Veteran Newport Beach sailor Andrew Szaz remained missing as of press time Thursday afternoon, the day after his boat ran aground, empty, near Main Beach in Laguna Beach.
The 24-foot Babe was discovered near the surf line in the early hours on Wednesday, authorities reported. Szaz, 74, had been reported missing by his wife late on the previous evening, said Laguna Beach police Lt. Jason Kravetz.
Szaz was last seen departing Dana Point Harbor alone about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, said sheriff’s department spokesman Jim Amormino.
In 2005, Szaz, then 68, was among what was described as the oldest crew to sail the 2,560-mile Los Angeles-to-Honolulu Transpac race when he served as watch captain on the Bubala.
More recently, records indicate Szaz raced as a member of the Dana Point Yacht Club. Szaz and his wife are listed in the club directory as members since 2010, said a current club member.
The club’s commodore, Dan Hodge, did not return phone calls, and calls to the Szaz home also went unreturned.
Under the light of a full moon in the early hours of Wednesday, a search for the missing boater by the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol and low passes along Laguna’s coastline by a helicopter awakened some residents around 4 a.m. Laguna lifeguards, police and firefighters also searched on land, police said.
The search at sea was suspended at darkness on Wednesday and resumed Thursday, said Amormino.
No evidence of foul play was discovered aboard the boat, although the mast and mainsail were damaged, said Amormino. He added that investigators do not know whether the mast broke from running aground or in an earlier mishap.
The boat’s running lights were on and its motor operable, though not activated, he said, and investigators did not find a harness, used by sailors to prevent going overboard.
The Harbor Patrol took possession of the boat and towed it to Dana Point Harbor.
Sheriff’s investigators questioned members of Dana Point’s Aventura Sailing Association, interested in obtaining surveillance footage, sailing instructor Mark Howe said.
Investigators were trying to rule out that Szaz was accompanied, Amormino said.
“It doesn’t appear to be anything suspicious,” Amormino said. “We believe he was alone.”
– By Andrea Adelson, LB Indy