LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE — The owner of a boat that was stolen from its mooring in Paugus Bay last month has offered a $1,000 cash reward for information that leads to a conviction.
Sgt. Seth Alie, of Marine Patrol, said that the boat was stolen sometime between the late evening of Sept. 21 and early morning of Sept. 22, when it was found partially submerged in Meredith Bay, near the no-wake buoys.
“It appears that someone tried to maliciously sink the boat,” Alie said. He did not want to reveal details of the investigation, but said he thought the person who took the boat hotwired the ignition for purposes other than a simple joyride.
Alie asked that anyone with information on the incident contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-227-2117.
Pride and joy
Jason Johnson, a Derry resident who grew up in Meredith, said the theft and damage to his boat has been “devastating.”
He grew up boating until he was about nine years old, when a change in his family’s financial circumstances required his father to sell the family boat. After that, he could only watch as his friends and their families enjoyed the boating life.
As a young man, Johnson was determined to make something of himself, so he joined the Air Force after high school. Today, he works as a consultant for an aerospace company and raises two teenage daughters single-handedly.
And he hustles. Johnson has two businesses on the side, which he uses to ensure that his daughters will enjoy the life that he was deprived of as a boy.
A few years ago, he bought a four-person personal watercraft so that his daughters could enjoy the lake. But Johnson kept driving by a used boat – a 25-year-old, 25-foot Formula – parked on the side of the road.
“Finally, I bought that boat,” Johnson said. He had to sell his motorcycle, and plowed snow all winter, but he found a way to pay for the boat. That was a year ago, and, until Sept. 22, it had been a great year.
“That boat was literally the best purchase for us; it brought us so much closer together,” he said. He was able to spend time with his daughters, away from electronics, away from their friends, just enjoying Winnipesaukee.
“I love to go out and putt around the lake, it’s literally therapy for me,” he said.
“I wanted to get out on that lake and give my daughters the things that I didn’t have,” Johnson said. “That’s why the boat was such a devastating loss.” The boat was not insured.
Whoever stole the boat knew a thing or two about boats. First, the thief knew how to bypass the ignition switch. Then, when he or she – or they – was ready to leave the boat, they removed the bilge pump and the battery, and broke apart a tube for the canvas top and fitted it to a hose, and combined those parts to pump water from the lake into the boat.
“It was this crazy rig – this couldn’t be their first rodeo, to be this creative… He literally made a device to sink it,” Johnson said.
Either the pump ran out of battery or the culprits ran out of darkness, because the boat was only partially submerged by the time someone saw in on the morning of Sept. 22, its engine compartment under water but the bow pointed up toward the sky.
Johnson has already spent $2,000 trying to get the boat back into serviceable condition, and he estimates it will take at least that much more before he and his daughters can enjoy another day on the lake.
The first thing he and his brother did when the Marine Patrol released the boat to him was to spend nine hours cleaning it.
“I was able to see how they maliciously stole the boat, how they flooded it. It hurt so bad. Seriously, some of the most emotional stuff in my life. How could somebody do this?” That’s why, he said, he wanted to offer a $1,000 reward to prompt someone to offer information.
“I don’t know if I will ever get over it, to be honest.”