Unwanted visitors

So, this is the first post this year, and I was hoping I could have had some sort of positive tone to it, but to be honest there is nothing positive about people trying to steal your property.

I’ve been meaning to post earlier – I have even written two posts that I haven’t posted for different reasons – but now I have to write about this.

Last night, just after 10 o’clock, I heard a thump on my boat. As it was a calm night I thought it was odd, so I opened the hatch to see what it was. To my chock I saw a man on my boat, quickly jumping back to shore as I scared him away, and his associate on the dock. Both ran away from the boat as they were exposed. So I called out on the VHF net on channel 67 that I have had unwanted visitors and that we all should stay alert.

So, all good. No harm done, except me being a bit upset that people can’t leave my boat alone. I was looking at the boat for a few moments, checking what they might have interest in. I have the outboard hanging on the back, a small Honda 2.3hp that could be valuable for some. I checked it but it didn’t seem to have been the interest of the unwanted guests. So the other, and more believable target, was my electrical scooter. I admit that it is quite nice and can probably be of good use for someone that can’t afford it.

The thing is, that it is common that land based transportation, mainly bicycles, are being stolen in the marina, even off the boats. What I’ve understood is that the workers in the greenhouses all around Almerimar either buy them or are stealing them. The main reason is that the buses that are there for them to use are really expensive, so they try to find ways to limit their costs and to avoid exploitation.

Anyway… I got back down in the boat, lights still on, and thought that it was the end of it. At least for the night. 10-15 minutes passed.


What the h…! I once again opened up the hatch and, surely, they were back! This time they had been a bit more quiet, as the guy getting on the boat actually got to the scooter. But he probably hit something with it moving around and that’s what I’ve heard.

He was almost at the transom, holding the scooter in his arms. This associate of his was standing on the dock, probably getting ready to receive it. The thing is that there is about a meter of water between the boat and the dock, so skipping onto the boat may be fairly easy if you have a friend that can help you, but getting back to the dock isn’t. Especially not when you carry a scooter. That weighs about 30 kilos. Add to it that there was a low tide, making the dock higher than the transom, and you have a recipe for disaster.

But desperate times creates desperate measures, so he took the plunge.

Needless to say, he didn’t make it. He did get to the dock with his feet but he didn’t catch his balance, so for split second he was hanging on, with the scooter between him and the dock, and then he fell into the water and with him the scooter.

I was trying to think what to do. The guy on the dock had already backed away a few meters, the guy in the water was trying to find a way to get out. I turned around, grabbed my handheld VHF from the companionway and called out for help, a few boats away I could hear a well-known Scottish voice calling out for me asking what was going on.

I watched the thieves run away the same way they did last time, only this time leaving a trail of water behind. So I decided to try to run after them, just to see where they went. But after a hundred meters or so the wet trail got too weak I couldn’t follow any more. So I went back to the boat.

The marina is rather deep where I have my boat, more than 4 meters, so I thought that the scooter would forever stay in the water. Maybe we could try to drag for it later, but to what end? It is in salty water with a charged battery. There is nothing salvageable really. I talk to my boat neighbors about what had happened and how to get the scooter out of the water.

But as I look down into the dark waters I realize that the mud line, a line tied to the dock that is used to pick up the outer mooring lines, is under tension. That is not normal. So I quickly get down and slowly pulls on it. Yes, I can feel a weight on it! It has to be the scooter. I keep pulling, and indeed, it is! So I get it just below the surface, but then it gets stuck. I can’t see why but with the help of a neighbor and a dinghy anchor we manage to manipulate it free and we get it out of the water.

I hose it down with the deck shower to clean out any saltwater, but it was more of a mental thing than practical as it already was in the motor and, more importantly, in the battery pack. I opened up the battery compartment and disconnected the battery, removed it from its little carrying bag and as I did I could see water bubbling out of it. So I quickly got it to shore as the bubbling turned into steam, to avoid having a lithium battery fire on the boat as well. That would have been a really poor ending of the night…

So, the scooter is toast. It’s gone. It has thrown in the towel. Kicked the bucket. Dead.

I ended the night with sending an insurance claim to my insurance company and ordering a new scooter. Same brand, same model. I liked it. Even if they lied in the description on Amazon – it isn’t a 1100W motor, it is a 800W, and it will never run 40km on a charge – except possibly in the most exceptional settings. But it took me around town, swiftly. It was really useful when picking up parcels from the marina office a kilometer away. And I think it was kind of cool looking.

So, lessons learned. First of all, don’t expect your boat to be off limits for thieves. Hide away, lock down, tie down. Make sure it is obviously hard to steal from you. I should have locked the scooter down, but I wouldn’t in my wildest imagination expect them to come back – absolutely not within an hour! So, second lesson is that they are persistent. Don’t believe that they are gone just because you scared them away. They only regroup and make up a new plan, their target is set. The third lesson is that they even get on boats that is lit, at least in the cabin. I’m not sure about lights in the cockpit, but it definitely adds attention to my lack of lights there. Maybe I will get some sort of movement detector that will turn it on, we’ll see.

Am I upset? Well, of course. People trying to steal your personal belongings tends to upset. Do I blame them? Not really, as I wrote earlier desperate times makes desperate measures. I don’t take it personal, I understand that for them it is either a nice way to transport themselves, or to make some money. I don’t believe that they are thieves by will, but by desperation. To be honest, they weren’t good at it, as they got caught. Twice.

One thing that has dawned on me while writing this is that they never made a sound. Not when he got caught on the boat in the first place, nor when he was about to fall into the water with the scooter. They were operating in total silence.

The scooter is dead! Long live the scooter!

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