Few things bring a fisherman’s blood to boil faster than walking out of the house only to find some low-life has stolen your boat—or left the boat and lifted the motor and electronics. Just ask anyone who’s been in that predicament.
Boats are easy targets for thieves. That’s why the theft of boats and related gear and electronics costs owners and insurance companies millions every year.
Ripping off a boat doesn’t take much in the way of skill or tools—it only requires opportunity. And boats, as well as tow vehicles, left in any location that’s not secured, well lit, or under constant watch are “targets of opportunity” as law-enforcement officers say.
Thieves also prefer the easy target over the difficult; the quick hit over the time-consuming; unlocked items over the locked.
That’s why you have to think like a thief in order to prevent, or at least discourage theft. If an item is easy for you to install, it’s easier for a thief to remove.
Your goal is to make the easy difficult. For example, park your boat/trailer combo in a way that makes it difficult for a thief to access the transom or hitch the trailer to another vehicle.
Park your rig with a loop of chain through the trailer wheels padlocked so they can’t roll. Lock the trailer coupler and use a locking shank pin, such as those offered by DuraSafe, (866) 544-5615), so a thief can’t pull it out of your tow vehicle and slide it into their own to drive away with boat, trailer and all.
Boats on the water are an even more attractive target. Docklines can be slipped and the boat towed or driven to the middle of the lake or river where it’s stripped clean, then burned, sunk or left to drift. So chain your boat to the pier or dock, put in an ignition disabling device and employ other measures to make the easy difficult.
As for the hardware on your boat, it’s a money smorgasbord for a thief. Put a lock on anything of value in plain sight and place items that are not lockable inside locked compartments.
Locks on the prop, trolling motor, transom and lower unit bolts, lockers and battery compartment will stop the casual thief—and make life more complicated for the hard-core crook. Kickers and smaller outboards need to have the transom clamps locked, too.
McGard has a fine selection of these specialty marine locks, (716) 662-8980, as does MotorLocUSA, (916) 624-0484.
Do you think this is overkill? Too expensive? Consider this: An outboard mechanic friend tells me he can quietly drop a V-6 lower unit in five minutes.
“Complete lower units are easy pickings and prime targets for thieves,” warns Chris Bond of Crown Leisure Marine in D’Iberville, Mississippi.
“Used lower units sell anywhere form $1,500-$3,000 for the old two-strokes and $3,000 to $5,000 for the four-strokes. It’ll cost you $9,000 to replace the gearcase for a new 300-horsepower Mercury Verado. Just buying a new stainless prop will run $400 to $500.”
Eye In The Sky
On the electronic side of theft prevention there are many approaches to boat security. I think the most comforting are the GPS tracking services that can be monitored from your cell phone, home computer, or by a security company. Such devices make it easy to track your boat and vehicle—and other equipment—24/7 in the event they are stolen.
Check out the new ATX5 tracker from USFleet Tracking, (405) 749.1105; the Spark Nano offered by Lightning GPS, (877) 477-9119; the Livewrire ATX offered through Brickhouse Security, (800) 654-7966; and the SilverCloud Real Time GPS Tracking System from LandAirSea, (847) 462-8100.
All four companies offer GPS surveillance products and a variety of monitoring services that would fit angler’s needs.
Also check out U.S. Boat Alarm, (888) 575-5500, which, like several other companies providing GPS-based security systems, can set your boat or tow vehicle up with electronic “geo-fencing” so you are notified whenever the tracker moves outside of a pre-set perimeter.
Not only do such devices give you peace of mind, some of the cost for such security measures might be offset with a discount. Check with your insurance agent to see if one is offered under your policy.
Even with electronic and security hardware in place, your boat is still vulnerable to theft. So photograph, mark, and document every valuable on your boat/trailer. Then store the information in a safe place at your home or office.
You should also put the last four digits of your social security number on items without serial or VIN numbers. Should a theft occur and the authorities are lucky enough to find missing items, you can easily prove what’s yours using the documentation and special markings
Gone In 60 Seconds
Sixty seconds can be very lucrative for a boat thief. With the most basic of tools an experienced boat thief can steal away with an alarming number of expensive items in a remarkably short time. Here’s a partial list of unsecured items a pro can part from your ownership in the time it took you to read this boat security article.
• Rod/Reel on deck: 0:05
• Rod/Reel in locker: 0:10
• Pedestal seat: 0:10
• Electronics in bracket: 0:10
• Prop: 0:15
• Tire/wheel: 0:30
• Boat/trailer: 0:30
• Portable Outboard: 0:30
• Trolling motor, Hand-control: 0:30
• Trolling Motor w/ Foot Control: 2:00
• Console-mounted Electronics: 3:00
• Lower Unit w/ Prop: 5:00
• V4/V6 Outboard: 10:00