theft, they can help law enforcement identify your boat or equipment if recovered.
Posting the warning sticker that comes
with most kits may even be enough to
deter theft. Antitheftdots.com is one company that sells microkits to consumers.
Any prevention scheme that you can
think of to make your vessel less attractive
while in storage is worth considering. A
full boat cover, as an example, might hide
your boat’s unique graphics. Remember
the same things that attracted you to
the boat in terms of flashy graphics also
Keep in mind that even in good, paid
storage facilities with gates, keypad entry,
and video surveillance, everyone with
help if your boat is stolen during winter,
questions about the security of a storage
facility and review the contract. Many
facilities now contractually indemnify
themselves from any responsibility, rely-
ing on the boat owner’s insurance com-
pany for coverage.
A “For Sale” sign on a boat in a public
place can be a risky way to find a buyer.
It’s not uncommon for a thief to call the
and access for quick theft. Also, don’t
store your title and/or registration papers
on the boat; you’ll just make it that much
easier to dispose of your boat if it’s stolen.
Most boats are not recovered, but you
might get lucky. Record all the serial
numbers you can locate, including the
boat’s hull identification number (HIN),
which is almost always located on the
upper right corner of the transom; the
state registration number and registration certificate number; engine serial
numbers; transom assembly numbers;
outdrive numbers; and serial numbers
for any electronics. Keep copies of your
purchase documents, sales receipts, and
invoices, which frequently have serial
numbers and identification information.
Frequently, after a boat is stolen, HINs
are removed, altered, or covered up, and
state registration numbers are changed.
Should you be one of the few fortunate
enough to have your vessel recovered, the
police will need identifiers that confirm
that the recovered property is yours.
Take and store photographs of your
boat from all sides – front, back, interior, helm station, engines, and serial
numbers, and any other identifiers. Keep
the photographs separate from the boat,
download them from your phone and
save them on secure storage device, or
upload to the cloud. If your boat and
property have been stolen, your insurance company will likely want proof
of ownership, as well as photographs
of documents, boat graphics, colors,
upholstery style, canvas color, and other
identifiers that may be unique to your
Not just trailers
While most boats are stolen on their
trailers so they can be driven to a hiding place, a good percentage of stolen
boats are taken with the vessel tied to
its slip or, occasionally, from a dockside lift. Center-console boats in coastal
regions everywhere in Florida and the
Gulf states through Texas are attractive
drug-smuggling and human-smuggling
vessels. Our files contain reports of cases
where thieves have lowered the boat on
its lift behind the owner’s back porch,
then towed the vessel out of the residential area with another boat.
If you leave town, make sure your
neighbors know you’re away and that no
one should be near your boat. A neighborhood watch-style warning sign might
be helpful to post on your private dock.
Always lock your hoist or boat-lift
control box, or kill the power at the
breaker box. Remember, any deterrent is
better than none.
TODD SCHWEDE has been a marine
surveyor and certified insurance investigator in San Diego since 1984, specializing
in marine accident, damage, and stolen-boat investigations.
Before and after
photos of a typical
boat theft. It takes
thieves only a short
time to completely
strip a boat.