Clark February 5th, 2011
I have remained silent about these troubling events because there were legal issues pending, but it looks like nothing is going to happen legally, so here goes:
A few months ago I was in the middle of repainting Condesa’s decks and superstructure, re-varnishing everything, and getting myself in over my head.
I finished work one night, locked things up, then came back the next day to see that I’d had visitors. There were beer cans, full and empty, all over the place, the stereo was on, and my personal belongings were scattered on deck. Condesa had been robbed and vandalized.
I tend to think in worst case scenarios – it’s a gift – and I’ve often imagined a creative vandal, instead of the idiots they all are, who might do something like pour roofing tar on your car, or hide a dead skunk in your house. The worst of the damage to Condesa was that they kicked over a container of leftover, catalyzed, two-part epoxy primer that I’d left in the cockpit. They tracked this paint all over – inside, outside, on the benches, on the hatches, on the companionway stairs, on the carpets. Everything I’d just re-varnished and repainted now had sneaker prints in dried white epoxy, and of course the carpet and rugs were ruined. This kind of paint, AKA epoxy barrier coat, is one of the hardest, most durable coatings ever invented. You have to sand it off; it can’t be removed with solvents or paint remover.
I went straight to the marina office to ask whether to report it to the local police or the harbor patrol and good news, the guys were caught the night before! Pier 39 security arrested them, photographed them, took all their information, and found two bottles of wine that they’d stolen from Condesa stashed under their sweatshirts. They were spotted jumping the fence to get off the E dock. You don’t need a key to get off E dock; you just turn the knob and open the door. Did I mention these guys were total morons?
Pier 39 Security turned them over to SFPD, who promptly let them go with a warning.
Since I know Condesa like my own body – I could seriously do about anything on that boat, except navigate, blindfolded – I could follow their every moronic move: I could see where they’d stepped up the companionway stairs with their paint-covered sneakers, then slipped and pushed the throttle into full reverse. I could follow their footprints into my head, where they’d used the toilet and didn’t bother to flush! (I guess I should be glad they used the toilet instead of the floor.) I could follow their paint footprints up through my new varnish, where one of them hung on the boom while discharging my fire extinguisher at his cohort on the dock. And on the dock were two clean footprints, surrounded by fire extinguisher powder. And I’ll bet with snorkeling gear and ten minutes I’d find my fire extinguisher on the bottom of the bay nearby.
To cut to the chase, the DA decided not to prosecute due to lack of evidence. To prosecute they’d need something more like the two suspects being spotted leaving a crime scene, caught with stolen property on their person, arrested and photographed etc…that kind of thing. Wait a minute!
It’s that reasonable doubt thing: The perpetrators admitted to trespassing on the dock, but wouldn’t admit to breaking into my boat. They said they found the bottles of wine nearby. So there is the possibility that someone else robbed my boat, then left the bottles of wine somewhere. These guys, who coincidentally had jumped a fence and trespassed on the same dock where a burglary had just taken place, just happened to find two bottles of stolen wine, just lying around. I don’t think a jury would buy it, but the DA thinks this introduces reasonable doubt.
I saw the best and worst of the SFPD. The CSI guy told me that they weren’t interested in fingerprints, that they were more interested in DNA evidence, which they could get from the saliva left on the beer bottles. I asked, “Really, you’d do DNA analysis for a case like this?” He said, “We do DNA analysis on all cases. We’ve got grant money that covers it.” This was a blatant lie. DNA analysis cost $10,000 per sample, and they only do it for rape and murder cases. If he’d actually done his job, some fingerprint evidence might have made the difference between letting it go and getting a conviction. I think my friend just wanted to get home quickly…with the rest of my beer.
The thieves took half my beer; the cops took the rest.
On the brighter side, the inspector who took over my case, whose name I’ll leave out because he probably doesn’t want it published, was very attentive to the cause and followed the whole thing through. He sounded as disappointed as I was that the DA wouldn’t take the case, and said he’d invested many hours in it. He took a personal interest because he’s a graduate of San Jose State, where our perpetrators are students. He’s a very nice guy and made me feel like someone cared.
The fact is it’s only time (lots of time) and money, nobody was hurt, and my emotional recovery was over long ago. People are getting whacked in the Tenderloin every week, and that’s a little more serious than a messed up varnish job.
But I have the perpetrators’ names, addresses, and photographs, with those stupid drunk guilty looks on their faces, and vengeance will be mine someday when they least expect it. I was thinking the next time these guys are my guests on Condesa, we might go out and do a little sailing…y’know, Farallon Islands…foggy day…cold…no witnesses.