Boat stolen in S.B. beached at VAFB, the first place to look for a dive instructor

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Posted by on March 24, 2005 at 05:26:12:

In Reply to: Boat stolen from Santa Barbara habor, abandoned at Air Force base posted by on March 23, 2005 at 23:27:07:

A daring heist Wednesday left one boat under water after someone pilfered another vessel from Santa Barbara and apparently ran it aground more than 40 miles away on Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Santa Barbara police said the errant captain hijacked the Conception, a 75-foot, steel-hulled vessel that had been moored inside the Santa Barbara Harbor.

While navigating through the city marina toward open water, police said, the Conception is believed to have struck three other vessels, sinking the Slick Chick, a 70-foot wooden commercial fishing vessel.

Valued at $1 million, Conception is a popular chartered dive boat owned by Truth Aquatics that often makes trips out to the Channel Islands, authorities said.

A Stearns Wharf security guard witnessed Conception's theft, noticing the large white vessel's erratic path as it made for the high seas - or least the ocean waters beyond the harbor.

"It does happen, but it's fairly rare," Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Tony Migliorini said about the frequency of stolen boats.

A "be-on-the-lookout" was broadcast over marine radio frequencies and somebody spotted Conception traveling north of Gaviota, hugging the coastline, about 10 a.m.

A Coast Guard helicopter crew later found Conception beached on a remote South Base shoreline, between the base's historic boat house and Jalama Beach.

"We're pretty sure they drove it onto the beach and left the boat," said Migliorini. "We don't know why it went aground."

Vandenberg's security forces secured the scene and searched the site to no avail, authorities said.

Meanwhile, in Santa Barbara, Slick Chick's owner arrived soon after the collision to find his vessel sinking from damage below the water line.

With pumps unable to dump water fast enough, Slick Chick slowly sank to the harbor floor, resting at a 45-degree angle in 20 feet of water with masts and rigging tangled with another vessel.

It wasn't until 7 a.m. that the Conception's owner confirmed its disappearance, police said.

Authorities don't yet have an estimate of the damage costs.

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