RICHMOND -- A 1970s-era 37-foot cabin cruiser allegedly occupied by a registered sex offender has been shipwrecked for weeks on the shores of a popular Marina Bay park that is home to a children's playground, outraging local residents and vexing police who say they have been unable to remove it.
"We are getting a lot of pressure to remove the boat," said Richmond police Sgt. Felix Tan, who is leading the effort. "But it's a process. You can't just take somebody's property, let alone a floating home, because it's an eyesore."
The boat's owner, whom police identified as Donald Olsen, "is a smart guy," Tan said, and has stayed one step ahead of police-eviction efforts. But police say they arrested Olsen on June 4 for not disclosing his whereabouts as a registered sex offender, as required by law. Rumors of his sex offender status have spread in the nearby community, which wants him and his boat, named "Phat Woody," out.
The "Phat Woody" listed sharply in the sands next to the park Thursday, with a half-dozen frayed ropes and rusty buckles fastening the boat to nearby rocks.
Olsen was not on board, but several transients padded around the damaged vessel, examining the punctured hull and half-buried outboard engine propellers. Cyclists and walkers streamed by, some taking pictures of the boat with their cellphones.
At the children's jungle gym and playground, just a stone's throw from the vessel, mothers watched as small children played on the swings and slides. Two mothers interviewed at the playground said they were unaware of the controversy surrounding the boat.
Richmond police Sgt. Nicole Abetkov said Thursday afternoon that Olsen had been released following his arrest, but she was unsure whether prosecutors charged him with any crime.
Abetkov declined to elaborate on the details of Olsen's past conviction. He is not listed on the Megan's Law website database. According to state law, special exceptions allow offenders convicted of certain misdemeanor sex crimes and who complete probation and are deemed "low risk" to avoid being listed on public websites.
The trouble began more than two months ago, when Olsen and his boat first came on Richmond police's radar. The boat was towed by the U.S. Coast Guard from the Richmond Inner Harbor after it broke free from anchor in high winds, Tan said.
The Coast Guard towed it to Richmond's Marina Bay, the nearest safe haven.
Within two weeks, the harbor master evicted Olsen and his boat for not paying docking rent.
Olsen, 57, floated to a private dock at the Craneway, located at the tip of the peninsula extending from Harbour Way South. Management called police to report the unauthorized visitor, Tan said.
Next, Olsen navigated between Brooks Island and the tip of the Craneway and dropped anchor.
"The wind is strong out there, and at some point, (Olsen) said both anchors broke free, and he drifted and beached at the park," Tan said.
The boat crashed onto the shores of Barbara and Jay Vincent Park, a verdant patch at the tip of a peninsula partially encircling Marina Bay. Residents in nearby gated communities immediately began lodging complaints about Olsen and his boat.
Olsen initially told police he couldn't leave until the next high tide came in. Later, it was revealed that his boat's hull sustained multiple punctures in the beaching and is unable to float, Tan said.
"He knows what he's doing to extend this out as long as he can," Tan said. "He's crafty."
Police officers and detectives responded to the boat. The owner was arrested on suspicion of a couple of Penal Code violations. A search of the boat confirmed that there was nobody else staying or living on the boat, although there were rumors about a young child living with the owner.
Police said they searched the boat when they arrested Olsen but found nothing.
Richmond police have set a deadline of June 24, at which time the city will have authority to destroy the boat under existing nuisance-abatement laws.
"I hope that the boat gets repaired and (Olsen) departs," Tan said. "But if the boat is still beached on June 24, I will start the process of destroying the boat."