Registered sex offender and homeless man John Mason, 40, was arrested Sunday morning after he commandeered a 35-foot boat and set sail down the coast.
Harbor Patrol Supervisor Steve McCullough said the boat’s owners had planned to move their vessel from its mooring east of Stearns Wharf to a slip in the Santa Barbara Harbor. But as the couple made their way to the mooring in a skiff at around 9 a.m., the couple found only open ocean where their craft had been anchored. They called Harbor Patrol which began to scour the area.
Soon thereafter, the owner – scanning the sea with a pair binoculars – spotted his boat about a mile away near the Santa Barbara Cemetery in Montecito. Harbor Patrol officers caught up and pulled alongside, making contact with Mason who told them he found the boat floating untethered and unattended so he climbed aboard to save it from running aground. The owners informed McCullough that Mason didn’t have permission to captain their craft, which is estimated to be worth around $35,000.
When Harbor Patrol officers boarded, McCullough said, they found Mason in possession of a duffel bag full of dry food along with a number of three-gallon water bottles. Authorities also noted – in addition to a broken cabin door lock – that Mason was unable to start the engine and so raised the sail to make his getaway. He declined to talk after he was placed in handcuffs and transported back to the harbor where police were waiting. McCullough said it’s “very, very rare” for a full-sized boat to go missing. Kayaks, inflatables, and other small crafts are stolen fairly often, he said, but not large vessels.
Mason, said Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Lorenzo Duarte, was booked into county jail on a grand theft charge and parole violation.