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Body found in Tomales Bay identified as missing boater

A body recovered from Tomales Bay over the weekend was identified Sunday as the owner of the Tomales Bay Oyster Co. who went missing earlier last week.

Marin County Sheriff's Lt. Doug Pittman said coroner's officials confirmed the body found floating in the bay Saturday was that of Charles “Tod” Friend 70, of Oakland.

Friend was last seen around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. An employee of the Marshall based Hog Island Oyster Co. saw Friend's flat-bottom skiff circling with no sign of him. He was apparently not wearing a life jacket at the time.

In a posting Saturday on the Tomales Bay Oyster Company's Facebook page, his family said “we wanted to let you know that Tod was found this afternoon and brought to shore surrounded by those who love him. We are deeply saddened by his loss but also heartened by the outpouring of love from all of our extended family and friends.”

The body was found by a group of people who continued looking for Friend using boats and kayaks after a multi-agency search was suspended Wednesday.

Friend disappeared shortly after dropping off employees at Tomales Bay's Miller boat launch just 5 miles south of Hog Island. Less than 15 minutes later, the emergency radio call came in, reporting his unmanned boat motoring in circles in the bay's waters.

Pittman said the cause of death is yet to be determined, but it appears to be accidental.

“We may never know what caused it,” he said.

Friend was a well-liked and respected member of the tight-knit oyster farming community. He spent his earlier years managing his father's 50-acre vineyard north of Healdsburg, according to the West Marin Citizen, before switching over to aquaculture as an employee of the Hog Island Oyster Co. in 1989. In 2009, he took over the Tomales Bay Oyster Co. Established 100 years earlier, it is California's oldest continuously run shellfish farm.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@clarkmas.

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