THE search for missing Warrnambool fisherman Adrian Rodgers has been scaled back after two days of scouring the ocean.
It will resume this morning with shore patrols by local police and State Emergency Service units.
Family members and friends still hold out hope he will be found alive. The 65-year-old was reported missing by his family on Wednesday night after failing to return to his Port Fairy berth from a fishing trip off Lady Julia Percy Island.
His 10.7-metre (35-foot) vessel The Mary S was located late Thursday afternoon drifting about 16 nautical miles (30 kilometres) south of the island.
It was towed by the Portland Coast Guard vessel escorted by Water Police back to Port Fairy wharf, arriving there about 5am yesterday where it remained under police guard.
The Coast Guard vessel then hit the seas again yesterday morning with a fresh crew to join Warrnambool’s Coast Guard unit, Port Fairy’s marine rescue boat, two Water Police vessels and aircraft in searching hundreds of kilometres of ocean south of Warrnambool.
On Wednesday the vessels and up to 14 aircraft covered a broad stretch from Port Campbell to Point Danger.
Warrnambool Coast Guard flotilla commander Adrian Calderwood said yesterday’s efforts involved grid patterns designated by police starting about 15 nautical miles south of Warrnambool.
“It was a large area covering hundreds of kilometres,” he said.
“A lot of man-hours were involved and there was a great turnout by Coast Guard volunteers.”
Portland’s flotilla commander Michael Krause, who was on duty for almost 24 hours straight after Thursday’s 4.20am call-out, said there was a tight camaraderie among seafarers.
“The ocean can be a terrible place to be when you are in a distress situation,” he said.
“We were probably only five nautical miles from where the missing vessel was located and we couldn’t see it because of the troughs.
“Our crew had been involved in the search for 12 hours and was just about to tie up in Portland when they had to turn around when the missing vessel was located.
“It was a very slow trip towing it back to Port Fairy where we refuelled and organised for a fresh crew to drive over from Portland at 6am.
“Twelve volunteers turned out Thursday and a similar number yesterday.
“This has been our third major search and rescue mission in six weeks.”
Sea conditions were described as relatively calm on Wednesday with swell increasing late Thursday and yesterday.
Mr Rodgers was a well-known experienced fisherman familiar with south-west ocean conditions and friends said his vessel was well equipped.