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Boat Theft Prevention

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 19 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Boat Security Boat Theft Boat Theft

If you’re a boat owner, you need to think about the security of your boat as well as the valuable equipment and other items on board just as much as you would about a car you own or even your own home. In fact, if you’re living on a boat as opposed to just spending a holiday afloat, security becomes even more of an issue as it’s your very ‘home’ that could be at stake.

The Attraction To a Thief

There are so many things onboard a boat that would be very attractive to a would-be thief. These days, boats come equipped with highly sophisticated technological gadgets like navigational equipment, expensive outboard motors, life rafts, specialist tools and not forgetting the personal items you’re likely to perhaps have on board which could include things like top of the range LCD TV systems and valuable jewellery.

Even the boat itself could be the target of a potential thief so your first priority should be to keep a thief’s temptation to a minimum and don’t keep potentially valuable items on display in the first place.

Ways To Avoid Attracting Theft

Firstly, never leave anything that could be potentially attractive to a thief within easy view. Most people who would thieve from a boat would be indiscriminate opportunists looking for the easiest of targets. So, even items as relatively small and insignificant as, say, an iPod or a mobile phone which could be easily seen from outside your boat would alert a potential thief that there are likely to be even richer pickings on board so keep things you value out of sight, particularly in the cockpit area where a thief is likely to look first and never leave anything of value out on deck.

Keys & Locks

There are several ‘golden’ rules about keys and locks when it comes to boating. Firstly, never leave your keys in the ignition even if you’re only going to be away from your boat for a few minutes and always keep your boat entry keys to things like cockpits and hatches separate from your boat’s engine keys. As regards all cockpit lockers, hatches and other interior boat entry points, make sure they all have strong padlocks fitted and that they are used whenever you are away from your boat.


It’s also a good idea to fit a boat alarm and put a sticker in a visible place (usually on the interior of the window of your cockpit to state that an alarm is fitted and active.

Going Ashore

Once you’ve moored up, one of the biggest attractions of living on a boat and, perhaps, travelling to different places is to get off the boat now and again and to go and do some exploring. Therefore, once you’ve tied the boat up and are ready to disembark for a few hours, get into the habit of doing one last security check.

This should include locking away anything of value, preferably within a strongbox-type safe which has been affixed (bolted down) to a part of your boat also ensuring that you keep any emergency money kept hidden away from other valuables.

Make sure you secure your outboard motor and things like a life raft as these are possibly some of the most valuable items to boat thieves and are the ones that many boat owners tend to overlook when it comes to securing their valuables. Shutting curtains across the cockpit area and any other windows when you’re not there is extremely important too.

Looking Out For Each Other & Safeguarding The Marina

Most reputable marinas will have safety gates which can only be accessed by legitimate boat owners who are moored up in the marina. You will usually either be given a key to access the padlocks to the gate or a swipe card or access code which allows you access into and out of the marina.

Make sure you keep any keys and swipe cards safe and that you don’t divulge any access codes to any stranger whose legitimacy or identity you’re unsure of no matter what tale they may ‘spin’ in terms of owning such and such a boat but they’ve lost their access card. Simply say to them that whilst they might be genuine boat owners, all you’re doing is respecting the security of all the boat owners using the marina and refer them to the harbour or yard master.

Always remember to lock the marina gate behind you when you are entering and leaving the marina and don’t get fooled by opportunists who might wait to see you enter the gate and then try to follow you in saying something like, “keep the gate open there would you, it saves me getting my swipe card out”.

Marking Your Equipment & Keeping Records Of Serial Numbers

Keep two lists (one on the boat and one at home) of records of all of the serial numbers of valuable pieces of equipment like radios, navigational equipment and outboard motors and also mark everything that you buy for your boat with your postcode with an invisible marking pen.

This serves two useful purposes. Firstly, it will help you if you do have items stolen and need to make an insurance claim and, secondly, because expensive equipment is only likely to have a market with other boating enthusiasts as opposed to selling it to the general public, it’s then far easier to track down and catch a thief who might be selling equipment on to other boat owners if serial numbers have been kept which can then be matched up with items that have been reported as stolen.

In general, providing you follow these guidelines, the potential for boat theft should be kept to a minimum and if you adopt a mentality of keeping an eye out for other boat owners, they’re likely to do the same for you which enhances your security even further.

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