Updated 5:10 p.m.
KITTERY — The family of a Maine boater who went missing in New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Harbor before Hurricane Earl approached said today he was out on a fishing trip and was a strong swimmer.

Relatives of 63-year-old Robert Schultze of Shapleigh said in a statement that he was fishing near Whaleback Light, an old lighthouse. Schultze, who was “very familiar with these waters,” had packed a lunch, and his boat was in good condition, they said.

Earl was much weaker than anticipated when it touched the region Friday, but it kicked up dangerous riptides up and down the East Coast. Fog, wind and roiling seas hindered the search for Schultze.

The U.S. Coast Guard found Schultze’s abandoned motorboat anchored near Kitts Rock on Friday afternoon. Boat keys, wetsuits and a license were found.

The Coast Guard, joined by the Maine and New Hampshire Marine patrols and local fireboats, focused its search today on the Maine shoreline near Kittery and York, Coast Guard Cmdr. Paul Wolf said.

Besides the rescue effort, the Maine Marine Patrol and Maine State Police were investigating whether Schultze was alone, Wolf said.

The water temperature was 68 to 70 degrees. Wolf said the base survival rate is about 20 hours. However, it doesn’t take into account whether Schultze was wearing a wetsuit.

“He is a larger than average person, which means they have a longer survival time,” Wolf said. “He’s a strong swimmer.”

If the search went into tonight, the Coast Guard would then make a decision on whether to continue, he said.

 

1:08 p.m.

By EDWARD D. MURPHY

Staff Writer

The Coast Guard is continuing its search for Robert Schultze, 63, of Shapleigh, concentrating on the shoreline and small islands off Portsmouth Harbor in New Hampshire, Cmmdr. Paul Wolf said this afternoon.

The Coast Guard began searching for Schultze Friday afternoon, when his boat was found unoccupied and anchored in the middle of the main shipping channel into Portsmouth Harbor. There was dive and spearfishing gear aboard the boat, Wolf said.

The search was hampered overnight because of heavy fog, Wolf said, but conditions are better today with clearing weather. He said the search today has involved Coast Guard and other craft, along with the Coast Guard’s helicopter.

Drift models suggest that the tides and currents would have carried someone from where Schultze’s boat was found either to shore or toward the islands, he said, so the focus is on those areas.

The search will continue until at least nightfall, Wolf said, at which time officials will decide whether it continues or is suspended overnight.