By Dan Colton
for The Beacon
After five months of repairs, the 40-foot sailboat stolen from the Sheboygan Yacht Club by a homeless man and run aground down the shoreline has finally returned home.
The NorthStar, a 40-foot Hanover Marine Tartan 4000, was taken from its dock during the predawn hours of June 15. It was spotted near the Sheboygan power plant after running aground. The Coast Guard responded and apprehended 51-year-old Matthew Wilson, who was homeless, when they found him onboard.
The NorthStar – valued at around $400,000 — was towed back to the Coast Guard Station.
But on Thursday afternoon, the NorthStar was headed back at its winter home at the headquarters of the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS), a nonprofit that owns the vessel.
It underwent about $30,000 in keel, rudder and hull repairs, according to SEAS Executive Director Geoff Rudolph.
“The boat is finally coming home,” Rudolph said.
According to a criminal complaint, Wilson stole the boat after being kicked out of the Salvation Army shelter for drunkenness. Police said Wilson left the shelter, slashed the tires of a parked car, and walked down to the lakefront behind the yacht club.
From there, Wilson went boat-to-boat until he found the keys to the NorthStar. He navigated out of the marina and eventually coursed south for several miles.
Beer cans, whiskey and spilled tobacco were found aboard the craft.
As police took custody of Wilson, he told them, “It was a beautiful ride, it was a beautiful ride at least,” according to court documents.
Rudolph, an oceanic captain for 40 years, said he was shocked to learn the boat was stolen and taken for a ride. And while it’s not unheard of to encounter piracy in some parts of the world –Rudolph said he’s carried firearms during international voyages to protect the boat and crew — the incident in Sheboygan came as a shock.
“I was in disbelief,” Rudolph said. “It just doesn’t happen … You hear about this down south in the Caribbean, but in the Great Lakes you just don’t see this stuff.”
Protecting against boat theft is difficult, according to Rudolph. A sailboat’s cabin can be locked, but if a thief is intent on stealing, Rudolph said it’s difficult to stop.
“If someone wanted to steal your car, they’re going to do it,” Rudolph said. “Same with a boat.”
Court records indicate Wilson served 120 days in jail. He was found guilty of taking and driving a vehicle without consent, operating a boat while intoxicated, refusing to take a breathalyzer test and illegal mooring of a boat.
The NorthStar was repaired at Manitowoc Marina, Rudolph said.