picture of the boat sunk durring the Conception theft

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Posted by on March 28, 2005 at 19:47:32:

A partially sunken boat sits in Santa Barbara Harbor on Sunday after a man allegedly hit it with a different, stolen boat on Wednesday. A crane attempted to remove the damaged boat from the harbor, but was unable to do so; a stronger crane will be needed.

The Santa Barbara Police Dept. arrested a transient man for allegedly stealing a boat from the Santa Barbara Harbor last week, an incident that left a wake of damage and destruction, marking the boat’s erratic path out of the harbor.

The Conception, a 75-foot steel-hulled dive boat priced at $1 million, struck three other boats on its way out of the harbor with its unauthorized pilot at the helm. The boat was reported stolen early in the morning of March 23, and a Coast Guard helicopter spotted it beached at Vandenberg Air Force Base later in the morning about a mile south of the lighthouse at Point Arguello.

According to the Associated Press, a harbor security guard apparently saw the Conception driving “erratically” through the marina at approximately 1 a.m. Before leaving the harbor, the Conception struck and partially sank the Slick Chick, a 73-foot commercial fishing boat owned by Roland Thompson. UCSB Sailing Center’s Boston whaler and another boat, the Gus G, were also struck by the Conception, but are not in danger of sinking. No one was aboard any of the ships when they were hit and there were no reported injuries, police spokesman Donald McCaffrey said in a statement.

Vandenberg spokeswoman Rebecca Danet said authorities found a trail leading to the train tracks shortly after the boat was discovered Wednesday, but believed the thief had fled the base.

Vandenberg security forces found 41-year-old Donald Patrick Kelley on March 24, a quarter of a mile from where the Conception was driven ashore, allegedly with a jar of Grey Poupon, a bottle of A.1. Steak Sauce and a box of tea from the Conception’s galley, as well as the boat’s bicycle. Kelley was booked into the county jail on suspicion of grand theft and may face up to four years in prison. He may also face additional charges in connection with the damage to the other boats.

The Conception, which will most likely be salvaged, is owned by Glen and Dana Fritzler of Truth Aquatics and is used for diving trips to the Channel Islands. Dana Fritzler said the boat had been secured in the harbor for the night.

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

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