The Working Waterfront

‘Bunglaries,’ island criminal misadventures

Planning didn’t help trio of thieves

By Phil Crossman
Posted 2022-12-08
Last Modified 2022-12-08

Every town has a Bubba. A few years ago some of our own undertook to rob a couple of island businesses. Typical of cyclical off-season capers, every few years for as long as I can remember, this one provided enough fodder to get us all through the winter.

During the planning stage, a brief period earlier in the day coinciding with the time it takes three guys to consume a pack of Bud, they settled on hitting the Fishermen’s Friend, a convenience store, and the Tidewater Motel, each on the north shore of Carver’s Harbor, and they seized on an imaginative means of gaining entry. They would bust out some windows.

I confess, I’m being a little sarcastic; in fact some thought had gone into planning. Earlier in the day, for example, the trio had unobtrusively reviewed the parade of punts occupying the nearby float and returning to a conference in the pickup, agreed on one in particular which would suit their needs—a vessel in which they could vanish into the black night with their booty.

Cartons of cigarettes went flying—along with the finesse they’d employed in delicately removing the beer—out the window…

For some reason the skiff seemed preferable to simply throwing the goods in the truck and driving off. Accordingly, the first order of business later that night was for one of them to retrieve said punt, row it over to Fishermen’s Friend and position it directly beneath the wharf.

Approaching the window with a few rocks, they took off their T-shirts, wrapped them around some rocks and smashed out the window.

For a moment the sound of an apparent answering gunshot startled them nearly to sobriety until they realized that a residual rock they’d tossed overboard had struck the blade of one of the improperly shipped oars. What they hadn’t noticed was that it caused that particular oar to catapult itself out of the rowboat and make for the opposite shore.

Inside, they made first for the beer cooler and executed the efficient removal of its contents to the punt. Planning and its product priorities uppermost, Bubba number one ran all the Budweiser to the window; Bubba number two to the wharf’s edge where number three, lying on his stomach, lowered each six pack gently—to avoid aggravating its effervescence—but quickly to the punt bobbing below just at arm’s length in the quickening breeze.

Done with phase one, they concentrated their meager resources on the removal of less fragile commodities. Cartons of cigarettes went flying—along with the finesse they’d employed in delicately removing the beer—out the window and over the side in the direction of the empty space where the punt had been docked, until the gathering northerly relaxed its tenuous tether on the piling. Now, though, unbeknownst to them and with a decided list due to the excess Bud stowed to port, it was chasing its prodigal oar across the harbor.

Cash and lottery tickets stuffed into their shirts and pants and spirits buoyed, they made good their getaway and headed up town.

At the motel, eager to make up their losses, they busted out an awning window that was much too small for any one of them to have squeezed through before trying the door and finding it open. Bubba ripped the cash register from its mooring, carried it out into Main Street in the advancing light of dawn and in full view of several fishermen heading down to the shore, and, cradling it like a newborn, marched to the truck, mysteriously parked nearly a hundred yards away. There they discovered that the register too was already open and accordingly, they relieved it of its contents, a couple hundred dollars.

As a result of this experience we, not surprisingly, began retrieving the money and locking the lobby door each night—until many fans encouraged us to resume our old practice of leaving the money in the register and the lobby door open. They even provided a surveillance camera and said they’d chip in and compensate us if we were hit again. They thought it would be worth it just to view the film.

Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven where he owns the Tidewater Motel and monitors crime and other waves. He may be reached at