Boater is presumed missing in gulf waters

It may be the owner of an abandoned boat, but he's not been reported missing.

Published May 19, 2007

A search was under way Friday in the Gulf of Mexico after authorities found an abandoned boat in the water near the Pasco County coastline.

The 17-foot white flats boat was registered to Michael Curl, a 50-year-old resident of Hernando Beach, according to Coast Guard spokeswoman Tasha Tully.

Authorities said two boaters found Curl's vessel at 11:05 a.m. Friday about 1 nautical mile west of the Pithlachascotee River. At the time, no missing person report had been filed.

The Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were searching by air and water along the coast from New Port Richey to the Hudson Beach area.

"The search will continue through the evening and into the night," said conservation commission spokesman Gary Morse.

Curl left the docks at Hernando Beach Wednesday morning to go fishing, Curl's family and neighbors said Friday evening.

Debra Curl, his former wife who still lives with him, said Curl had Wednesday off work as a truck driver for Today's Fresh Catch Inc. and decided to go fishing.

"He always goes out in the morning, but comes back by dark," she said.

Debra Curl said she had been out of town until Friday morning.

"I should have known something was wrong when I got home," she said. "Sally their dog ran out of the door in a hurry."

Morse said the keys were in the boat's ignition, but the engine was not running because the battery had died. Authorities found a cell phone and bait in the boat.

They were searching under the premise that the boat's operator possibly fell overboard.

Staff writer Sherri Day contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.