It is 10:00 p.m., do you know where your boat is at this exact moment? Nothing can ruin a day faster than having your boat stolen. Take a second and think about how much money you have invested in your boat, which is either sitting outside, in the garage or in the marina. And don’t just consider the boat itself. You also need to think about your fishing gear and equipment, skis, life jackets, electronics, outboard motor, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, many boat owners make boat theft too easy. Black market boat sales encourage crooks to quickly turn your boat into quick cash. Yes, your boat insurance may cover your boat for theft, but don’t forget about the downtime and inconvenience when your boat is taken. That’s why Markel Boat Insurance put together some easy tips and tricks on how to you can protect your boat (and yourself).

Store It

As easy as it is for you to move your boat from one lake to another, it’s just as easy for a thief to steal your boat (especially if you keep your boat on a trailer). Boats kept on trailers are tempting targets. To help make your boat less appealing, consider the following:

  • Store the boat and trailer in a locked garage, mini-storage warehouse or secured boat storage facility. If you can’t store the boat and trailer in your garage, keep it in your yard out of sight. Turn the trailer so that the “nose” faces in rather than out. If you have to store the boat and trailer in a carport or driveway, park a vehicle in front of the trailer so that it’s harder for a thief to move your boat.
  • Take off at least one wheel from the trailer if you store your boat outside.
  • Use a high-security chain and quality lock to secure the boat and trailer to a tree, post or another fixed object.
  • Purchase and use a trailer hitch lock.
  • Buy a trailer that has a removable forward part of the tongue (the part that has the hitch).

Once you have the boat and trailer secure, be sure to store your boat equipment in a secure place as well. If you have an outboard motor, lock it to the boat or store it in another safe spot. The same goes for electronics. The best thing to do is remove valuable and easily transportable electronics from the boat. If you want to keep these items on the boat, be sure to keep them out of sight and locked away.

Mark It

Marking your boat electronics and any personal items you use regularly on the boat is one of the first things you should do. While most people use their name to identify these items, using the hull number (HIN) is another option. If you have a trailer, you will want to mark that as well (perhaps on the underside of the tongue or axle).

Consider taking a hull rubbing of your HIN. To do this, take a sheet of paper and tape it over the HIN number. Rub back and forth across the number lightly with a soft pencil until the number shows through. Keep a copy of your hull rubbing, boat registration and trailer registrations at home in a safe place. That way, if your boat is stolen, you still have your paperwork which can help in the recovery process.

Record It

In addition to your registration papers, be sure to keep track of all of your electronics, personal floatation devices (PFDs), fishing equipment and any other items that you keep stored aboard the boat. Create an inventory list that includes the item, the manufacturer and the serial number. (If something is stolen, the serial number can help you track down the missing item, especially if someone tries to sell it). You may also want to consider taking pictures of your boat equipment, as well as your boat and trailer, to help you document the items, their condition, etc. Keep your inventory list and pictures in a safe place where they are available if you need them.

Arm It

Putting an alarm system on your boat is always a good idea. Alarms are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at most marine and electronics stores. Make sure that the alarm you purchase is specifically designed for marine use. These types of alarms are able to withstand the damp environment. Non-marine systems may report false alarms, have a higher tendency to malfunction, and have a shorter lifespan.

You may also want to consider purchasing an electronic GPS tracking device that is specifically designed to help you know where you (and your boat) are at all times. Prop locks, outdrive locks, and boat lift locks are other devices that can be installed to help prevent boat and equipment theft as well.

Insure It

Boat insurance won’t protect your boat from being stolen, but it can help you recover quicker if it is. When deciding on boat insurance, there are a few things that you will want to look at before purchasing the policy.

  • Hull value: What is the boat worth?
  • Settlement type: How will the insurance company determine the value of your boat? Do they offer replacement cost, agreed value or actual cash value for your boat? The value of the boat on the day of a covered loss can vary depending on the settlement type that is chosen.
  • Deductible: In the event of an accident, how much money are you required to pay out of pocket before the insurance company pays your claim?
  • Personal Effects: Is there coverage for personal items that are brought on board including stereos, fishing equipment, life vests, water skis, etc.? If so, what is the coverage limit? What is the deductible?
  • Fishing Equipment: Is there coverage for your fishing electronics, rods, reels, tackle, etc. If so, what is the coverage limit? What is the deductible?

As you can see, there are a number of different things to consider when looking at boat insurance policies. The cheapest insurance policy for your boat may not cover your boat and equipment as well as you may think. Be sure to talk to your insurance agent or a boat insurance specialist to make sure that you understand your policy before it’s too late. Boat not insured? Contact Markel Boat Insurance today at 1-800-236-2453 to get your boat covered.

Report It

If your boat (or some of your boating equipment) is stolen, immediately report the loss to the local police department and your insurance company. If you use a marina or storage facility to house your boat, you should also report the loss to them as well. Gather your inventory list and pictures and be ready to answer any questions they may have about the incident. Being able to identify your property with documentation is crucial to the recovery of your boat and equipment, and to the prosecution of the people involved.

Many people don’t make boat security a priority until it’s too late. Convenience tends to outweigh cautiousness more often than not. Too often we do things quickly because we are wet, hungry or entertaining others. But remember, the quicker you are, the easier it will be for someone else to step in and sail off with your boat into the sunset.