(TAMPA, Fla.) — A California man will be buoyed to a jail cell for the next two months after he pleaded guilty to drunkenly dropping a cruise ship’s anchor while it was sailing from Mexico to Florida.
Rick Ehlert, 45, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was ordered to spend four months in incarceration — two in jail and two in home confinement, followed by three years of probation. He will also have to pay a $7,500 fine and attend substance abuse counseling.
Ehlert dropped the stern anchor of the MS Ryndam as it was traveling in international waters in the early morning hours of Nov. 27, 2010. Shortly after dropping anchor, he also deployed a life buoy.
“According to special agents with the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, free release of a cruise ship anchor would be expected to result in damage,” court documents stated.
The documents added that Ehlert’s actions could have damaged the ship’s rudder or punctured it, causing it to sink.
The ship was at a standstill for three hours before employees were able to get back on course.
When the ship docked in Tampa, Ehlert was questioned by FBI and U.S. Coast Guard agents. He admitted he had stepped into an off-limits area and donned work gloves in order to release the anchor. Ehlert told investigators his 50-foot boat had a similar anchor system, so he was familiar with how to operate it.
“Many people have asked me why I dropped the anchor,” Ehlert wrote in a letter of apology to the ship’s captain, according to the Tampa Tribune. “I believe that I was intrigued by the machinery and curious to see if I could operate it. I do remember trying to stop the anchor once it started moving, but it just kept going faster.”
Judge Steven Merryday called the case a “bothersome crime.”
Holland America did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Sara Zendehnam, CNN