Boat stolen from Santa Barbara habor, abandoned at Air Force base

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Posted by on March 23, 2005 at 23:27:07:

(AP) Authorities searched Wednesday for the person who stole a 75-foot steel hulled vessel moored inside the Santa Barbara harbor and later dumped it on a remote beach at the Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The charter scuba diving boat "Conception" ran into three vessels as it was being commandeered out of the harbor, causing one to sink.

No one was on the other vessels, and there were no reported injuries, according to a statement by police spokesman Donald McCaffrey.

The $1 million boat was stolen around 1 a.m. and appeared later in the day, beneath rugged cliffs on the south side of the base.

The Conception theft was apparently witnessed by a security guard, who noticed the large white vessel being piloted "erratically" at the unusual hour, McCaffrey said.

Authorities found a trail leading to train tracks but believe the thief or thieves had fled the base, said Rebecca Danet, a spokeswoman for Vandenberg.

Boat owner Dana Fritzler said Wednesday night she had no idea who would have stolen the boat, much less left it at a military base.

She and her husband Glen own two other vessels and run a charter business, leading scuba diving and hiking trips to the Channel Islands.

She said the boats were tied up in a dock slip.

"It was locked. It would take somebody who knew a little bit about boats to start it up," she said.

Police were investigating the theft in cooperation with the Harbor Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Vandenberg Airforce Security forces.

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