Thieves thwarted trying to tow boat

Unknown thieves have been lifting outboard motors off boats at the Port Orchard Marina for the last two weeks.

However, stealing a whole boat — they discovered — is somewhat more difficult.

No officials are saying the outboard thieves are the same ones who tried to tow away a 29-foot powerboat in broad daylight over Memorial Day weekend. Nevertheless, marina officials don’t see the events as mere coincidence.

“I don’t want to make that accusation,” said Harbormaster Steve Toms. “They might be (the same people). It’s awfully coincidental. We go long periods without any thefts at all.”

Port Orchard Police Sgt. Mark Duncan said the two men, who had been using the marina’s guest moorage, had been previously seen trolling up and down the slip lanes, checking out the boats moored there. Around 1:30 p.m. May 23, a marina maintenance worker spotted the two men using their 24-foot powerboat to haul off a second boat.

The setup looked suspicious, Duncan said. Anyone towing another boat off the marina property has to check in with the marina office first and show a license and proof of towing insurance. In addition, Duncan said, the two men weren’t doing the world’s most professional job.

“They actually hit three boats while they were pulling it out,” he said.

The maintenance worker asked the men what they were doing, and they reportedly said they were under contract from the boat’s owner to tow it to Kitsap Marina for repairs. When the maintenance worker asked to see their towing license and insurance, the men reportedly unhitched the second boat, threw the line to the worker and took off.

Duncan said he was at the dock already when he was summoned by several tenants who had watched the incident unfold.

“They yelled out the window: ‘Hey, somebody’s trying to steal a boat and they’re taking off,’ ” Duncan said.

Three months ago, no one would have been able to answer the call. As it turned out, however, this was the perfect opportunity to show off the usefulness of the police department’s new patrol boat, which is also moored at the marina.

After grabbing another marine officer, Duncan said it only took him and another officer a few minutes to catch up with the would-be boat thieves, finally stopping the suspects near the Manette Bridge in Bremerton.

“It’s the first time we’ve been asked to go chase anybody,” Duncan said.

The suspects, when questioned, again told officers they were towing the boat with permission. Although the police were suspicious, they allowed the two to leave after jotting down their identifying information.

The boat’s owner, contacted several days later, predictably disagreed with the suspects’ claims. Duncan said the owner never gave anyone permission to take his boat anywhere.

“In addition, the boat had been entered and rummaged through,” Duncan said.

The case against the two suspects is now with the prosecutor’s office. As of Thursday, no charges against the men had yet been filed.

Duncan said the choice to try and take the boat during the day was actually not as foolish as it sounds. Someone taking out a boat in the middle of the night would certainly draw the attention of numerous live-aboards who inhabit the marina.

“When you think about it, with Memorial Day weekend, that might have been the best time, Duncan said. “No one would have paid you any mind.”

As for the missing outboard motors, Duncan would only say that police were investigating the thefts.

Toms advises anyone who rents moorage space at a marina to carefully secure any valuables before leaving the vessel. He also asks tenants and those who frequent the waterfront to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and immediately report any such activity to the police.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” Toms said.

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