Seaworthy: Avoiding Theft

Suggestions To Make Your Boat Less Vulnerable

By Bob Adriance

Security camera photo showing a boat being stolen

Begin by looking at your boat through the eyes of a thief: How hard would it be to steal the boat? How long would it take? What would you have to do to break in? Is there equipment that isn’t protected?

Reward poster for stolen boat

Most boats are stolen while on their trailer; don’t make it easy for a thief to hook it up and take off. If possible, park the trailer away from the road. If you must leave your boat in the driveway, avoid leaving the hitch facing the street. Chain your trailer to a tree or a sturdy post. If this isn’t practical, remove one or more tires and store them inside along with the lug nuts. Not only does this make it impossible to pull the trailer; it prolongs tire life and reduces the chances of a flat.

Consider removing the license plate and lights as well; the last thing a thief wants is a traffic stop. Simply locking the hitch or removing the coupler is not always enough; some thieves carry coupler devices that can be quickly attached to the trailer.

Use locks on props, outboards, and outdrives. Buy good quality hardened steel locks that aren’t easily defeated.

Whenever possible, store equipment at home. If you have a small kicker engine, it’s much safer in your garage than hanging on your boat’s transom. The more stuff you take off, the less attractive your boat will be to a thief.

Make sure there is good lighting where you keep your boat. Would a burglar feel threatened?

Invest in an alarm system. You don’t have to spend a lot of money — even simple alarms can scare off a thief.

Another worthwhile deterrent: Install a fuel or electrical cutoff device. These are simple, relatively cheap and will often thwart a theft.

Avoid having a “For Sale” sign on your boat. This gives thieves an excuse to snoop around without drawing suspicion.

If you have anti-theft device warning stickers, place them where they can be easily seen. Often thieves will pass up a boat that appears to be well-guarded. Display your BoatUS theft reward decal that came with your membership packet. The program is free for all members and registration is automatic. After a review, a $2,500 Cash Reward may be offered to any person or persons providing information resulting in the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing or vandalizing a boat or its equipment registered with BoatUS.

What are the Chances of Your Boat Being Stolen? *

  • Personal Watercraft: 10 per 1,000
  • Runabouts: 2 per 1,000
  • Cruisers (with cabins): 8 per 1,000
  • Trawlers 3 per 10,000
  • Sailboats 2.5 per 10,000
  • * Based on a 10 year study of the BoatUS Marine Insurance Claim Files.

Seaworthy is the BoatUS Marine Insurance publication dedicated to helping members avoid injury and boat damage due to accidents and storms. It’s published four times annually. See more great articles at