Publisher Missing After Boat Trip in Chesapeake Bay
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BALTIMORE – Rescue crews searched the Chesapeake Bay yesterday for a prominent publisher and former diplomat whose sailboat was found sitting on the water with its engine running.
Philip Merrill, 72, an experienced sailor, had been sailing alone in breezy weather Saturday, 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 issued 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.”
The wind blew at 15 to 20 mph Saturday near Annapolis, with gusts up to 30 mph, said David Manning, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.
State and federal agencies joined the search. The Coast Guard sent both aircraft and boats, and was operating under the assumption that Merrill fell overboard, said Senior Chief Steve Carleton.
“When we found the boat, the engine was running and his wallet was found on board the vessel,” he said.
Two boaters found Mr. Merrill’s 41-foot sailboat near Breezy Point, about 25 miles south of Annapolis, officials said.
Mr. Merrill is chairman of the board of Annapolis-based Capital-Gazette Communications Incorporated, which publishes Washingtonian magazine, the Capital, and five other Maryland newspapers.
Mr. Merrill took leave from publishing in December 2002 to be president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. His term expired in July 2005.
He served as assistant secretary-general of NATO in Brussels from 1990 to 1992 and from 1983 to 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 America 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 was named for him, as was the headquarters of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation – both after multimillion-dollar donations.