Lake Pirates: Keeping Your Boat & Belongings Safe

Jolly Roger Pirate Flag

Boating is one of the most popular summer activities in the Adirondacks and the Great Sacandaga Lake region. Thousands of people across New York State take their boats out daily on our beautiful waterways and lakes to enjoy everything from great fishing to breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately, there are always a few that look to take advantage of this season, and love nothing more than spotting a lonely craft left at it’s moorings for a chance to make some quick cash.

Just as you would take certain precautions securing your home or car, you should have a method for securing your boat and all of the items you may keep in it from falling into the hands of disreputable people. This plan should be made to be a part of your boating routine to be followed at the end of every outing, with NO exceptions. As with all plans even the best ones may run afoul, but it is better to follow a solid routine to keep your boat and possessions safe than just rolling the dice every time you turn your back on your boat or watercraft.

Here are some great tips and ideas for keeping your boat or watercraft safe and hopefully theft free:

Take home whatever isn’t bolted down.

It may seem obvious but loose items make a thieves job that much easier. Never leave any fishing gear, portable electronics, flotation devices, rafts or loose materials where they can be easily picked up. It may seem like a chore to gather up loose items and take them home, but it sure beats re-purchasing them or having to cancel that big fishing trip all because your gear is has gone missing in action.

It’s also a good idea to have a inventory list of items you have aboard which will not only help track down missing items but could be handy in an emergency as well!

Not all marinas are made equal.

Choosing the right marina is an important step in keeping your boat or watercraft safe. Look for marinas that are well lit and provide a good level of security. If possible choose a marina that provides full time security staff or video surveillance.

Get to know the marina staff.

This may seem odd, but the better you know the staff the better they will know your boating habits. If your boat or watercraft is missing at an odd time, the staff will be more likely to notice and take action. This is also a great way for marina staff to recognize intruders on your boat, if they don’t recognize you the jig could be up for some would be thieves.

One GPS to rule them all.

One of my personal favorite anti-theft devices is a self contained GPS unit hidden on-board the boat or watercraft. A GPS device like the “Vigil GEO” can send a text message to your mobile phone if your vessel is tampered with, your batteries get low, water enters the bilge or your vessel drifts or moves outside a GEO fence radius set by you! How great is that!

Let’s change that cabin door lock.

Most boat cabin doors come with a simple spring-latch locking assembly. For typically under $20.00 at your local hardware store you can replace that weak lock with a serious deadbolt lock. This offers a much better layer of protection and will surely annoy a would be intruder looking for an easy score.

Now where did I put those keys and the registration?

Never, leave the keys in the ignition (or on the boat for that matter) when you are not present. The same goes for the registration and proof of insurance. Don’t make it easy for anyone to claim the craft for their own or to imply they have the rights to it, take them with you!

Excuse me, is that my boat beeping?

Boat alarms may not come with every make and model, but they are moderately inexpensive and relatively easy to install if your handy with tools and a little wiring. If your not the do it yourself type, a local boating supply or service center will most likely know just what to do to arm your boat with noise makers (On a side note, I am awfully disappointed that as of this writing I couldn’t find one alarm system that shot flares off, like a mini 4th of July. That would have been worth almost any price).

Honey, does that knot look tight to you?

At the end of an outing when tying up for the night, make sure you tie up your watercraft as secure as possible with tight knots. Even though the best tied knots won’t keep people from stealing your boat, it might just slow them down long enough for someone to notice something is amiss.

Don’t just lock it, immobilize it!

A great method of protecting your boat or watercraft is with a steering lock. By mounting a steering lock directly on the boats outboard engine your making it impossible for the boat to be steered, which would make it rather difficult to steal wouldn’t it?

Brand your boat.

All boats after 1972 already have a HIN (Hull Identification Number) on the hull. But what if it’s altered? If you really want to mark or “brand” your boat find a spot out of view and engrave or carve your drivers license number on the boat. This makes for sure proof identification if your boat is ever stolen, the same could be done to the trailer as well!

Take some photos or video

A picture is truly worth a thousand words when it comes to identifying stolen goods and a solid set of quality photos or home video of your boat or watercraft can go a long way with recovery operations. Make sure to take photos or video of the boat from all angles and showcase any identifying marks it may have (did you brand it? show it! See “Brand your boat” above) like scratches, modifications etc… Keep these photos and video in a safe place, preferably at home and most definitely NOT on the boat.

Let’s keep that kayak or small craft where it belongs!

Small watercraft like kayaks can be tougher to secure because they are able to be carried off with relative ease. Securing your kayak with a solid wire cable to a fixed object is better than nothing, but most cables can be cut relatively easy. A popular method to deter thieves is branding your small boat or kayak to make it less marketable and harder to resell. Tag your small boat or kayak with your name, GSL trip stickers or ADK stickers, any extra identification gear you can think off that defines that craft as your own.

Remember the key isn’t to make your boat look ugly, just personalized.

Isn’t this where I left the trailer?

Unfortunately, unless proper precautions are taken with boat trailers. Trailers can be even easier to steal than the boat itself. Fortunately it is pretty easy to lock down your trailer from would be thieves. One of the first items on your list should be a trailer hitch lock. A trailer hitch lock has a special coupler that fits up into the ball socket of the trailer, clamps in place and locks preventing anyone else from hitching up to your trailer.

Another great item to consider is a wheel-locking device. This will prevent thieves from hooking chains to the trailer and just dragging it away, trailer hitch lock and all. By immobilizing a tire the trailer will be unable to be dragged away.

Finally, park your trailer somewhere where that is well lit, and if possible keep the back to a tree or rock with your vehicle directly in front of it to make moving it difficult.

The bottom line.

There are numerous ways to protect your boat, trailer and small watercraft from being pirated, and hopefully these tips will point you in the right direction in keeping your watercraft safe, sound and with you still at the helm.

Did we miss a great tip or boat theft prevention idea? Let us and other readers know by leaving a comment below!

 Jolly Roger photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Looking for more boating tips? You may be interested in “Boating on the Great Sacandaga Lake“!