How to Protect Your Boat from Theft

Theft and burglarizing are increasing issues in ports of North America and Europe. Many boat owners rely on their insurance and hope for the best – but there is more that you can do to protect your property than that. In this article, I give you a checklist of things to do that should contribute to securing your boat.

Think of the many occasions in which you leave your boat unattended: In your homeport or marina, whilst touring on day trips when you are on a cruise, or even for several weeks or months during the winter. There are plenty of occasions when thieves can target your boat, and generally, boats are easier prey than cars.

Thieves generally prefer easy targets and often go for specific equipment, such as electronics and communication systems. They are expensive and easy to remove. They are also produced in big numbers, therefore, it is easier to re-sell them without a trace. To evaluate how risky your particular area is, it is always worth talking in your yacht club or with acquainted sailors. You can also check with insurance companies, though they are less likely to give you reliable numbers.

Making boat thieves' lives harder

Back to the point, since here comes to “Golden Rule of Yacht Theft Prevention”: Since thieves always prefer easy targets, it isn’t necessary to make your boat super-safe; all you need to achieve is, to make your boat safer than the other boats in the marina. This works surprisingly well by simply following a set of guidelines and recommendations. Here we go:

1.) First of all, check your insurance – and remember to check ALL your insurance, including the policy and contract of your credit cards – whether and to what degree they cover thefts from your boat. If not, get a special insurance if you keep valuables on your boat.

2.) If you have insurance, read the policy carefully and browse it for prerequisites and requirements. Don’t give your insurer a loophole to get around compensating you for damages! These people are good with that, so meeting all requirements is crucial, since otherwise your insurance is worthless.

3.) Keep record of all serial numbers, identification codes and other hints to identify your boat or particular equipment. This applies in particular to your hull identification number (HIN), the serial numbers of your engine, outboard engine and electronic equipment. Write notes on little scratches and other special features that would allow you to identify your property. Write into a notebook and keep it outside of the boat.

4.) Keep receipts of all gear and equipment you have bought and keep on board. This might be essential for claiming insurance compensation. Keep your credit card statements and pay your equipment by card if possible. This might also be advantageous for the insurance itself.

5.) Hide little marks on expensive equipment: There are invisible pens available that allow you to write your name and address on pieces of equipment. The writing will appear under UV light. Keep record on where you label your bits and pieces in your anti-theft notebook (see advice number 3). Pens are sometimes given out through police departments, if not, just ask a local policeman or insurance company where to get them.

6.) One for people with common sense: Keep valuables out of sight from the pier or anywhere outside the boat. Lock the boat. Lock it twice. And use chains, padlocks and barbwire if necessary.

7.) Remove valuable pieces of equipment from the boat. This applies in particular to gear that is not covered by your insurance and every time you leave the boat by itself for a longer period – for example, when you winterize it. Get a locker inside a house of your yacht club or marina.

8.) Take pictures of your boat and all parts of it. Hull, deck, rigging, interiors and of course all valuable pieces of equipment. All these things should be on record. Keep the pictures in your anti-theft-notebook (see advice number 3).

9.) Get a professional alarm system, especially for luxury yachts. Light, alarm sound systems and cameras can be scary to thieves. Get stickers pointing out that your boat is secured. Get fake-cameras as burglar scare crows if you want to be cheap. Motion detectors with light can be unpractical on a boat that is permanently in motion, but for limited areas you might find them useful.

10.) Once you discover that equipment was stolen from your yacht, go to the police immediately and tell your insurance company. Refer to your anti-theft-notebook and show the information you have gathered there. Report the theft to online theft-databases and check online auctions (I don’t want to imply that a particular website encourages theft, but it is quite easy to sell stolen equipment these days – however, you should be able to find gear there, too).

Further Reading

Back to "boats"

How to Identify a Stolen Yacht

How to Protect your Boat from Theft

Introduction to Modern Yacht Piracy

DMOZ on Anti-theft supplies

UK Database of Stolen Boats