Crooks target moored sailboats in St. Augustine waterway, police say

Police: Thieves appear to be taking winches from boats anchored in Salt Run

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - There's a crime alert in St. Augustine, where police are searching for crooks who have been burglarizing boats.

In this case, the vessels being targeted are sailboats that are moored, meaning they're only accessible by boat.

According to the St. Augustine Police Department, the thieves appear to be taking winches, which are used to hoist and trim sails of sailboats. News4Jax was told there's a black market for them.

Last week, investigators said, thieves got away with thousands of dollars' worth of winches from sailboats anchored inside the Salt Run mooring field near the Lighthouse Park Boat Ramp in St. Augustine. 

Matt McCloghry, one of the victims, said he left his boat anchored for a week and then came back to find it had been burglarized.

“I could see that someone had stolen a few things," McCloghry told News4Jax on Friday. "I began to look around and noticed that both winches, the aft winches at the back of the boat on either side, were gone.”

The winches on his boat cost $1,500 each. Without them, the sailboat is still operational, but with limitations.

“You essentially cannot sail," McCloghry said. "You can motor but you cannot sail if you don’t have the cylinders on the boat, these winches.”

This crime is different than burglarizing a boat that’s docked or sitting in a storage facility because the thieves need to use some sort of boat or kayak to get to the vessels from which they are stealing winches. Once they get on board, the thieves appear to know how to remove the equipment.

“They probably spent many hours trying to get them off because they’re very hard to get off," McCloghry said. "You have to go underneath and unbolt them. It’s very specific and would have taken some time.”

Other items, including radios and GPS equipment, were also taken. 

Since most boaters don’t use their anchored sailboats every day, there’s a good chance other sailboat owners might not realize they’re also victims until they try to take their boats out. 

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