Don’t Give Up the Ship! Protect Your Boat From Theft

July 18, 2016

Sail Boats

Thousands of boats and personal watercraft are stolen each year in the U.S., according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. But, even if your boat remains exactly where you left it, expensive items on board can present an inviting target for thieves as well.

Luckily, protecting your valuables – along with your watercraft – isn’t difficult at all.

In addition to common-sense solutions, new technology has given boat owners useful tools to easily keep an eye on things whether they’re on board or at home. So, dive in to the tips below and start securing your vessel today.

Preventing Watercraft Theft

For starters, when you’re away from a vessel that’s in the water, never leave the key in the ignition or on board. However, most boats are stolen while still on their trailers, according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States.

So, it’s important to keep your trailer secure, too. Park your boat away from the street. If you can’t, at least make sure the hitch isn’t facing the street, and chain the trailer to something sturdy, like a tree. You could even remove one of the tires to make it impossible for a thief to pull the trailer.

If you have a personal watercraft, use heavy cable or log chains and shielded locks to secure them, and remove the kill switch when left unattended.

Once your watercraft and trailer are secure on land, be sure not to leave important papers, such as registration and title, on board. Just be sure they’re on board before you hit the water again.

Securing Your Equipment and Valuables

Law enforcement agencies say that marine theft usually is a crime of opportunity, so start your security efforts by thinking like a thief. What makes your boat an easy target? Here are some tips from police and the Boat Owners Association to make things tough on criminals:

  • Don’t leave valuables on board. Remove electronics and equipment from your boat whenever possible. Thieves can’t steal items that they don’t have access to, after all.
  • Mark your gear. Engraving identification information on equipment can help police return items in the event they are stolen, and it might help deter the theft in the first place.
  • Inventory everything. Keep a detailed record of your boat specifications and equipment, including serial numbers. Take photos or video of your vessel, both interior and exterior, and keep it all in a safe place (not on the boat).
  • Don’t assume dock lockers are secure. Make sure doors are secured with an iron crossbar or heavy-duty hasps, as well as a shielded lock.
  • Watch the motors and propellers. If you’re going to leave your boat unattended for an extended period, remove or lock small outboard motors, and purchase an after-market lock if you have a premium steel propeller.
  • Secure your hatches and windows. Hatch and window locks can provide additional security if you have to leave some equipment on board. Keep your curtains drawn so thieves can’t see inside.

Taking Advantage of Technology

There are many different types of boat security systems on the market today, from simple door sensors that sound a siren to camera setups that allow you to monitor your boat remotely. According to Boating Magazine, many products offer GPS tracking, so authorities can track your boat if it is stolen.

Much like today’s home-security offerings, boat owners can customize and combine products to create a system that meets their specific needs. And, if a system or product comes with warning stickers to put on your boat, be sure to use them.

Other Tips

One of the best ways to prevent crime – at home or on the water – is to build relationships with your neighbors on the dock or at the marina. That way, everyone can keep an eye out for things that look unusual and keep each other informed. Once you build trust among your group of neighbors, you can start letting each other know when you’ll be gone for an extended period, exchange contact information, etc.

Finally, don’t unwittingly become part of the problem. If you’re buying a boat, help make sure it’s not stolen by following these steps:

  • Check that the description on the title matches the boat you’re buying; the year, make, length and identification number should match.
  • Look at the model and serial number on outboard motors to ensure they haven’t been tampered with or altered.
  • Whenever possible, deal with a reputable dealer or broker licensed by the state.

You bought a boat to enjoy time on the water, not to spend time worrying about thieves (or worse, tracking down your stolen gear). So, take a few precautions now to maximize your enjoyment later!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Top image by Flickr user oatsy40 used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Image cropped and modified from original.