“Pyrate Steve” Yarling — Morro Bay’s resident buccaneer — is missing his skiff, and the North Coast community is rallying to help him.
For more than a decade, Yarling, who lives on a boat in the Morro Bay Harbor, has dressed, spoken and joked around town as a pirate, to the delight of residents and tourists alike.
Nearly every year, he has provided a boat on wheels for children to ride in at the Morro Bay Mermaid, Sea Creature and Pirate Parade in May and the Cayucos Fourth of July Parade.
The day after this year’s July 4 parade, Yarling left the skiff unattended near the Cayucos Skate Park at around 12:30 p.m. while he went to get help to load it onto his van. He said the skiff weighs roughly 300 pounds and he could not lift it alone.
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About an hour later, he returned with assistance. But the skiff was gone.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe someone would do that and go through all the trouble of taking it,” Yarling said.
To make matters worse, it wasn’t his boat. Yarling had borrowed the skiff from his friend and neighbor, “Boatyard Billy.”
He said that he’s left it unattended before in Morro Bay so that residents and tourists could take pictures with it and was not concerned to leave it in Cayucos for an hour.
The following day, Yarling searched all over but couldn’t find it.
Yarling said skiffs can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500. He has lived in the community for more than 30 years and said he has had skiffs stolen in the past.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said the department was notified about a missing row boat, but deputies were unable to find it or contact the person who called and therefore could not file a report.
Meanwhile, the community is pitching in to help “Pyrate Steve.”
Cayucos resident Nicole Washburn, whose children had ridden in the skiff the day of the parade, posted on Facebook asking anyone with information to notify the Sheriff’s Office. Washburn also created a GoFundMe to replace the stolen skiff on July 13.
Morro Bay tourism manager Jennifer Little also lamented the loss.
“I was sorry to hear about his misfortune,” she said. “Steve is a longtime member of our community and we wish him best of luck finding his skiff.”
On Friday, Yarling attended the Avila Beach Farmers Market, as he does every week, and a vendor who had heard about the stolen boat gave him $100 to help replace it. Yarling said the generosity brought tears to his eyes.
“It’s quite remarkable and humbling to look, all these wonderful people who care about me,” Yarling said. “I would be nobody without this pirate character.”
Yarling said he has always had a positive outlook, despite the hardships he has faced.
He first became “Pyrate Steve” after losing his job as a fisherman and deckhand in Morro Bay. He said he learned how to portray a good character after watching Las Vegas street performers when he would visit his mother and late father.
For more than a decade, Yarling has survived off tips he receives from people he interacts with on a daily basis. However, he has never required payment for people to take photos with him, he said, because he loves bringing joy to those he meets.
Whatever happens with the missing boat, Yarling said he will continue to serve as the community’s local pirate and is grateful for the support he has received.
Anyone with information on the missing skiff should call the Sheriff’s Office at 805-781-4550. Yarling is not looking to press charges and would just like for the boat to be returned to where it was taken from.