We look at our saltwater-fishing boats and dream of angling. Thieves look at our boats and dream of easy cash. Tough times and drug addiction have driven thieves to bolder, more desperate acts of larceny. A fishing boat falls well within the strike zone of unconscionable criminals aiming to ransack it for valuables or steal it all together. Use these tips to protect yourself.
Pick the most secure location possible, whether you store your boat on a trailer or in the water. My trailer boat, for instance, resides in my backyard behind a locked gate. Only the most brazen thief would dare enter, and backing a tow vehicle down my narrow driveway to snatch the trailer would pose a serious challenge. A big dog in the yard also serves as an effective deterrent. Avoid storage yards, especially those close to freeways, where your boat is visible to passersby — such rental spaces act as thief magnets. Dry-stack storage near a marina is more secure.
If you slip your boat, pick a marina with gates that exclude access to non-keyholders from either direction — creating a tough time for thieves wanting to enter or exit with ill-gotten gains. Rustic marinas with open access seem cool, but they beckon nefarious types.
Insist on a marina with 24-hour security patrols. I also like the idea of live-aboard boaters in the marina, as they keep a watchful eye for unsavory characters. Get to know the regulars in your marina, so you too can spot would-be thieves before they hit one of your neighbors.
Remove from your boat as many valuables as possible between trips, especially expensive saltwater rods and reels — among the most coveted booty for thieves. Don’t forget tackle boxes, binoculars, cameras, iPods and other personal electronics, and handheld VHF radios and GPS units. Also, don’t neglect your book with the lat/lon coordinates of your fishing spots. Always take it home, or at least have a duplicate copy for safekeeping.
While hardly impenetrable, a boat cover serves as a deterrent. A tight-fitting canvas cover hides the interior from prying eyes. Few thieves want to hassle with unfastening a cover — a time-consuming process that attracts attention. However, if a thief manages to sneak undetected under the boat cover, the canvas will cloak his evil deeds. Smart boaters avail themselves of additional protection.
Companies such as Perko and Southco offer keyed cabin-door and locker latches, making it easy to retrofit your boat with locks. Just make sure you lock up each time you leave the boat, or they won’t do much good.
A number of special locks are available to protect boat parts vulnerable to pilferage. DuraSafe, for example, guards your marine-electronics displays, VHF radios and other bracket-mounted electronics with keyed locks that secure the units to their brackets. DuraSafe also has special locks that help prevent removal of an electric trolling motor from a boat.
Thieves regularly pluck outboards and sterndrives from trailer boats, so McGard offers corrosion-resistant locks that replace one of the mounting nuts on outboards and drives. You need a specially keyed tool to remove it; otherwise, it just spins. McGard offers the same design in a propeller lock and wheel locks that replace lugs nuts on trailer wheels.
Locks also prevent thieves from towing away your trailer boat. Master Lock, for instance, offers several heavy-duty, corrosion-resistant locks for tow-vehicle hitches/draw bars and trailer couplers. Some of them lock the coupler on the tow ball, but models such as the Master Lock Chrome-Plated Coupler Lock prevent use of the coupler by crooks trying steal a trailer boat sitting by itself.
Other locks render trailers immobile. Fulton’s Trailer Keeper Wheel Lock, for example, keeps the wheel of a trailer from revolving, securing itself to one of the lug bolts to prevent removal and replacement of the wheel. You can also keep the wheels from turning by binding them with a padlock and chain.
You should always remove any ignition key(s) and kill-switch lanyard(s) when you’re away from the boat (especially if you keep it in the water), but also avoid hiding a spare set on board — a determined thief will eventually find it. Have a locking compartment for the battery switch (which should be turned off when you’re away). Finally, turn off the main fuel valve.
You also can disable the boat engines by installing a toggle switch (hidden behind the dash) in one of the kill-switch wires; in the “off” position, this breaks the circuit and prevents the engines from starting, even with the kill-switch lanyard in place. In addition, unplugging the main electrical harness prevents the engine from starting, but if you do this, make it appear as if it’s connected; this could foil an attempt by a would-be thief to troubleshoot the problem.
Thanks to today’s online technology, electronic alarm systems help you watch your boat and alert authorities even when you’re at a distance. With some systems, you can activate wireless sensors or respond to an alarm with a computer, tablet or smartphone. Door-hatch sensors, motion detectors and video cameras, as well as smoke detectors, all tie such into such alarms. Columbia Boat Alarms even has a canvas-snap sensor that sets off an alarm when unbuttoned.
In addition, many security systems offer a hidden GPS-tracking option showing boat location. This can direct the police to intercept the hijackers. Global Ocean Security Technologies’ Immobilizer also can remotely disable a boat.
None of these steps is guaranteed to stop a boat theft or burglary, but a combination of them might send would-be thieves away in search of easier targets.