Oyster Stolen From Sausalito Marina

Two men and a woman packed pizza and beer aboard a luxury sailboat in a Sausalito, CA marina, stole it in the middle of the night and made it as far as Pacifica before the vessel ran aground 20 yards off a beach Monday, authorities said.

The three then spent hours being tossed about in the waves in the 82-foot Darling as authorities, alerted to the theft by a man who recognized his boat on the TV news, waited with guns drawn on Linda Mar Beach.

The three suspects - Leslie Gardner, 63, Dario Mira, 54, and Lisa Modawell, 56 – were pulled off the boat onto personal watercraft by San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies at about noon and handed over to Pacifica police, who booked them on suspicion of grand theft and conspiracy.

When authorities boarded the Darling, they found cases of pale ale and a pizza box, said Jeff Wadkins, a state parks lifeguard and park ranger who was one of those to scour the vessel. “There looks like there was quite a bit of alcohol drinking onboard,” he said.

The contents of the boat were in disarray, apparently because of the rough surf, Wadkins said, and the three suspects showed signs of seasickness.

One of the men limped as authorities led him away, apparently because he uses a prosthetic leg, Wadkins said.

The 2004 boat has three cabins, each with its own bathroom, and a satellite TV with Dolby surround sound, according to an online description of the boat. The vessel is also stocked with an inflatable outboard boat that comes with water skis. Comparable sailboats sell for $2.8 million.

Keeping it together

Once the suspects were taken ashore, the focus turned to trying to free the luxury boat before it broke apart, said Eric Laughlin, spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Right now, the boat seems to be staying together, which is good news,” Laughlin said.

Tim Parker of Parker Diving Services said the boat’s 10-foot keel was dug several feet into the sand. Salvage crews may wait until a 6-foot-high tide at 5 a.m. Tuesday to dislodge the boat.

“As nice as the boat is – and it’s real nice – it was not designed to be pulled,” Parker said. “It’s not a tugboat.”

No help needed

Rescue crews arrived at the beach around dawn, shortly after the first hints of daylight revealed the Darling, stuck in the shallows. Although the three people onboard initially said they didn’t need any help, a Coast Guard swimmer was lowered from a helicopter and delivered a radio to the vessel, said Petty Officer Tom McKenzie, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The vessel’s owner was watching news coverage of the incident, took a hard look at the boat bobbing in the waves and realized it was his, said Sausalito police Sgt. Bill Fraass.

“He had the TV on when he realized that his boat had been taken and called us,” Fraass said.

Once they learned they were dealing with more than just an unlucky set of sailors, Pacifica police officers joined the Coast Guard and local Fire Department on the beach. Officers stood onshore with their guns drawn a little before 11 a.m. and used a megaphone to order those onboard to give themselves up.

The owner, John Fruth, was in a parking lot on the Pacifica beach when the suspects were taken off his boat. He declined to comment.

Nicest boat in harbor

The boat, built by English builders Oyster Marine, has sailed around the world, according to an online description. Police believe the boat was stolen from the Sausalito Yacht Harbor around 1 a.m. Monday.

“They chose to steal the nicest sailboat, likely, in the entire marina,” said Travis Lund, a base manager with Sunsail, a yacht charter company that has eight boats docked in the harbor. “There aren’t that many of these things of that size in the world.”

It would have taken some skill to navigate the boat out of the cramped marina, Lund said.

“That’s like saying you can drive your car, but now you’re going to hop into a tractor trailer, back it out of its space and drive it cross-country,” Lund said. “It would take more expertise to get it out. How they ran it aground in Pacifica, I don’t know.”

Lund said the harbor has no security, but that thefts are rare.

Courtesy of www.sfgate.com

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