Even in landlocked Tennessee, boat theft is big business. Although boat theft was down 3% in 2015 (according to the latest statistics provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau), more than 5000 watercraft were reported stolen and millions of dollars worth of insurance claims were filed to compensate for the loss of boats, trailers, motors, and related equipment. Read on to discover some clever ways to protect your boat from theft!
How to Make Your Boat Less Vulnerable to Theft
Tip 1: Know Thy Enemy — Think Like a Boat Thief
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency notes that boat crooks look for vessels under 20 feet long, personal watercraft (such as a Jet Ski), and boats that are easily transported and stored. They also tend to do their dirty work just before daybreak or sunset, on Mondays, after long holiday weekends, or during the off-season. Boats that are easy to transport and aren’t likely to be missed for an entire week are prime targets.
Tip 2: Shut It, Dock It, Lock It
It stands to reason that if you make your boat hard to steal, criminals will move on, looking for an easier target. It may seem inconvenient to shut your motor off while you run back your truck to grab a cooler but the added seconds are well worth the trouble if they prevent the bad guys from making off with your baby. In the same vein, be sure to lock your boat every time you dock. Establishing good boat safety habits means that you’re far less likely to become a victim. If you have a detachable outboard motor, invest in a strong, hardened steel lock that won’t be easily defeated.
Tip 3: Practice Boat Trailer Safety
Most boats aren’t stolen from the dock, though. A majority of boat thefts occur while they’re on a trailer. Again, common sense comes in handy here:
- Use a coupler lock and a trailer jack lock.
- Don’t park too close to the road.
- If you must park your boat in your driveway, make sure the trailer tongue isn’t facing the street.
- Park your boat and trailer in a well-lit area.
- When your trailer isn’t locked to your towing hitch, use a sturdy chain to lock it to a tree or sturdy post.
- If you don’t plan on being in the water anytime soon, disable the lights on your trailer, remove the license plate, invest in a wheel lock or, better yet, remove one of the wheels, making it impossible for a thief drive off with your boat and trailer.
TIP 3: Strip it Yourself
If you’re not planning on using your boat for a while, disable it yourself by shutting off fuel lines or removing the battery. It’s low-tech, but it’s certainly an effective anti-theft measure!
While boats are expensive, all the stuff that you’ve amassed to have fun on the water really adds up! Whether you’re a casual fisherman, Bassmaster, wakeboarder or an old-school waterskier, your toys can really add up. Be sure to remove all expensive equipment from your boat when it’s not in use.
TIP 4: Put a Ring On It
There are a number of different options for boat owners who are ready to take the plunge and invest in an alarm system. Options range from simple alarms to higher-tech cell phone alerts and electronic kill switches
TIP 5: Batten Down the Hatches
If you have a cabin-style boat, be sure to lock the cabin, doors, and windows when not in use. Generally speaking, the manufacturer’s locks aren’t all that sturdy, so think about upgrading your cabin locks and hatches with heavy-duty locks.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
While using common sense and installing a few simple anti-theft precautions will go a long way towards making sure that your boat remains in your possession, it’s always good to be prepared for the worst. Although it isn’t required in Tennessee, it makes good sense to carry boat insurance coverage for your watercraft. It also makes good sense to make a detailed list and then photograph everything of value (rods, depth sounders, sporting equipment, life vests, etc…) that you typically have on board. File your list and photographs in a secure location. Use a waterproof marker to write your name on personal floatation devices, skis, sails, chairs, tackle, and other portable items. Photograph your boat and clearly mark your boat with its 12-digit hull identification number. When you’re not on board, take your title and registration with you.