Thieves went to quite a bit of trouble to steal this 2,000-lb. anchor. Photo: Poquoson Museum

Museum Ship’s Anchor Theft Still a Mystery

No matter who you ask about the recent theft at the Poquoson Museum in Hampton Roads, you get the same response. “Why would anyone steal a rusty old 2,000-pound anchor?”

The anchor, which is about seven feet long and dates to the 1800s, was donated to the museum in 2003.  At that time, the anchor was an unexpected gift. The museum did not have funds to begin restoration. Staff did not even have a place to put it.  Because of its size and significant weight, the anchor was placed outside, at the back of the museum grounds. According to Paul Whitlow, president of the museum, “The anchor was one of about 20 that were donated by a single family from the Fox Hill area. This was the largest of the group. We do not have any details about the anchor’s history.”  

The Poquoson Museum reported the anchor missing on September 20, 2021.  According to police and social media reports, thieves probably used Laydon Way to access the museum property.  Laydon Way is largely residential. Thieves actually cut down a few small trees for access.  Tracks on the ground indicate heavy equipment was brought in to pick up the anchor. The anchor was likely put in a truck or trailer and driven off. The theft probably took place in daylight, because the machinery noise would have attracted attention at night. Social media sleuths believe local knowledge would be needed to pull this off.  

Which brings us back to why? Was it sold for scrap?  Whitlow does not believe the anchor was stolen for scrap value.  “That metal might be worth 5 cents a pound at most, even if you could find a yard that would take it,” he said. Sgt. Adam Stephens, of the Poquoson Police, is also puzzled by the theft.  “Who would want a big old anchor?” 

Whitlow, who helped establish the museum and has been involved with it for 19 years, is particularly troubled that someone would steal from a nonprofit. If a collector wants a vintage anchor, they can obtain one legally. They don’t need to steal one from a small museum. “We are all volunteers here.  No one gets paid,” he said. Volunteers have worked many hours with a minimal budget to get this museum open. The last thing they need is someone stealing from their collection.     

The police are investigating.  Whitlow implied that they have some leads. The museum is offering a generous $5,000 reward for information that identifies the thieves.  If you know something, please call the Poquoson Police at 757-868-3501.           . 

Poquoson is on the Chesapeake Bay, tucked between York County and Hampton. The Poquoson Museum documents the 390-year history of the city. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. at 968 Poquoson Avenue. Bay Bulletin will let you know when this mystery is solved.   

-Kendall Osborne