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Mystery surrounds missing sailor

JAN. 31 Coast Guard authorities in northern California were searching early this week for a computer scientist who went missing while sailing off San Francisco.

Jim Gray, 63, a researcher and manager at Microsoft, set off Sunday morning alone and in good weather aboard his 40-foot sailboat, Tenacious, according to news reports. He was headed for the FarallonIslands, about 27 miles west of the Golden GateBridge, but did not return. He was expected back later that day.

Gray’s wife called the Coast Guard when the sailor did not come home and failed to answer his cell phone, the agency says. The Coast Guard launched a C-130 airplane, a helicopter and three coastal patrol and life boats to search for Gray. Through the night and over the next couple of days, searchers covered a 4,000-square-mile area up to 78 miles west of the FarallonIslands. No trace of Gray or Tenacious was found.

“It’s spooky,” one San Francisco-area sailor says in a news report. “In that kind of weather, there’s almost no way you can get into trouble … The most likely thing in my experience, though I’m not saying this is what happened, is that he literally made a mistake and went over the side. The boat could have been set to sail on its own, and it could be way the heck offshore now.”

Gray has been sailing for more than a decade, the Coast Guard says. Tenacious is said to be equipped with communication, safety and emergency gear.

Jason Fell