70-year-old Charles "Tod" Friend, the owner of the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, disappeared Tuesday afternoon while alone on his boat in Tomales Bay, within view of several other boats. As ABC 7 reports, Friend was fishing for oysters himself in high wind and waves around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday when witnesses say they turned back and saw his boat empty, "going in circles." After towing the boat to shore, a search began for Friend that was ultimately called off on Wednesday, 24 hours later. The search will resume again in a week when the Marin County Sheriff's Office hopes something will have turned up.

Employees at the oyster farm tell the Chronicle that the a short motorboat trip was something Friend had done "a million times." Sean O’Brien, an assistant manager at the Tomales Bay Oyster Co., tells the paper, "We are all in shock; can’t believe this is real."

Friend left a boat launch in Marshall on his way to a dock about three miles south when he went missing, and authorities believe he fell off his boat and was not wearing a life jacket. It's unclear, though, what would cause him to fall and not be able to swim ashore. His boat was found circling just about 400 yards from the shoreline, and Friend was considered a strong swimmer.

"He is a character, tough as nails. People are pretty broke up about this," says friend Richard James to ABC 7.

Friend took over ownership of the 108-year-old Tomales Bay Oyster Co. in 2009 after also owning the nearby Marshall Store. According to the company website, Friend had spent nine years working for Hog Island Oyster Company beginning in 1989 after moving to West Marin from Sonoma, where his family owned a vineyard.

The Tomales Bay Oyster Co. is the longest continually operating oyster farm in the state of California.