‘Just so wonderful’: Vancouver family’s homemade sailboat stolen, then found

It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend for a Vancouver dad after a sailboat he spent a year building with his young daughters was stolen and then found – just in time for Father’s Day.

Assisted by a six-year-old and a three-year-old, Duncan McDonald constructed the vessel in his backyard. Describing it as a passion project that he hoped would allow him to spend quality time with his girls during the build and beyond, it’s truly one of a kind.

“It was just a really neat adventure,” he says of the process, adding he’d never built anything like it before and didn’t really even know how to sail when he started.

“I ended up making absolutely every part of the boat from the oars, to the sail to the mast — the whole thing … You don’t know how something like this is going to go and it went really, really well. And it came together.”

Underneath the green paint are drawings done by the children and before it was sea-worthy it functioned as a fort and a favorite location for tea parties.

“There’s the spot where I have smudges where I let at a three-year-old paint where I shouldn’t have let a three-year-old paint. There’s still dents from where I let a six-year-old jump up and down,” he tells CTV News.

The day before the family was set to go on a camping trip that would include the boat’s inaugural voyage, it was stolen from where it was locked up behind their East Vancouver home.

McDonald realized it was gone when he went to take out the garbage Friday morning.

“It was as shocking as you can imagine. I came back and got to tell the children that their boat was gone and my pregnant wife that it was gone. There’ was a lot of crying in the house,” he recalls.

His three-year-old, he says, was the quickest to recover and optimistically declared “the police will find it.” The rest of the family wasn’t quite so confident.

Thanks to online posts sharing the story, media coverage of the theft, and the work of the Vancouver Police Department’s Marine Unit, the boat was – in fact – found.

Sgt. Steve Addison says it was spotted in False Creek under the Cambie Bridge by a number of people who recognized it as being the one belonging to McDonald.

“The theft is still under investigation and no arrests have been made,” he wrote in an email.

While the boat was recovered Saturday, the family was away on their already planned camping trip and didn’t get to see it again for themselves until Sunday.

“I’m still processing this unrea/l 48 hours,” McDonald says.

“I’m just really, really grateful that people connected with the story and looked for the boat because otherwise it would have been gone and it just would’ve been a really kind of sad ending to a really interesting year…It’s just so wonderful for my kids.”

The boat is not quite sea-worthy having been battered during the order but McDonald says the plan is to fix it up in time to set sail for his wedding anniversary in July.

“I can honestly say I own a pirate ship,” he quips, adding the girls can’t wait for their first adventure.

“The kids are amazing and they were so happy to get in the boat. When we saw it, my kids wanted to just put it in the water and start rowing.”

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