We had owned the brand new 12 foot inflatable and 15 hp outboard for about a week. We anchored next to a bridge, which had a bridge keeper on duty all night long. Other boats were anchored around us. We tied the dinghy bow and stern, alongside and just aft of midships, and went to bed. I sleep very lightly but never heard a thing. The next morning the dinghy and outboard were gone. We were in a new town with no “Car.” We had to pay for a marina for several days to talk to the police, file insurance claims, and get another tender. Dinghy theft is epidemic in some areas, occasional in others. Here are a few things to do to keep it from happening to you.
1. When you reach a new area, ask around about safe places to leave your dinghy.
2. Never leave your dinghy in a questionable place. Although plenty of dinghies are stolen from dinghy docks, it’s easier to take them if no one is around.
3. Always use chain or heavy stainless cable—the heavier the better--to secure a dinghy. It’s true that a thief can easily cut through this with wire cutters, but it’ll take him a few minutes more and he may rather go the easier route with an unprotected dinghy.
4. Being at anchor doesn’t protect you from dinghy theft. Thieves will swim out, cut the dinghy free, and quietly drift away with it. Chain or wire the dinghy to your boat, at least overnight, even at anchor.
5. Many cruisers will lift the dinghy out of the water with a halyard and have it hang alongside around midships, between the gunnel and water, during the night. Others will pull the dinghy part way up the transom. Both of these tactics, particularly the former, will be discouraging to a thief.
6. New dinghies and outboards are hot items for thieves. These require special precautions.
7. Since the outboard is often the easiest thing for the thief to conceal and sell, he may search for good looking expensive outboards when he’s picking his target. Many people deliberately scratch up the cowling or make a mess with a paint brush.
8. Making the dinghy looking trashy will also discourage thieves. They want a quick sale.
9. Locking the outboard securely to the transom will discourage some thieves, because they like to take it off, put it in a trunk, and sell it, perhaps leaving the dinghy on the beach. There are many products available for locking on outboards. Make it obvious that the outboard is locked to the transom.
10. Take the kill switch with you. The more you can do to deter a thief the better. They want to hit and run quickly.
11. If you’re in a problem area, consider pulling a spark plug lead and taking that with you. If your lead isn’t easy to unplug, there may be another electronics component that is. At least disconnect a lead from one of the black boxes under the cowling. Some people take the fuel line (from the tank to the outboard) with them, but this usually leaks and makes a mess on clothing etc.
12. Never leave valuables, such as hand held VHF, in a dinghy. Have a compact water proof box to keep these in and take it with you when you leave the dinghy.
About Tom’s Bahamas Seminars on April 16 and 17 at the Jacksonville
Boat Show in General Cruising Message Board, East Coast Alerts:
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Copyright 2004-2010 Tom Neale