Barbara A. Foster always dreaded the possibility the ocean could one day claim her son, and Friday she got the call she feared — 47-year-old Martin Gorham had been lost in the rough winter seas off Cape Ann.

“All my life I always worried, I worried I would get that call that I hoped would never come. And yesterday it came,” Foster said from her South Portland home.

Gorham, who lived in Westbrook, but often captained the Boston-based 71-foot fishing boat Lydia & Maya, was working the deck Thursday because the boat’s owner, Christopher Odlin of Scarborough, a close friend, was on board when he fell into the sea around noon without a life jacket.

The Coast Guard called off the search for Gorham Friday but said his death is under investigation.

“He went to grab something, a door swung open, the boat rolled and he went over,” Foster said. “They did everything they could to save him.”

She credited crewmate Justin Libby with jumping into the water to try to save her son, but said the rescuer couldn’t reach him without letting go of the boat, and heavy clothes and boots probably dragged her son under.

The commander of one of four Coast Guard vessels involved in the search, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff Quinn, said heavy seas took a toll on his four-man crew from Gloucester as they crashed their 47-foot motor lifeboat through waves up to 10 feet tall.

“It’s so close to Christmas … We never like the outcome of not finding somebody because that means they’re left out there,” Quinn said.

Gorham is survived by his wife, Marcia, a daughter, 14, and two grown stepsons.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.