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From The Fireman's Fund Express, Vol. 2, No. 8, Page 6, August 1985.

by Lorna Rosquites
Ocean Marine Claims

How does claims respond when an insured yacht is hijacked?

Let's follow the case of Aquarius II, a new 30-foot Catalina sloop stolen from its slip in San Diego Harbor on Jan. 25. It was insured by The Fund for $50,000.

Ocean marine claims immediately hired an investigator, satisfied ourselves that a valid insurance claim had been presented and paid off the insured.

The investigator began by distributing fliers throughout the west coast, advertising a $5,000 reward for information leading to the sailboat's recovery. Fliers in Spanish were sent throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.

Meanwhile, investigation revealed that on the day the yacht was stolen, an employee of the San Diego marina was approached by a man and a woman who said they were interested in buying a 30' Catalina. They were shown the yacht. That night, Aquarius II disappeared.

A detailed description of the couple was sent to the San Diego police and composite sketches of the suspects were printed and circulated at our expense.

For two months, marinas and police agencies from Hawaii to New Jersey responded to our fliers and advisories. None of the leads panned out.

When it finally came, the big break was from an unexpected source: the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). On March 25, a DMV investigator became suspicious of new DMV registration for a "home built" 30' yacht of fiberglass construction. He checked the two registered addresses and found one to be non-existent. By the time the check was completed, the only valid information found in the entire registration were the Massachusetts address and the registrant's name.

After noting the new vessel ID numbers, our investigative agent began phoning California marinas. Two days later, the yacht was located in Mission Bay, not far from where it had been stolen.

March 27 was a busy day for the suspected thief. While our agent and the San Diego police were hurrying to the yacht, a US Customs officer became suspicious of the man while doing a routine on-board vessel registration check. The suspect's name was run through the national police computer, showing him to be a felony fugitive in Texas, Florida and Massachusetts. The Customs agent turned him over to the San Diego police for custody.

The boat was positively identified and the woman suspect arrested. On board the yacht were daggers, arrows, bayonets, loaded pistols and shotguns, a can of mace and a billy club.

The theft had been carefully planned. The suspect had applied for a DMV registration ten days before the yacht was stolen and had paid for a marina berth in Mission Bay two days before the theft.

Case Resolution: The two suspects await trial on charges of grand theft. The yacht was sold for $40,000.

Note to adjusters: If you've handled a claim that might interest your fellow employees, first check with your branch claims manager and then let us know. If we agree, we'll call for details, write the story and give you a credit.

[Fireman's Fund Archives: 4-1-3-5-69; 0420.]


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