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Boat theft is on the rise: Protect your boat from theft

Jan 18, 2021

It’s unfortunate that a website like Stolenboats.ca has to exist, but here we are. Created by two, British Columbia law enforcement officers that specialize in marine theft investigations, stolenboats.ca provides detailed listings for stolen boats, engines, and trailers, and these lists can be long. This is like a crowd-sourcing resource to help solve marine thefts across Canada that taps into the boating community/ industry. It’s free for victims of boat theft to post information about their missing pride and joy on stolenboats.ca. And if the investigation goes well, they just might find their boat listed on the “recovered boats” page, also a lengthy list. The Government of Canada also maintains a Canadian Police Information webpage where visitors can search for stolen boats, boat motors, and pretty much any other type of vehicle.

Crowd sourcing to track stolen boats

Sometimes, all it takes is an alert, observant member of the public to assist in a police investigation because they saw something that didn’t seem right. For example, a person happened to see a male that appeared to be peeling identifying decals off a kayak located at Quayside Marina in Vancouver and promptly called the police. Or a witness at Oak Bay Marina who just happened to notice, at 3:30 in the morning, a 54-foot yacht gliding away from its slip. The witness knew that the yacht was for sale and thought it was unusual that it would be going anywhere during the wee hours of the night.

From small ticket kayaks to personal watercraft to yachts, no vessel is immune to thieves. Even boats with the sole purpose to assist people in danger can be targeted. Nanaimo BC, Harbour Air woke up one morning to a missing safety boat, stolen from their dedicated dock in the harbour. Or the eight-meter, Spirit of Harrison search and rescue boat taken from a locked compound in Agassiz, BC. The widely shared story on social media produced tips and was credited for helping locate the boat in Chilliwack, BC.

Once again, social media helped an Orillia, Ontario couple track their stolen boat all the way down in Florida! Their $500,000 Nor-Tech 390 Sport boat was in the shop for some work when it was stolen. A Facebook ad offering a reward was quickly shared, and it was not long before a man in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. reached out because he had seen their distinctive-looking boat.

We can thank our lucky stars when witnesses like those mentioned above are around to share tips and sightings that save the day. But, we can’t rely on just that to protect our boats from theft. Especially during the winter, when boats are much more vulnerable to theft. Often boats are moored in marinas miles away from the owner’s watchful eyes, or perched atop a trailer, nowhere near the water, at an outdoor storage compound often located in low-traffic areas.

Protect your boat from theft

Making it harder and time-consuming for thieves to steal the boat is the goal. Here are a few tips on how you can protect your boat from theft or vandalism and look forward to seeing it for the upcoming season:

Let’s begin with an obvious tip; learn from the mistake the owner or caretaker of the Oak Bay yacht made; the key was inside the vessel. Keep the key/ spare keys at home or with you when not on the boat or when storing.

Remove all personal belongings and all removable equipment from the boat and store those in a safe place.

Equip your vessel, motor, and trailer with anti-theft devices such as motion sensor burglar alarms, motion sensor lighting, and/or a tracking device.

When storing a boat on land, choose a closed, locked facility (warehouse, garage, compound, etc.) protected with 24-hour surveillance and/or 24-hour security measures.

For boats on trailers, lock your vessel and motor using a secure locking mechanism such as a wheel clamp, hitch coupler, or padlock.

When storing a boat at your home, or in an open space (backyard, front yard, field, etc.) park your boat/trailer within view, and chain it to an immovable object, like a tree, building, etc.

Another option for home storage; jack the trailer up on blocks and then remove the trailer’s wheels and store the wheels elsewhere. Thieves will definitely think twice about carrying a boat with their own two hands. Cover your boat with a heavy-duty, waterproof cover to protect it from vandalism or partial thefts.

Tips to avoid buying a stolen boat

Boat owners are part of the solution to reduce boat theft when they implement a variety of security measures to protect their vessels. However, there are still stolen boats out there, and prospective boat owners will want to be sure they aren’t purchasing a stolen boat by accident. When shopping for a boat

Check out the hull numbers – if they look obscured or tampered with, or too fresh, and not naturally faded, or if the digits are altered so that number one look like a seven, or that eight looks like it used to be a five, these are all red flags.

Follow the paper trail from all original documents (no photocopies) you are able to obtain from the boat seller for any discrepancies before you put down a deposit. Be suspicious if the boat seller has only owned the boat for less than a year, or if the boat just arrived in the province recently.

If you suspect the seller has more than one owner registered that could also spell trouble. If the boat lists more than one owner, you must ask to speak with the other party because you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a familial dispute.

If you suspect someone is attempting to sell a stolen boat, contact the police right away. Helping to prevent stolen boats, is in the best interest of every boat owner, as it helps to keep insurance costs down.

Resources

stolenboats.ca

Safety boat stolen in Nanaimo

Oak Bay police recover stolen yacht

Rescue vessel goes missing

$500,000 stolen Ontario boat found in Florida

Canadian government Boat number search

Avoid buying a stolen boat