One of the unfortunate realities of boat ownership is that boat thieves exist. While boat theft is uncommon in most regions of the US, thieves can make boat ownership a nightmare in certain parts, forcing boat owners to spend time and money to protect their boat from theft. Boats kept on trailers in their owner’s yard or at a storage facility are prime targets for theft and boat owners should take precautions against it, no matter how rare theft is in your area. The best way to secure a boat trailer from theft is to layer security and make it difficult and time consuming to steal.
Let’s face it, a determined thief will be able to steal just about any boat trailer with enough time and effort. Our hope as boat owners is to slow them down long enough for someone to notice what’s happening and to make the trailer so difficult to steal that the thief moves on to an easier target.
Step 1: Secure The Location
Securing the location where your keep your boat is the first step to protecting your boat from thieves. Like most boat owners, you probably keep your trailer-able boat in your yard. Other options include a dry storage facility at a marina or other storage facility that accepts trailers. Regardless of where you keep it, there are some simply steps you can take to secure the area where your boat is kept
- Provide adequate lighting. A well lit area, or one with motion activated lights, will help deter thieves.
- If possible fence off and lock the area. While not always possible for homeowners, a fence with a locked gate is a strong deterrent to theft.
- Limit access to the area. The less people that are aware of where your boat is stored, the better. Don’t give potential thieves the opportunity to get up close to your boat and trailer and scope out what security methods are in place.
- Invest in video monitoring. Security cameras are relatively cheap these days with many operating on WiFi that can be viewed from your phone. The presence of security cameras serves as a deterrent and helps alert you to any potential theft attempts.
Step 2: Secure Your Boat’s Trailer
When it comes to preventing boat theft, nothing is more important than physically securing your trailer. Various locks and techniques can make a boat trailer very difficult to steal and keep it and your boat secure.
- Invest in a quality tongue lock. Every trailer kept boat should have a high quality tongue lock on it. You can even use it when you leave your trailer and tow vehicle at the ramp to prevent boat trailer theft there.
- Park strategically. If possible, try to park in a way that accessing the trailer with a vehicle is difficult and time consuming for someone unfamiliar with the arrangement.
- Park another vehicle in front of your trailer. If you can block your trailer in with another vehicle thieves will need to also gain access to that vehicle to steal your trailer. Adding time and difficulty and hopefully deterring potential thieves.
- Wheel locks and chains. Some boat trailer owners have opted for boot style locks around their trailer’s wheels, others will chain two wheels together, while other chain the trailer’s axle to a hard point on the ground. Any will work and add difficulty for potential thieves.
Step 3: Protecting Your Boat and Trailer Electronically
Physical security is paramount. Simply put, there is no replacement for strong locks and chains on your trailer. However, since our goal is to layer security to deter potential theft, there is also a place for electronic security like GPS based trackers when it comes to preventing boat trailer theft. GPS trackers like the SPOT Trace are available from many manufacturers and create a “geo-fence” around your boat which is essentially an area – usually your yard – that when it moves from it you receive a notification. These types of trackers provide an almost instantaneous alert if your boat is moved from it’s authorized location.
- Install a GPS tracker in a non-obvious place aboard your boat. Many smart thieves will look for trackers and disable them so hiding the tracker if at all possible is ideal.
- Install security cameras and motion activated lighting. Going back to securing the location that your boat is kept at, security cameras can also provide notification of unauthorized movement around your boat.
Step 4: Tying It All Together
Deterring boat and trailer theft is not easy. Determined thieves are aware of most of the steps boat owners take to deter them and are practiced at stealing boats and trailers. However, while any one action you take can be bypassed or defeated relatively easily, layering together multiple facets of security will make your boat far more difficult to steal.
However, no security system is perfect, and short of hiring an armed guard to guard your boat 24/7 there isn’t a foolproof solution to security. In that respect make sure to have all important documents associated with your vessel like its registration, hull identification number, and engine serial number stored separately from the boat. Keeping this information readily available will make recovering it easier for law enforcement officers and help expedite the process of returning it to you.
With the potential for theft at hand, it is important to discuss boat theft with your insurance agent and understand to what extent you are covered in such a scenario. Boat theft is a growing epidemic in many parts of the US and insurers are often at the forefront of combating it and have adopted policies, like requiring boat owners to install GPS trackers aboard, that help deter theft. Your insurer is likely an excellent resource for ideas to help prevent theft and for statistics about boat theft in your area. There is no perfect solution to preventing theft but by creating a layered security system for your boat and trailer you will have the best defense against theft.