Boats, Booze, and Burglary

Published on June 18th, 2019

If you’ve been in the sport long enough, you tend to see your share of characters. The sport attracts them. Maybe it is the freedom of sail, the opportunity to separate from society. Or maybe it is the free beer and sandwiches that come from keelboat crewing. While not exactly ‘yacht club material’, they do make the winches go round.

So when we saw the headline, “Drunk, homeless man took stolen $400K sailboat on joy ride on Lake Michigan,” forgive us if we smirked just a little. While there is nothing funny about theft and damage… we’ve just seen a lot of people that sort of fit that description.

It’s surprising that boats don’t wander more often. When Scuttlebutt HQ had a paddleboard stolen from its dockside rack, it didn’t require much skill. And don’t most keelboats have their hatch key under the cockpit lazarette? Add liquid courage and off we go.

Here’s the report from Wisconsin:

A homeless man was arrested after investigators said he went for a joy ride on a stolen sailboat in Sheboygan. Police said they’ve never seen a crime quite like this — especially since they said the man was drunk when he sailed away.

After somehow navigating through the Sheboygan Yacht Club marina Saturday, June 15, police said the man, 51, set sail on Lake Michigan in a 40-foot sailboat worth nearly $500,000 — that didn’t belong to him.

“I can’t remember the last time we had a boat stolen out of the harbor,” said Lt. Mike Williams with the Sheboygan Police Department.

Lt. Williams said the boat caught the attention of some workers at the power plant four miles down shore, where it ran aground. When investigators went to check it out, they called the Coast Guard.

Police said the owners of the boat, a local sailing education group, made it easy for this crook.

“The boat was accessible, and the keys were left in it. They were able to operate the boat,” said Lt. Williams. The 51-year-old man was arrested for OWI, burglar, theft over $10,000 and trespassing.

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