You lock the doors when you leave the house and put your car in the garage at night, but what are you doing to prevent your boat and marine equipment from being stolen? Many people have the misconception that boating and marine equipment theft is rare, but in fact nearly 30,000 boats are stolen each year in the United States alone. This costs the boating community approximately $85 million a year in damages and the numbers keep rising. In addition to boat theft, millions of dollars of marine equipment, including binoculars, radios, fishing rods, and even motors are stolen from boats every year. These petty marine crimes usually occur while boat owners are inside the fueling station getting a candy bar or using the restroom. While you cannot prevent all boating crime, you can certainly lower the odds of it happening to you by practicing some common boating sense and investing in a few simple security devices.
The first thing you want to do to prevent boating theft is to permanently mark your boat and all of your marine equipment with your Hull Identification Number (HIN) or your state driver’s license number. You can buy an inexpensive security engraver to mark your boat and marine equipment, including your trailer, motor, radio, GPS, binoculars, camera, weather receiver, fishing poles, fish finders, deck chairs, flotation gear, or anything else that is of significant value. Try to mark your boat and marine equipment in an inconspicuous spot to make it less noticeable to potential thieves and more difficult to scratch out or engrave over.
As you are marking your boat and marine equipment, keep a list of each and every item as you go along. Write down the make, model, registration, and HIN number of your boat and your trailer. Also write down any identifying information for each piece of marine equipment, such as brand names and serial numbers. It is also a good idea to take a photograph of your entire boat and each piece of marine equipment while you are creating your inventory list. At the very least, take a picture of your boat, trailer, and engine from multiple angles. Keep all of this information, along with your boating insurance papers, in a safe at home, your bank, a storage unit, or other secure location. Obviously, don’t keep this information on your boat because it will be useless if it gets stolen along with your boat! In the event that your boat or marine equipment is stolen, this information will be invaluable for yourself, the police, and your insurance company when filing your claim.
Of course, the most important step you can take in preventing boat theft is to arm and secure it properly. Purchasing a marine alarm system can be a wise investment that will pay for itself each year that your boat and marine equipment stays safe and sound in your own possession. It’s important to purchase a security system that is made specifically for boats and marine equipment due to the wet environment and constant movement that may cause non-marine security systems to fail. Many marine security systems include a tamper siren, motion detector, tracking system, or automatic kill switch which will block the fuel line if the boat is being stolen.
When storing your boat, you should consider placing it in a locked garage or boat storage facility. If you do keep your boat on a trailer, make sure to use a trailer hitch lock and park it in a place that is out of the way and difficult to get to. Place it behind something to prevent someone from hooking it up to their truck and taking off with it or remove a couple of the trailer tires. Use a high-security marine chain and locking system to secure your boat to a tree, dock, or other permanent fixture. To protect your marine equipment, remove them completely from the boat or secure them inside padlocked lockers that are permanently affixed to the inside of the boat. Lock all of the doors, hatches, or ports with heavy-duty padlocks; shut the curtains; and place a boat cover over the entire boat to keep curious eyes away. While there is no way to guarantee that your boat or marine equipment will not be stolen, following these basic safety and security practices will certainly make it less appealing for thieves to target your boat.