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Family, Friends Hope For Happy Ending To Search For Missing Sailor

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WILMINGTON, N.C. — A floating boat with no one on board. A missing man.

It sounds like a novel. Instead, it's a mystery -- the real-life mystery of Bud Holmberg's disappearance -- that has people asking questions from the North Carolina coast to Moore County.

Among Creekside Yacht Club members, Holmberg stood out, with his personality and boating experience.

"I mean, you know he's just a heck of a nice guy," club manager Tommy Vann said. "Very thorough. Very conscientious."

Vann said Holmberg took his yacht out for a cruise Saturday at 1 p.m. He said clear skies and calm water may have beckoned Holmberg beyond the waterway into the ocean.

An hour and a half later, two fishermen saw his boat 18 miles out. According to the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, the men tried to make contact with the boat and noticed that no one was on board.

A two-day land and air search didn't turn up any clues. Two of Holmberg's sons are using the boat to continue their own search.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Holmberg family," said Jay St. John, headmaster of the O'Neal School in Southern Pines. "This has been terrible, terrible news for all of us. We're just very, very hopeful that this will have a happy ending."

The O'Neal School is one of the benefactors of Holmberg's philanthropy. He's a past chairman of the Board of Trustees and ever-present motivator.

Holmberg's disappearance is a mystery. But even for experienced boaters, it's not hard to imagine the number of things that could have gone wrong.

"A lot of things could have gone wrong," Vann said. "A lot of things. You know, he could have been back listening to his engines. A little wave hit him wrong, and he tilted over. Anything."

If Holmberg fell into the cold water, his boat cruised on without him at 10 miles per hour. Family and friends hold out hope a more positive scenario will lead to his appearance.

Investigators with the sheriff's office say there was no sign of foul play on Holmberg's yacht. All life jackets were still on board.

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