Seasonal tip: Thieves love stored boats. Take precautions.

Boat Thief

Oct 8, 2020

Pretty soon, fleets of recreational boats will be put into winter storage to await next year’s season. As they sit unattended for months, they can easily become a target for thieves. Will your boat be on a crook’s hit list?

Here are five signs that may welcome a thief as well as simple things you can do to thwart them thanks to the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) that apply just about the same here north of the border.

1. Leaving electronics aboard your boat mounted on a bracket over the winter is a sign that says, “Come take me.” Bring home any electronics that can be removed easily. For permanently installed electronics, take pictures and record model and serial numbers in case you need to file a claim or police report. According to Jared Chartrand of Northstar Insurance in Barrie, ON you can get a reduced deductible on navigation electronics, one of the most common theft insurance claims during winter storage.

2. Fishing gear, watersports equipment, expensive life jackets, fenders and other gear often get stolen along with electronics. Bring them home, too, and bring home the boat’s registration. The title should never be stored aboard. 

3. You automatically make a crook’s target list if you have a PWC, sailboat or an outboard-powered boat that is less than 26 feet and stored on a trailer. Here is a chart with US numbers, but it is indicative:

Stolen Watercraft Graph
If storing your boat at home on a trailer, arrange it so the tongue does not face the street for an easy getaway. Remove one wheel from an axle. Hitch receiver locks may also deter theft. PWCs can be stored inside a locked garage or secure storage facility.

4. On sterndrive-powered boats, outdrives are targets for theft as they don’t take very long to remove and are expensive to replace. Consider removing the outdrive annually each fall at winter storage time and storing in a safe location, which can also allow for annual preventive maintenance such as a critical bellows inspection, a common cause of sinking.

5. Leaving a portable outboard on a small boat or dinghy transom just begs a bad person to come take it. Small outboards should always be removed and stored in a secure location, such as a locked garage or basement. Install a lock on larger outboards.

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