Apr 17, 2017

Ran across an article in the Boating Times. Some great advice on not getting ripped off this boating season.

Ever had anything stolen from your boat? This article is for you. Never had anything stolen from your boat? This article is for you.

The secret to good marine security is to think like a crook and then do the opposite.

The light-fingered set is opportunistic, and any scenario is nearly perfect for grabbing the goods and disappearing within a minute or two. So, make it tough for burglars to operate. The easiest items to steal are electronics and gear in open view that is small enough to be quickly stashed in a tote bag.  If you own an open runabout, make it your habit to remove all valuables every night. If you have a cabin, don’t leave anything in view — draw your curtains over windows and portholes and stash the small but expensive stuff out of sight in drawers and lockers.

Whether you remove portable equipment or not, take the time to engrave your name, home port, driver’s license number, state registration number, and hull pin on your VHF radio, GPS handheld, chart plotter, binoculars, and other valuables.

Batten down the hatches before you leave the boat. Fasten companionways with strong locks attached to hasps. Cockpit lockers should also be secured, particularly if they contain items like batteries and expensive life jackets. A burglar will pass your boat by for an easier mark if he has to spend time breaking or picking a lock. Many captains hide an extra set of keys onboard. Don’t. Lawbreakers know all the hiding places.

Ideally, keep your boat in a well-lit, secured anchorage with locked doors to docks, cameras, and personnel on site 24/7.  If security and cameras aren’t present, or you’re out on a mooring, install an alarm — even the simplest of set-ups will scare most crooks away (provided there are people about who’ll hear the alarm).

Every boater should be observant of strangers seemingly lurking around their home marina or boatyard, particularly those in non-nautical dress (street shoes are often a giveaway). Let a dockhand or the yard manager know if you suspect someone’s potentially up to no good. If you’re selling your boat, don’t hang a For Sale sign on it.  It affords nefarious characters the cover to snoop and return when no one’s about.

What do you do if you have been hit anyway? Report the burglary to the police immediately. Savvy officers in marine units may know where to look for sales of stolen goods, especially if you provide them with a list of all equipment by make, model, and serial number. Let them know all about the engraving on the stolen items as that will help to prove any recovered goods are yours.

I’ve been talking about boat burglaries, but entire boats and other watercraft disappear. The most likely vessels to be nicked are boats under 26 feet in length and jet skis. Owners must be diligent in immobilizing their crafts. Again, assess your setup like a thief would and then do all you can to make removal difficult or impossible.

Want a novel way to decrease the likelihood of a dinghy or inflatable being stolen? A veteran Caribbean sailor I know advises boaters to paint these items a weird color — a pink dink will make a crook rethink!