PACIFICA -- Three people were arrested Monday after running aground in a stolen yacht strewn with empty beer bottles and pizza boxes, but not before a brief standoff with police in front of a boisterous crowd.
The 82-foot Darling disappeared from the Sausalito Yacht Harbor around 1:30 a.m. Monday and was spotted stuck in the sand just off Linda Mar beach shortly before 5:15 a.m. About 6½ hours later, a San Mateo County Sheriff's Office rescue team shuttled two men and one woman to shore, where Pacifica police and handcuffs awaited.
A small cheer went up from the crowd of about 150 people when the woman, the last to go, was tossed aboard a watercraft by rescuers.
"Do it! Do it! Do it! Jump!" one woman chanted and laughed.
The suspects -- Leslie Gardner, 63 of Gillette, Wy.; Dario Mira, 54; and Lisa Modawell, 55, of Aptos -- were to be booked into San Mateo County jail on suspicion of grand theft and conspiracy, Pacifica police Capt. Joe Spanheimer said.
Coast Guard Ensign Corinne Gaines said the Darling was still aground around 7:30 p.m., but was tied with a taut line to a tug boat. She said they were waiting for high tide around 4 a.m. to haul it out, and then tow it to Richmond.
It was the end of a bizarre standoff that began when police started to suspect early Monday the boat had been stolen.
A website that tracks vessels' paths, marinetraffic.com., provides some clues to the boat's strange voyage. The site shows the Darling shot through the Golden Gate on its way south from Sausalito, wove a bit as it passed San Francisco and then sailed in a circle. Finally it bore down, nearly in a straight line, onto Linda Mar Beach.
The owner spotted his stranded vessel on a TV news broadcast and reported the theft to authorities, Sausalito police Sgt. Bill Fraass said.
For the next several hours police, including an officer with an assault rifle trained on the boat, shouted orders to the boaters through a bullhorn. But the trio, smoking cigarettes and talking on cell phones, ¿waited until about noon to give themselves up.
The crowd grew to include families, dog walkers and some foreign tourists who took photos of themselves with the beached boat in the background.
"Never too early for a life lesson. Don't be like that," a laughing Doug Hamar, 47, of Pacifica, told his 2-year-old daughter, Michelle.
Two of the lifeguards who helped pull the suspects from the boat said its cabin was cluttered with empty pizza boxes and about a dozen drained beer bottles. The hours spent rolling in the waves had left items strewed around the cabin.
"Yeah, it was a bit of a party," said Tim Fellars, a ranger and lifeguard with California State Parks. "Everything got knocked off the shelves."
The boat's owner, who drove a Toyota registered to John Fruth, spent the morning at the scene, but declined to talk to reporters, except to say he didn't know the people found on his boat. Authorities released few details but said it didn't appear the 850-gallon fuel tanks were leaking as the boat was pounded by the surf.
The Darling, constructed by renowned U.K. boat builders Oyster Marine, has three spacious cabins each equipped with satellite TV and Dolby surround sound, according to a site offering the boat for charter. Similar yachts are currently offered for sale at roughly $2.8 million.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.