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How to protect your boat against theft

The feeling of a theft is devastating, but you can rest easy if you take precautions to prevent boat theft.

How to protect your boat against theft

In Europe, more than 10,000 vessels are stolen every year. In some cases, it’s a boat moored at the dock that’s taken while in most cases, it’s taken on land on the trailer. Often it’s to sell for parts, and an outboard motor is extremely difficult to track. The feeling of a theft is devastating, but you can rest easy if you take precautions to prevent boat theft.

Preventing theft on the trailer

Nine out of ten boat thefts occur when it’s on the trailer, and typically when it’s parked somewhere you wouldn’t consider risky. But it happens, and recovering your vessel proves to be a tough battle. Using these three tips, you can help secure your boat while it’s out of the water.

Store your boat in a secure facility

When you have your boat on land, parking it in a visible location like a driveway makes it easy for a thief to hitch to it and drag it away. Instead, lock your boat away from prying eyes in a garage. There are secure storage facilities that are monitored, if you don’t have access to locked indoor storage.

Use a wheel boot

If you must park outside, attached an adjustable clamping wheel boot to one of your trailer wheels. This brightly-coloured locked device will deter anyone from attempting to drag your boat and trailer away as it is, and removing the device takes time that leaves a thief uncomfortably exposed.

Install a coupler lock

One of the simplest and easiest devices that offer security for any trailer, boat trailers included, is a coupler lock. This simple lock eliminates the potential for a thief to quickly hook up to your trailer and pull it away. If they’re really intent on taking your boat, it will take several minutes to cut off the lock – time that they could be looking for an easier mark instead.

Document everything in and on the boat

You should keep a complete listing of all the equipment you have mounted on your boat, removable or not, as well as valuables commonly in it. That includes sonar units and fish finders, rods and reels, PFDs, trolling motors, and even the main engine. Write down a brief description, the manufacturer, model number, and serial number if applicable. That way, if your boat gets stolen or your belongings are stripped out of it, authorities can attempt to track them down. It’s also a good idea to add electronics and your vessel’s contents to your boat insurance.

Boat theft prevention on the water

Whether you’ve taken a quick stop for dinner at the marina or your boat is waiting in its slip until the weekend, boat thefts do happen on the water. Here are three tips to prevent it.

Take the keys with you

A common practice for many boaters is to leave the key either in the ignition or tucked away in the boat somewhere. It’s never a good idea. For brazen thieves, it takes just seconds to locate the key, start the engine, and drive away. Whenever you leave your boat in the water – for minutes, hours, or days – take the keys with you. 

Don’t leave valuables in the boat

If you have valuables in the boat – a GPS unit or sonar, for example – take them with you when you leave the boat. An ill-intending thief may steal your boat for a quick escape, take the items they want, and leave your boat somewhere you won’t find it.

Moor in a well-lit area

Criminals often work under the cover of darkness. With that in mind, moor your boat in an area with plentiful lighting. If your slip isn’t well-lit, a few motion-activated lights installed on deck can foil their attempt to steal your boat or motor by exposing their activities to any bystanders.

Install the 1st Mate anti-theft system

Whether on land or in the water, a 1st Mate system can prevent a frustrating theft. When it’s activated, 1st Mate disables the engine and prevents it from starting, no matter how hard a thief tries. Not only does 1st Mate prevent most potential thefts, but the 1st Mate’s GPS functionality can help authorities locate your vessel or motor in the unlikely event it’s taken. Don’t worry – if you trust a friend or family member to borrow your boat, you can still authorize someone else to start it.

To learn more about 1st Mate or to find a dealer to purchase it, visit

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