Want to guess the No. 2 state? If you
said California, you’re right. Texas comes
in as No. 3. It might surprise you to see
Georgia at No. 4, but the state is one of
the few that don’t require titles, which
means a thief can
steal a boat there,
take it to nearby
and get a title, then
sell it somewhere
else. Ditto No. 5,
chart, top right.)
Now check out
cases, they’re taken
from the owner’s
yard, often at night. Frequently, owners
reported that their boat was stored at a
shop, a friend’s house, or a parking lot
when they discovered it was missing.
The common thread here is wheels. The
wonderful portability of trailer boats is
unfortunately the same thing that makes
them easy to steal. Boats are far less likely
to be stolen from a marina, with the study
showing only 17 percent were taken from
there. PWCs are rarely left in a slip, so
nearly all those stolen were taken while
on their trailers. Anyone with a hitch can
hook up a trailer. Only 2 percent of all
boats were taken from a lift.
Surprisingly, only about 15 percent
of owners whose boats were stolen said
their boat had any kind of lock installed.
Many said they didn’t think they needed
locks because where they kept their boats
seemed safe. One more disturbing fact:
As many as one in 10 thefts involve some
kind of fraud in which the owners played
some part. (Read about the BoatU.S.
Special Investigative Unit on page 104.)
When are boats stolen?
Our claims data shows that boats are
stolen throughout the year, with the
biggest lull in February. As the weather
gets better, the bad guys get busier. By
September, they’re in full swing, and
your boat is the most vulnerable. There’s
a sharp bump at the end of the year; evi-
dently, thieves have quotas, too.
Why are boats stolen?
Typically, boats are stolen, stripped
of everything valuable, and left in a
vacant lot or by the side of a lonely
road. Sometimes the empty hulls are lit
on fire to make them harder to identify. The engines, electronics, anchors,
biminis – in fact, almost everything
that’s removable – are taken. One of
our investigators says that if the thieves
could take the gelcoat, they would.
parts are then
resold to unsuspecting (or sometimes suspecting) shops and
through eBay or
stolen boats have
their hull identification numbers and paperwork altered,
then they’re sold
to new owners.
This is especially
easy to do for
boats stolen in
because of the
ease in getting
In Florida, fast triple- or quadruple-engine boats are sometimes stolen to
be put in service for smuggling drugs
or people. Some of these boats also
find their way via shipping containers to other parts of the world, where
identifying them is much harder or of
The good news is that now that you
know that thieves are lazy, you can use
that against them. As you’ll see in “You
look for an easier target.