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Boating Basics

Boat Theft Prevention


Keep in mind three factors that discourage thieves everywhere—time, noise, and visibility.

Taking Crime Prevention Measures

Always remove the key from the ignition when not in use.

Store your vessel so that it is not easily accessed.

  • Secure the boat itself to a fixed object using a steel cable or chain with a heavy-duty lock. Don’t leave valuable items in an unattended boat.
  • If it’s a trailered boat, attach a quality trailer hitch lock; and if it’s to be parked for a long time, remove a wheel.
  • If you store your boat at home, keep it either in a locked garage or in a fenced-in, locked back yard.
  • If you live in an apartment building, use an antitheft device on your vessel if it’s stored in the parking lot. Never leave your vessel out with a "FOR SALE" sign on it; others may see the thief but assume he’s just bought it.
  • If you keep the boat in the water at a marina, use a marina with full-time security and good lighting.

Install an alarm (preferably a combination burglar/fire alarm) wired to the ignition. Have a second, hidden switch in case the thief jumps the first one.

Avoid leaving loose gear visible. Keep radios, TV sets, and other items of value out of sight through windows.

Pick one hold or locker, and secure it. Beef up the door, and install a deadbolt lock or a strong hasp and padlock. Keep your valuables in the locked compartment when you’re not on board.

Title and register your vessel.

Avoiding Cabin Entry

Replace spring-latch locking assemblies with deadbolts.

Install lugs in the hinge plates to prevent opening the door by removing the hinge pins.

Close or cover any gaps that could allow prying.

Lay wooden dowels in the tracks of sliding windows.

Add a high-impact polycarbonate backup piece and solid brass hasp to make the forward hatch more difficult to open from the outside.

Install an alarm system with magnetic or pressure switches on doors, windows, hatches, and holds to activate the alarm. Also include pressure mats at entrance points and in front of the operating console.

Identifying Your Belongings

Make a complete inventory with full descriptions of your boat, trailer, and marine equipment, including manufacturer’s model and serial numbers; and keep the inventory list at home. Hide a second list somewhere on the vessel. This information will prove invaluable when reporting a loss to law enforcement authorities and insurance companies.

Do not leave registration and title papers on the vessel.

Inscribe electronic instruments, communication gear, and other valuables with your driver’s license number and state. This allows identification of your belongings by law enforcement computer networks. Prominently display the Operation Identification sticker so that the thief will know you’re serious about crime prevention.

Mark deck chairs, flotation gear, and other loose items with the name of your boat, your home port, and your name.

Photograph or videotape the interior and exterior of your vessel, showing all installed equipment and additional gear and equipment.

Using Caution When Buying a Vessel

Be careful when buying a used vessel—it could be stolen. Verify all identification numbers to make sure they haven’t been tampered with. Be certain that the boat’s description on the title matches the boat you are buying.

  • Check year, make, length, and the hull identification number (HIN). Do not buy a boat if the HIN has been altered or removed.
  • Do not buy a boat that is registered as “homemade” but is obviously a manufactured model.
  • Do not buy an outboard motor if the model and serial number plates have been removed.
  • Be suspicious of a fresh paint job on a late model boat.
  • Don't forget that if the price seems too good to be true, there is a good chance that the vessel is stolen.

Don’t purchase a boat with a dubious pedigree.

  • Before buying, be certain the seller can provide you with current registration, a bill of sale, and title.
  • Compare the registration information against the actual boat. If the HIN and description don’t match, leave it. Failure to obtain all necessary paperwork will likely result in your not being able to register the purchase.
  • If you suspect the attempted sale of a stolen boat, immediately contact the environmental police and state or local police.

Reporting Marine Theft

Immediately report any possible theft to your local law enforcement agency, the state environmental police, and your insurance company.

Upon reporting such theft to the environmental police, your boat will be deleted from the registration database, preventing re-registration by another party.

To report a stolen vessel, call the MA Environmental Police Radio Communication Center at 800-632-8075.