5 tips to help prevent boat theft

Bateaux

It doesn’t get much better than spending a day on a boat with good friends or family on a beautiful summer day! But once you’re back home, your precious watercraft becomes an easy target for thieves.

So how about a few tips to make their lives more difficult? We’re not recommending you become a nautical knots expert (and good for you if you are already!), but rather we'd like to give you the tool you need to prevent theft and avoid having to file an insurance claim.

1. Figure out the risk level

Most boats are usually docked or hitched to a trailer. So how is the lighting in those areas at night? Are there cameras?

Try assessing the risk of leaving your boat there by speaking with other boat owners in the same area. When and how did the last thefts occur?

Try to identify, to the last detail, what needs to be secured on the boat. Thieves don’t always take off with the boat. They often take equipment that is not properly secured and resell it.

2. Go all out on security

No boat can ever be 100% protected from thieves. But the better you protect yours, the longer it will take thieves to steal it, and they’re also more likely to make a lot of noise in the process.

Methods for securing your boat vary based on the type of watercraft. When you’re absent, you can apply some of the following measures with pleasure crafts with medium-sized engines:

  • Cover it up, using a protective canvas for example, to prevent partial theft.
  • Lock down your engine, which is the most sought-after item by thieves. Make it much more difficult to remove or dismantle your engine by protecting it with a lock, an anti-theft locking ring or bar, that’s tailored to its size.
  • Install a lock on the fuel cap. Fuel is a precious commodity these days!
  • If your boat includes a cabin or a closed area, make sure the door locks properly. Your best bet is a lock with a deadbolt, which is crowbar-proof.
  • Based on your boat’s value, you may want to consider a TAG tracking device. You can discourage would-be thieves simply by displaying the logo and, in the event of theft, make it easier to recover your boat. This wireless device is not connected to the battery and continues to work even when your boat is stored.
  • When you store your boat in the fall, go with a closed or locked installation such as a warehouse or hangar equipped with a security system.
  • If you keep the boat outdoors, keep it away from view as much as possible, like in your backyard, and attach it to a tree or building. Also make sure to block access to your boat, by parking a car in front of it, for example.

Be careful with trailers

Many boat thefts occur when they’re on a trailer. Do you ever leave it on a trailer in the fall? Outsmart the crooks:

  • Install a recognized locking system on the hitch of your trailer. Some insurers make it a requirement. Without a lock, you risk having your claim denied or the deductible increased.
  • Use a boot to lock your tires. This device is a great deterrent.
  • Another effective method is to lift the trailer on one or more blocks and then remove one or several tires.
  • Make sure the boat is properly fastened to the trailer and the engine remains locked.
Homme qui attache un bateau sur une remorque

3. Adopt good habits

The right habits can really make things difficult for would-be thieves:

  • Never leave personal and valuable property on board when you’re on land. Store them somewhere safe.
  • When you leave the boat, even for a few minutes, take the keys with you. Boats also get stolen on the water.
  • You won’t be shocked to learn thieves prefer working under the cover of darkness. Try to secure your boat to a mooring in a well-lighted area at night.
  • Make sure the prowlers know that your boat has not been abandoned. You can try a presence simulation system, or you can move the boat every now and then, leave a light on or drop by to check on it at random times.
  • When you store your boat for the winter, remove any valuable electronic equipment.

4. Become a part of a sailors’ network

In addition to your other anti-theft strategies, hooking up with fellow boat owners can be of great help! Certain private sailing discussion groups on social media share useful information.

For example, if a neighbour notices a suspicious person “scratching” something on the hull of a boat docked in the marina, it will be mentioned and monitored. Do the same if you notice something, or someone, odd in the area.

Another way to help the boating community is to never purchase a watercraft from a questionable source. The ability to quickly resell stolen goods encourages the criminals and causes insurance premiums to increase.

If a rental boat’s hull serial number seems to be oddly new or, on the contrary, modified (a 3 seems to have been turned into an 8!), it should raise a red flag.

5. Know your coverage inside out

What does your watercraft insurance coverage include? Take the time to properly understand when and how your boat is covered. At Beneva, we include several free coverages for your electronic equipment and personal items on board, for example. If your insurance doesn't cover them, find out whether the coverage could be added to your contract.

Make a list of everything that’s in your boat, even items you keep locked up such as fishing rods, high-quality reels, etc. Also write down details about your engine such as the name of the manufacturer, model and serial numbers, etc. If it ever gets stolen, it can be traced.

 

Good to know

On this Canadian Police Information Centre web page, you can search for boat engines and any type of stolen watercraft.

Anchors aweigh!

Obviously, there is no foolproof anti-theft strategy, but you can put yourself in the best possible position by taking adequate precautions. Then once everything is settled, you can leave your worries behind and head for the open water.