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Stolen boat found flying Jolly Roger

A Maryland couple was shocked by the theft of the 37-foot sloop from its slip in late August

A Maryland couple was shocked by the theft of the 37-foot sloop from its slip in late August

Following a tip from a cruising boater, Maryland Department of Natural Resources police on Labor Day weekend found the 37-foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, Akizuki II, anchored just off St. Michaels, Md., flying a large black Jolly Roger flag from its backstay. Within a day they had found a man lying on a roadside near the posh Inn at Perry Cabin, drunk and sleeping. They had arrested him in connection with the theft of the boat several days earlier from a Baltimore marina, about 36 nautical miles to the northwest.

Several charges were being prepared against Earl Benjamin Washington Jr., 29, of California, Md., who was being held in the Talbot County Detention Center. Police had not learned exactly when or how the boat had been taken or where it had been since it was first reported missing from Young’s Boatyard on Jones Creek. It seemed unlikely those details would be confirmed because this particular Washington, police say, could tell a lie.

When they found Washington at 4:15 a.m. Sept. 4, police say, he at first said the boat belonged to his parents. He identified himself as Abraham M. Gilliam, 27, of Hollywood, Md., near St. Michaels. After the police released that name to the media, the real Gilliam informed officials that Washington was his brother-in-law, police say.

While the boat was securely anchored near the entrance to St. Michaels Harbor, its owners say it had been trashed and sustained major damage below the waterline.

Timothy C. Lindsay, 51, of Woodstock, Md., says his wife inspected the boat and found it filled with the nauseating stench of “bodily fluids.” Someone appeared to have been smoking marijuana and cigarettes inside the boat, he says.

“The rudder was damaged and locked to one side,” Lindsay says. “The stuffing box is leaking, transmission damaged, the driveshaft is broken.”

Lindsay says he and his wife, Jane, 54, had last been aboard Akizuki II Aug. 28, after bringing it back to their slip from a marine repair shop. They locked the boat, which they bought new in 2001, and were driving home when he discovered he had left his cell phone aboard. “My wife said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll get it tomorrow,’ ” Lindsay recalls. “I went to work the next day and Jane called me about 2:30 Monday afternoon. ‘Guess what,’ ” he remembers her saying. “The boat’s not here.”

Jane Lindsay checked with the boatyard owner, who had no explanation. Then she called the Coast Guard to report the boat missing. Soon, the Lindsays had put together a notice, complete with a photo of Akizuki II, which they posted on the Internet.

“Neither of us had experienced any theft on our boats in 25 years of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and keeping boats in places from Aberdeen to Norfolk,” says Lindsay, who is retired from an Army career and now works in Washington. “We had never heard of it happening to anyone. We were really scratching our heads, wondering what this was all about.”

The DNR police and Baltimore police began distributing flyers based on the information the Lindsays had posted on the Internet, with the same photo of Akizuki II. On Sept. 2, a DNR officer handed a flyer to two Worton Creek sailors preparing to head out on a weeklong cruise. At about 5:30 p.m. the same day, the sailors arrived in St. Michaels, where they were to meet another couple that had arrived earlier from Annapolis. After they had dropped anchor near their friends, Curt and Linda Davis looked at the boat beside them and recognized its name.

A black Jolly Roger flew from the backstay, removed from the lazarette where the Lindsays had kept it. Music by Bob Marley and Aerosmith, among other artists, came from the cabin. The Davises called the phone number on the flyer. Their description of the suspect would later help police identify Washington.

DNR spokesman Cpl. Ken Turner says his agency and the St. Michaels police began surveillance on the boat, hoping to find the thief. “You have such a hot lead as this [and] it’s a $170,000 boat [new]. We rotated shifts around the clock. The guy’s gotta be around,” Turner says.

Early the next morning, police received a report of a man lying on the roadside outside the Inn and Perry Cabin, where rooms range from $295 to $550 a night. DNR and St. Michaels police responded, Turner says, and found Washington, whom they charged under the assumed name Gilliam, with felony theft.

Timothy Lindsay says he and his wife are contemplating whether to move on to another boat. “My wife, in particular, is upset because of the conditions she found the boat in. It was very traumatizing for her.”

Akizuki II, Lindsay explains, is named for a fishing village on an island in Japan where he was stationed during his military career. It means autumn moon, he says.