What's Protecting Your Boat?

By Pat Piper and Bob Adriance

Stories and lessons from BoatUS Marine Insurance files.

What do Florida, California and Texas have in common? Most boat thefts occur in these three states. One person who makes a living tracking down stolen boats and boat trailers is Todd Schwede of Todd & Associates. He tells BoatUS Trailering there's an average of 48,000 boats stolen every year and most are on trailers.

"In south Florida, the prime target that thieves are looking for is a center console with dual or triple outboards which are used to run people from Cuba and/or run drugs just offshore," he says, adding that a PWC on a trailer is always a sought-after prize because it can be easily transported and sold.

Schwede says there's been an increase of stolen boats appearing on web sites like eBay or Craigslist because they are usually moved out of state as quickly as possible. "I have found boats stolen in Southern California that frequently end up with new registration numbers in places like Arizona along the Colorado River."

Here's some advice from BoatUS Marine Insurance on how not to become one of these statistics:

Location

Park the boat and trailer so that the trailer tongue faces the garage instead of the street. Remember, thieves are basically lazy, which is why they're in this business in the first place, so they're looking for opportunity. If they have to work at turning your trailer around before getting it hooked up, they probably are going to continue searching for an easier catch elsewhere.

Remove

If the boat and trailer won't be used for an extended period of time, or if you are going to be away for a while, remove a trailer wheel and store it inside the garage or in the basement and away from the trailer. Remove any personal papers, ownership documents from the boat. Take photographs of the boat on the trailer. If you have a spare tire on the trailer, take that off too as thieves have been known to settle for smaller parts if they can't get a hold of the entire package. Remove the license plate from the trailer. That will get the attention of a police officer if it's seen on the road. BoatUS Marine Insurance even has a member who painted his double-axle trailer bright pink, knowing that (1) nobody would steal something that ugly and (2) it will be easier to identify and recover while on the road.

Locks

There are a variety of anti-theft devices designed specifically for boat trailers. Some are similar to "the boot " that is used to lock around the tire of an illegally parked car, only these attach to the trailer tire. Others are attached to the hitch ball in such a way that the trailer cannot be attached to a tow vehicle. Still others are metal posts encased in concrete to which the trailer is secured.

Portable GPS Tracking Devices

Similar to LoJack, are available for a boat trailer so that it can be located once the trailer is reported stolen to police. Designed originally for cars, they are now being found on motorcycles as well as boat trailers.

Get A Dog

Park a dog next to the boat trailer. Thieves just don't like barking dogs. 

This article was published in the April 2010 issue of Trailering Magazine.


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