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Monday, January 10, 2011

The red duffel bag and the good Samaritans

Above are my friend Erica Burkwest-Korpela and Olympic sailor, Pascal Rambeau, from France. Erica found Pascal's stolen sailing equipment and within an 10 hour period, it was returned safe and sound. It all started with an early morning phone call.

Erica and her husband Burt were driving down 32nd Avenue, and they saw the red duffel bag on the side of the road, Erica recognized an expensive sock or something that sailors use, sticking out so they pulled over and picked up the bag. Ironically, the person who took the bag from Pascal's car did not realize how expensive the clothing and items were (about $1000 worth), so they dumped the bag. Erica called me at about 8 am, to see if I could get the word out. I did.

I emailed, called and texted a bunch of friends who are connected with the sailors and the regattas that are in town. All day, people networked to find Pascal. At first we didn't know whose bag it was, we didn't have a name, but Erica managed to find Pascal's name inside a notebook. She saw a number and called, but ended up reaching a guy in Philadelphia. It turns out that the number wasn't a phone number, but a serial number of some kind written in the notebook.

Erica then texted the name to me, once she found it. I happened to be with friends, one of them Dave Weiss, a volunteer at Shake-A-Leg. He told me he was on his way over to Shake-A-Leg and I asked him to do me a favor, I gave him Pascal's full name and asked him to stop by the Sailing Center to see if they had Pascal on the roster. But Dave did what no one else in our Sunday network of Columbo's thought of doing, he rode his bike over to the Sailing Center, stood in the center of the lot where many boaters were working on their boats and yelled out, "Does anyone know Pascal Rambeau?"

Someone did.

A guy came over and told Dave he knew who Pascal was. Pascal has sailed in three Olympics and won a bronze medal at the Athens games, so he is known and looked up to by many sailors. He's part of the Olympics Star Class and was practicing yesterday on the water. The message got to Pascal and he called me, I called Erica and we all arranged to meet at Erica's boat, where she had the red duffel bag stored.

Pascal is going home to France tomorrow morning, so it was a relief for him to get his property back so quickly. He said that this has been happening at the parking lot at the Sailing Center, this is the third car he knows of that has been broken into. Others have told me that lockers have been broken into and there have been other thefts, too. It's a sad thing that crooks are targeting our Regatta visitors, but Pascal says he still loves it in Coconut Grove and Miami and he'll be back again.

So as the sun went down over Sailboat Bay, and the sky turned to orange, Erica handed over the red duffel bag to Pascal. It was a nice ending to a long day. The whole irony of the thing is that Pascal didn't realize the bag was stolen until we told him. He had seen the car was broken into, but didn't notice the one missing item. So he wasn't all panicked and worried out on the water all day as we had presumed, while the rest of us went crazy trying to locate him! But all's well that end's well. At least Pascal sees that there are cool and honest people in the Grove like Erica, Burt, Dave and all the others who were trying to locate him, until we finally put the word out that the case was solved, like Michelle Niemeyer, Wendy Kamilar, Daisy Lewis of Sail the Grove and the folks at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, the Yacht Club and the whole waterfront family.

We were all happy and proud of what had transpired. I got text messages and calls into the night from people saying how happy they were that it all worked out so well. It's so nice to see that we have a bunch of very cool, caring people here in our little village.

More on Pascal here.

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