I’m sitting here on a dock enjoying the sun and watching the boats cruise around. Not far from me is a marina filled with a lot of really lovely expensive ships, and it got me asking myself “what kind of boat security would these people have to prevent their boat from being stolen?”. Then it got me thinking, what if someone stole my boat. What would I do? What could I do?
In America, only 1 out of 10 stolen boats are ever recovered. The most popular type of vessels to be taken are Runabout and Cruisers making up nearly 75 percent of all that get stolen. Personal Water Crafts (PWC) such as jet skis are next with about 10-15 percent taken.
Most of the time, when a boat gets taken, it’s because the owner did very little or not enough to help prevent it. I always find it funny when I hear that the owner used a cheap $10 combination lock to secure their $30,000 boat and trailer. There is no sure fire way to prevent your trailer or boat from being stolen because, if a thief wants what you have bad enough, they’ll try until they get it. But there are many things that you can do to help prevent it.
Why Are Boats Stolen?
There are many different reasons why boats get stolen. The same thing that attracted you to buy the boat could be the same thing for why someone wants to take it. When you are storing your boat, you should always make sure it’s covered to help curve the temptations a thief might have.
Most of the time the stolen boat is stripped down of the engine, electronics, and anything else valuable. If something can be removed, then the thief is taking it. The empty hull is then usually set on fire to help destroy any evidence, or it’s thrown into a vacant parking lot or field. The parts that are stripped off and removed could get sold online through Craigslist, or auction websites like eBay. Other parts get sold to shops who then sell those parts to their customers.
Some boats that get stolen have the Water Identification Number (WIN) changed and fake paperwork created. These boats get sold to unsuspecting (or sometimes suspecting) new owners. Depending on the type of boat and size, the stolen boats with new identification even end up in other countries.
Boats that get stolen in States like Florida or Texas could also end up getting used for drug and/or human trafficking.
How to Prevent Your Boat From Being Stolen
There are different ways that you can help prevent your boat from being stolen. There is no full proof way to keep a thief from taking your boat or any of the equipment on the ship, but there are many ways you can help detour the thief and hopefully make them want to skip yours. Locking everything down is a good start, but that’s not all you can do.
Sure locks can be picked or broken, but the key here is making things a lot harder for the thief. If you’re using multiple ways to secure everything, then it’s going to take the thief more time and allowing more of a risk of them getting caught. So by using multiple security measures, like a removable tongue assembly along with a boot on the tire, will significantly reduce the thieves chances of stealing your trailer.
Whatever you do, do not store your keys on the boat. You might think you have the perfect hiding spot, but believe me, the thief will find them. Don’t even risk hiding the keys on board. Take the keys with you and keep them in a safe place at home.
Surprisingly, 70 percent of all stolen boats and personal watercraft, are on trailers either stored in the owners’ driveway or tucked away on their property. Some are even taken straight off the dealership lots, and storage facilities equipped with video surveillance. While a boat is stored on a trailer, it allows the thieves to back up quickly, latch it down, and drive away. A lot of the time this happens, even while the owner is home watching T.V. or in bed sleeping.
Making your trailer tougher to steal will help turn thieves away and have them looking for another much easier target. Here are a few different things you can do to help protect your trailer.
- Register your trailer.
- Take a bunch of photos of your trailer just in case you ever need to help identify it or prove that it is yours one day.
- Make sure to have your trailer fitted with a removable tongue assembly. By removing the tongue hitch, you’ll make it so that the trailer cannot be hooked up. Store the tongue assembly in your tow vehicle.
- Rather than having built-in lights hooked up throughout your trailer, use quick-mounted lights instead, that hang on the back of your boat while in transit. Removing these lights and storing them in your tow vehicle will make it a little more difficult for thieves to make off with your trailer and boat.
- Lock down the coupler lock on your trailer.
- Use a lock on the trailer jack lock, preventing that from being jacked up.
- While your trailer’s in storage, take a thick metal chain and lock it around the tires and wheels. Better yet, if you can put a type of boot on the tire that will cover the lug nuts, this will make it much harder for a thief to be able to remove the tire. I’ve heard reports where an owner had a chain around the tire, but the trailer was jacked up, the tire and rim, along with the chain were removed.
It’s a good idea to implement multiple security measures with your trailer. The more hurdles the thief has to jump over, the more likely they’re not going to bother.
You can’t always keep your eyes on your boat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So while you’re not around, who’s going to keep watch for you? There’s a security system that you can install on your boat that connects to your iPhone, which will alert you if somebody is messing with anything. For example, you can have it tell you if someone boards the ship and they are moving around, or you can have it alert you if the door to the cabin gets opened. There’s also a built-in GPS that will tell you exactly where the boat is.
Here are some other ways that you can use to help prevent someone from stealing your boat.
- Make sure you are using a full boat cover to hide your vessel while it’s in storage. You don’t want to advertise to thieves what you have and give them any good reason to target your boat.
- Lock your engine to the vessel so it can’t be removed.
- If you have a cabin, lock that as well.
- Don’t leave anything valuable sitting around on board that a thief can see.
- Where you store your boat, make sure you have automatic motion-activated lights set up. The brighter, the better. Thieves like to try staying out of sight.
- If you are going to be out of town, notify your neighbor, so they know. Ask them to report any suspicious activity they see.
- Always make sure your lift locks are secure. Just because your boat is sitting up on a lift out of the water, doesn’t mean it is impossible for a thief to steal it. I’ve read reports where boats have been lowered down from the lift and even placed on other ships to transport to a different location.
- Use an onboard security system that will alert you, or a nearby marina of activity going on.
- Attach sensors to the cabin door that will alarm or notify you when it’s opened.
- While storing your boat for the season, remove the outboard motors and store them safely in a garage or storage unit.
Do I Need Insurance on a Boat?
Not every state requires you to have boat insurance. There are a few states that need you to have liability coverage on certain types of boats. For example personal watercraft, or powerboats with an engine larger than 50 horsepower. It’s a good idea to do a little research for your state to determine if insurance is mandatory.
If you owe money on your boat, through a financial institution such as a bank, then they will require you have insurance coverage on the whole value of the boat. A marina could also require that you have insurance to dock your boat with them.
Does Boat Insurance Cover Theft?
If you have comprehensive boat insurance, then this will cover theft of the boat. Any personal possessions carried on the ship such as fishing rods and equipment, may or may not be covered depending on the policy you have.
Most people think their homeowners’ insurance will cover the cost of the boat in case of theft, but that’s not always correct. The theft would have to take place on your property, and it wouldn’t protect you if you were docked or launching your boat. Also, the policy might only cover between $1000 to $1500.
Before loading your boat full of expensive boating equipment, make sure you read and understand your policy. It’s crucial for you to know what is covered and what is not.
Before You Buy
Before you buy anything to help protect your trailer or boat, you should do your homework and see what products are out on the market. Research those products as well and find out what other buyers are saying about them. If you are looking at a specific lock, try searching to find out how easy it is to break into that lock. Experts will review a lock and try their hardest to break into it. Nothing is going to be 100 percent foolproof, but you want to make sure you’re using the proper products that will help make it harder on the criminal.
I watched a video on Youtube talking about the round puck style locks, and the guy in the video had it opened with a lockpicking tool within 30 seconds.
Boat Security Tips and Advice
- Never store your title and/or registration paperwork on the boat. This will only make it easier for the thief to erase your boat if it’s stolen.
- Use a lockable gas cap to prevent someone from siphoning your gas.
- If you are storing your boat at a marina, make sure you choose one with full-time security, 24-hour surveillance, and with plenty of light.
- Always remove your personal items from the boat including your fishing equipment. Never leave or store anything on the boat that you don’t want to be stolen.
- Make sure your insurance covers theft.