Friday, April 8, 2011

Fidley Watch - April Fools

Chris Philips, Managing Editor

The great philosopher, Forrest Gump, said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” A couple of criminals proved the adage last month in Seattle. Over the weekend of March 12th and 13th, thieves broke into all of the Sea Scout vessels tied to a dock in the North Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. The target was pilothouse electronics, and some physical damage to locks and doors was observed on most of the boats.

Stolen from one of the vessels, the SSS Propeller, were three VHF radios, a GPS, a navigation computer and monitor, a Ritchie 8-inch ship’s compass, two binoculars, a sextant with storage box, a Davis Hand Held Compass and a brand new, still in the box NavCom AIS B unit.

Damaged in the theft, which was carried out with crowbars and bolt cutters, were a vhf radio, loud hailer and another GPS unit.

The Sea Scouts filed a police report, and Harbor Patrol investigated. The scouts’ insurance has a $10,000 deductible, so the losses, estimated to be $4,000 would be coming out of limited operating funds.

The following week an ad appeared on Craig’s List for an AIS unit exactly matching the description of the one stolen from the SSS Propeller. As a result of the discovery, the Sea Scouts initiated a “mini sting” operation and Seattle Harbor Police carried it out, meeting the sellers at a predetermined location. The harbor patrol was able to match the serial numbers, and took the AIS unit into custody along with the two criminal masterminds, who had arrived at the meeting in a stolen car.

With suspects in custody, it’s a pretty safe bet that most of the stolen items will eventually be recovered, but it could take time, depending on what is needed as evidence and what has already been sold.

In the meantime, the Sea Scout boats that were burgled are relying on donations and loans of equipment to continue operations.

Sea Scouting, part of the Boy Scouts of America, is a nationwide co-ed program organized to promote better citizenship and to improve members’ boating skills and knowledge through instruction and practice in water safety, boating skills and knowledge of a distinct region’s maritime heritage, as well as outdoor, social, and service experiences.

Most Sea Scouting units, called ships, have sailboats or power vessels for learning to sail and cruise, and every Sea Scout has a chance to try his hand at the tiller. All Scouts are taught safe and proper ship and boat handling, and Sea Scouts learn the meaning of buoys and lights, how to take advantage of wind and tide, and how to drop anchor or approach a dock. Sea Scouts also learn vessel maintenance and responsibility. It’s a safe bet that the felons involved in the looting of the Sea Scout ships aren’t graduates of the program.

As more high school and university graduates opt to stay ashore, qualified mariners are becoming scarce in the US. It’s in the best interest of those most in need of new employees, the US commercial maritime industry, to support programs like the Sea Scouts ( that introduce tomorrow’s workforce to the waterfront.