Police have boarded missing Marlborough launch Erie off the Taranaki coast but found nobody on board.
William Kerry Blair had not been heard from since he left Erie Bay, in Tory Channel in the Marlborough Sounds, in the 9-metre boat about 4pm on March 8.
The boat was first spotted by crew on an Air Force Orion early on Friday evening, 166 kilometres west-northwest of New Plymouth, and said it appeared to be in good condition.
Police said the HMNZS Wellington reached the boat, more than 200km off the coast, last night.
Despite 10m swells, police managed to board the boat but Blair was not on board and there was no indication of what had happened to him.
The Erie was now being towed to New Plymouth but, due to heavy seas, it was unlikely to reach New Plymouth today.
It will be examined for clues to what happened to the 55-year-old Blair who was considered a capable seaman.
His brother, Peter Blair, of Tauranga, said police had told the family there appeared to be nothing untoward or unusual on the boat when they boarded it.
Police also said the official search for Blair would be called off.
This was not what the family wanted, Peter Blair said.
"Kerry is now just another missing person file."
The family was taking the news hard.
Owner orders dog to attack neighbour (graphic content)