Brazen thieves target boats
By Jamie Brown
WOLLONGBAR angler Mick Rupnik is stunned his valuable custom-built boat was stolen by brazen thieves right from under his nose.
The 5.2 metre Seydel Craft was the pride and joy of this dead-keen fisherman. When he wasn't out at sea spearfishing or line fishing he was tinkering with the boat in his back yard.
Now he faces a frustrating time on land, boat-less and broke, sorting out a mess which is affecting a growing number of boat owners on the Northern Rivers.
Police have warned that well organised thieves are targeting boats and outboard motors in a wave of marine-related crime.
They say boat owners should take extra care to secure their property.
In the case of Mr Rupnik, the thieves didn't seem to mind that his expensive boat was parked behind his house.
The theft took place on a wet and windy night, while the Rupniks were visiting family in Tamworth.
They were only gone for three days and neighbours were keeping a close eye on the place.
Evans Head resident Steve Fernance is similarly aghast after his distinctive 3.3 metre aluminium punt was taken, with its trailer, from his driveway in a built-up subdivision.
Mick Aarts, also of Evans Head, couldn't believe his 9.9hp Johnson outboard was taken from his tinny, parked right behind his house. Thieves even used bolt-cutters to separate motor from boat.
According to Lismore duty officer Michael Hogan, there has been a recent run on boats and outboard motors by thieves, mostly targeting older model marine equipment that is easy to carry and move away.
Outboards in Ballina, Iluka and Yamba have been stolen in recent weeks, and not everyone was insured.
Now police are urging boat owners to think twice before leaving their gear unsecured.
In the case of Mr Rupnik, the trailer featured a tow-ball lock, so thieves must have dragged the boat out of the driveway and down the road where they could free the tow ball mechanism.
"But nobody thought someone would steal a boat from right next to the house," said Mr Rupnik.
In a bid to fight back Mr Rupnik is trawling the Internet in a bid to spot his boat listed on eBay or BoatPoint. He has even offered a $5000 reward. Mr Fernance is also trawling the Internet.