August 20, 2011

Boat's disappearance has owner bewildered

The distinctive lobster boat, a champion racer, was discovered hours later at a dock in Sedgwick.

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

"CSI: Searsport."

That's what Travis Otis called it Friday when one of the state's most distinctive lobster boats was discovered to be missing.

Otis, a lobsterman from Searsport who is vice president of the Maine Lobster Boat Races, learned that First Team was gone from its spot in Searsport Harbor on Friday morning -- just a couple of days before it was to race in Portland in the MS Regatta.

The boat -- a champion racer the past six years -- has capacity to go as far as Long Island, N.Y., without refueling. But it turned up much closer to home.

Around 5:30 p.m. Friday, authorities learned that First Team was tied to a dock in Sedgwick, farther down Penobscot Bay. It apparently had been there since the morning.

An officer was on the scene and evidence was collected Friday evening, said Sgt. Marlowe Sonksen of the Maine Marine Patrol. No arrests had been made.

Any theft charge would be a felony because of the boat's value, Sonksen said. It would cost $225,000 to $250,000 to replace it, said Otis.

Otis built First Team with his father, Keith, who discovered that First Team and its dinghy were missing Friday morning.

Before the boat was found, Travis Otis said he had no idea who could have taken it. Or what the motive may have been.

Custom features would have made the boat difficult to handle -- and difficult to keep unnoticed.

The 36-foot boat, with a black hull and a white top, is the champ of Diesel Class H, capable of going 37 mph. It's difficult to steer and it's loud, to draw attention. It looks distinctive because its cabin is long enough to keep a full-size couch on board.

"It doesn't look normal. It sticks out. It doesn't sound normal," Otis said. "Everybody from Portland to Eastport knows the boat."

Otis said a witness saw someone row a dinghy out to First Team and then take it south on Thursday night. The witness thought the person was Otis. The dinghy and a crate of lobsters were later found floating near Belfast.

The boat doesn't have a typical key switch panel, so the person who took it must have had an extensive marine background or seen Otis at work, Otis said.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:


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