Thieves broke into the Port Townsend Foundry overnight on Tuesday, spraypainting the shop’s windows black to avoid detection and stealing up to $100,000 worth of bronze ship parts.
The items were taken sometime between 6 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday from the machine shop at the foundry, located in an industrial section of the historic waterfront town. Started by husband and wife Pete and Cathy Langley in 1983, the company specializes in making custom parts for boat owners (see Three Sheets’ feature and video interview about the company here).
Pete Langley said the theft was discovered when a machinist arrived at work Wednesday morning, went into the shop adjacent to the foundry’s main building and noticed that some items were missing. He also smelled fresh spraypaint.
A closer look revealed missing items including beam hangars, cowl vents and t-track rudder fittings. Some of the items were large, Langley said, measuring more than two feet long and weighing up to 60 pounds. Many are unique-looking and easily recognizable, leading him to believe the thieves were after heavy items that could net the most as scrap metal.
“They definitely knew what they were looking for,” he said.
And they’d clearly put some thought into the heist. Langley said it appears the thieves parked behind the machine shop on the property of the business next door, Thermionics Northwest, where they would be out of sight of employees working through the night at a bakery across the street. A hole was cut into the chainlink fence behind the machine shop, allowing the thieves to load the stolen goods into a waiting vehicle.
(The slideshow below shows some of the items stolen).
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office was not immediately available for comment, but Langley said investigators have reviewed security video footage and believe the thieves may have been driving a small pickup truck or a white cargo van.
The foundry did not have an alarm system, Langley said, but up until a few months ago, a caretaker lived in a trailer between the main building and shop and would keep an eye on things. He believes the thieves had also been watching: the sheriff’s office, he said, told him they are investigating a possible attempted break-in at Thermionics recently.
“They had to know [the caretaker was gone],” he said. “They know the area too well. They know what we’re doing and they know the value of what we do.”
Langley has contacted scrap metal dealers throughout the region and is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen goods. The theft could amount to a loss of $100,000, Langley said, and means he now has to manufacture pieces he’d expected to deliver in the next week or so and could lose some jobs.
The economy has been challenging for the company lately, Langley said, “and to have this happen too is really devastating.”
Anyone with information about the stolen items is asked to call the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office at 360.385.3831 or the Port Townsend Foundry at 360.385.6425.