KITTERY (AP) – A helicopter, airplane, patrol boats and fishermen ended their search Friday for a man who was missing after the 12-foot skiff he and another man were sailing in sank about one mile off the coast.

After searching more than 400 square miles, Coast Guard officials notified the family of Dennis Hamel, 41, of Kittery, that they were ending the search.

“The decision to end a search is never an easy one,” said Capt. Patrick Trapp, Coast Guard commander in Portland.

“We have saturated the area for over 20 hours and we feel that if Mr. Hamel was on the surface, we would have found him.”

James Baxter, the other man on the boat, managed to put on a lifejacket and swim to shore, where he was found clinging to rocks Thursday night.

There were three lifejackets in the boat, but the men weren’t wearing them when the skiff was swamped by a wave.

It was unclear whether Hamel was able to put on his lifejacket after going into the water, said Lt. j.g. Jeff Craig, a Coast Guard spokesman in Portland.

The water was 49 degrees. Normal survival time in the water is six to seven hours.

The search included a helicopter from Brunswick Naval Air Station and an airplane from the Maine Marine Patrol.

The two men and a dog were in the boat pulling lobster traps. According to officials, the men were recreational fishermen who had a license to haul up to five lobster traps.

The dog may have saved Baxter’s life, officials said. The border collie mix made it to shore and barked until a homeowner came out to investigate, saw Baxter in four feet of water, and pulled him to shore, Craig said.

“The dog actually was on the beach barking and got the attention of a person who lives on the beach,” Craig said.

Baxter thought Hamel was swimming behind him toward shore but he could not see his fishing partner, Craig said.

The accident was blamed on a couple of rogue waves during choppy and windy conditions at 6:45 p.m. Thursday.

“They took one good wave on their stern which incidentally cut out their outboard engine. As they were trying to bail the boat out another wave hit and overturned the vessel,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Carl Hammond, based in Newcastle, N.H.

AP-ES-04-30-04 1802EDT



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