Congratulations! You got a boat. Now what?
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, it’s joined the more than 12.1 million registered boats in America (as of 2015). Most of those boats are small: 95 percent of boats on the water (“power boats, personal watercraft, sailboats”) are under 25 feet long.
But beware: BoatUS did an analysis of data based on a ten-year period of insurance claims. And it turns out that you have a 1 percent chance of your personal watercraft being stolen. Not great odds for an investment that may have run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
So how do you prevent your boat from being stolen? Luckily, there’s plenty to do to keep thieves from going piratical on you.
Leave It In The Water
Most boats that are stolen, according to BoatUS, are resting on a trailer. Pay a marina fee and keep your investment where there’s 24/7 security.
Pick A Secure Marina
You did pick a marina where there’s 24/7 security, right? Your marina should be well-lit, with around-the-clock security and — most importantly — CCTV cameras. They’ve been shown to be an enormous deterrent to crime; thieves are, all-in-all, a camera-shy bunch.
Hide It Away, If You Can
If you have to take your boat out of the water, park it out of sight. Don’t be that guy with the enormous boat in his driveway. Nothing’s more attractive to thieves than something worth thousands of dollars, strapped to a trailer, and all lined up in the driveway.
More Parking Precautions
Okay, so maybe you have to park your boat somewhere visible. Here’s how to do it. Make sure the trailer is disabled. Some sites recommend taking the wheels off; others recommend a probably more-sensible hitch-lock. Others say you should stick a boot on one of the tires. However you do it, make sure it can’t move. Park the boat so the tongue of the trailer is facing away from the road, so there’s no easy access angle.
Other Sensible Precautions
Lock the boat itself. Remove all valuables and important documents. If you can’t remove it, lock it up.
A Safe Marina Isn’t The End
It’s a good start, but it’s only the start. If you decide to keep your boat at a marina, you’re not off the hook: you still need to take security into your own hands. At the very least, you need motion-sensitive lights on your boat.
It’s preferable to have your rig outfitted with a security system that takes pictures when it detects movement and sends alerts to you, and possibly the harbormaster. Systems that are capable of working off satellite are preferable to those which work on the internet if you plan to find yourself somewhere without reliable cell coverage (as recreational boaters often intend to).
Don’t leave the keys in the boat and walk away. Don’t leave the boat running and walk away. If you wouldn’t do it with your car, don’t do it with your boat.
Boat Safe recommends keeping a master list of everything you have on board, and stowing that list both at home and somewhere hidden on the boat. That way, you can consult it if you have anything missing. You may also want to photograph items — particularly expensive, portable items — and keep the photos at home in case of an insurance claim. In fact, they recommend that you write your vessel’s hull identification (HIN, sort of like a VIN) on everything on the boat, especially small craft like dinghies, in indelible ink.
These precautions will help keep your boat — your valuable investment — safe, along with all the things on it. Keep it locked. Keep it safe. And remember: if you wouldn’t do it to your car, don’t do it to your boat.