What started out as the feel-good story of the boating industry in 2014 took an ugly turn at the end of the year. Operation Restoration (Operation Bring Biemer’s Boat Back) came to fruition in October when friends presented the decorated military veteran his restored 1993 Caravelle Interceptor.
What most of us didn’t know was that there was no engine in the boat during the presentation. The mechanic who repaired the motor is known as Robert Strickland, but he allegedly went by another name and was well-known for his engine-building prowess in Florida, where there were also reportedly warrants for his arrest. “He was known as a great engine builder,” said Biemer. On the day the boat was delivered, Strickland told Biemer’s brother-in-law Scott Hawkins that the engine was having oil-pressure problems. He was going to fix it and let Hawkins know when it was finished.
“I was like OK, it happens,” said Biemer. Fast forward to late November-December 2014 and Hawkins had to tell Biemer, “This guy stole the motor.” Every time Hawkins would call Strickland, it was a different excuse. “It ended with the motor is good, ‘I’ll be home in a little bit and I’ll give it to you,’” said Biemer.
Finally Hawkins got the Glendale, Arizona, police department involved and they went to the show where Strickland had been working. He wasn’t there, so they went to Strickland’s last known address. Again he wasn’t there, so Hawkins called on the phone and surprisingly Strickland answered. Hawkins read a script the detectives had prepared for him and Strickland said that the engine was fully functioning and it just needed to be reinstalled. The police gave Strickland a deadline that he didn’t meet and eventually apprehended him. He has been charged with a felony and could do prison time.
“The last I knew he had his hearing and he was supposed to return for sentencing,” Biemer said in mid-January.
Biemer, who is now stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, has the boat at Texas Boat World. Progressive Insurance is honoring the theft claim. The boat had a lesser-known OMC 351 cid Ford-based King Cobra stern-drive, so the best way to make it whole again is to find a replacement engine. Through the years, Biemer had acquired a number of replacement parts for his old engine so he was positive about getting his boat back to whole sooner rather than later. As if to say that nothing can keep this feel-good story from a positive conclusion, a hard-to-find part that Biemer had back-ordered three years ago and Texas Boat World was having a difficult time sourcing miraculously showed up in mid-January. “I just want to make it a boat again and make it whole,” he said. Hopefully the next update will be its maiden voyage. Months Later: A Happy Ending!