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New harbormaster foils boat theft

The night of his first day on the job, Norwich, Conn., harbormaster stops would-be thieves mid-heist

The night of his first day on the job, Norwich, Conn., harbormaster stops would-be thieves mid-heist

Members of the Norwich (Conn.) Harbor Management Commission are impressed with the town’s new harbormaster. During his first day on the job, harbormaster Jim Harrison foiled an attempted boat theft.

“It’s just one of those things,” says Harrison, who is 43 and spends summers on the harbor aboard his 27-foot Rinker, Stormy Blue. “It’s fine that I did what I did. I’m just glad that none of the boats here were stolen.”

Harrison was on Stormy Blue the night of July 25 and was getting ready for bed when he says he heard a small boat engine start. “I opened the door and looked out, and saw some guy trying to take off with my buddy’s Zodiac,” Harrison explains. “I ran out on the dock and chased him. I told him, ‘You better take that boat back to the dock.’ ”

Harrison says the man told him that he believed the boat belonged to his uncle. While the man returned the inflatable to the dock Harrison spotted a second man attempting to make off with another Zodiac. The first man jumped into the other inflatable with the second man and they paddled it away from the dock to a nearby shore, where they ditched the boat and fled on foot.

“I’m not going to let these young guys get away with this boat,” says Harrison. “The police came and we brought the boat back to the dock.”

Back inside Stormy Blue, Harrison later heard a strange beeping sound. “I was still pretty revved up from before and I heard this beep,” he says. “I thought to myself, ‘Don’t tell me one of these idiots dropped their cell phone in the boat.’ Sure enough, I get out to the boat and there’s a cell phone in it. I picked it up and turned it over to the police.” As of early August Norwich police were still investigating the incident.

Norwich Harbor Management Commission chairman RonAliano says there hasn’t been a boat robbery in the harbor for nearly two decades. “I think it’s ironic and fortunate that it happened the same day Jim was appointed harbormaster,” Aliano says. “It’s funny, too, because in 19 years we’ve never had a theft.”

Harrison says there is a lesson to be learned from the incident. “I think this was a good eye-opener, for all of us,” he says. “We won’t be so relaxed anymore about leaving things out and in the open.”