out. Steve (the boat's captain) called him last week and wanted him to go out because he was short a crew member."
Schwuchow said he and his wife were upset that their son's boat was missing. "I don't know what's going on," he said.
He did not know the boat was missing until he received a phone call telling him the story was on postandcourier.com.
The crew is reported to have survival equipment on board, including lifejackets, flares, radar, and food and water, the Coast Guard said. There was enough food on board for a two-week trip.
Oliver Burwell, manager of Cherry Point Seafood, said he thought Whitewater II's crew might be having some kind of electrical problem that disabled the radio communications.
"We have no confirmation that the crew is in danger," Burwell said. "When you have no contact in the normal time span, it's standard procedure to notify the Coast Guard."
Burwell said the seafood company notified the boat's owner, who in turn contacted the Coast Guard.
The boat is equipped with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which has not gone off yet, Burwell said.
"And all of their lifejackets have GPS devices on them," he said.
Some of the boat's anticipated cargo of swordfish and tuna is expected to be sold to local restaurants, Burwell said. "And the rest of it goes all over the country, wherever we can sell it."
The Coast Guard was expected to discontinue its aerial search at darkness and resume at first light today, said Beckert, public information officer for the Coast Guard's Seventh District.