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Couple pleads for return of sentimental dinghy stolen in Coronado

CORONADO, Calif. -- A couple is making a plea for the return of their small boat that holds great sentimental value and was recently stolen in Coronado.

Denis and Valerie McLaughlin have been together for nearly 30 years. And throughout their entire relationship, their beloved, 40-year-old wooden dinghy has been right there with them.

The boat, complete with the couple's initials, was handmade by Denis and his longtime friend and was recently painted by Valerie.

"She's our sweetie. She's our sweet little boat," Valerie said. "We had her decorated to look cute. I had whales painted on the side and we named her Damfino. She has it painted on the back."

The boat stuck out -- so much so that someone spotted her and took her away while the couple went to the grocery store. It wasn't even nightfall when someone took their boat from a beach at Tidelands Park.

"We come over here with our groceries in what my son calls my old lady basket and we were getting ready to load the groceries into the dinghy," Valerie said. "We couldn't find the dinghy. It was gone."

The couple said someone dragged the boat off the beach and drove away with what holds countless family memories.

"It's been in my family forever," Denis said. "My daughter talks about, 'oh no, Dad, not the little sailboat that you took me sailing in when I was just this high.'"

The couple has since bought a new dinghy, but it's clear why they want this one back. They hope someone will recognize it and help bring it back home.

"It was just a good little friend," Denis said. "It was a tough little boat. She was very unique. We just miss her, that's all."

The couple filed a report with Coronado police. Anyone who happens to see the dinghy is asked to notify the police department.

"If we could get it back, that would just be a little miracle," Valerie said.