If you own or are considering buying a boat, especially in Florida, you might want to consider how well it’s secured and insured. The most recent National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) report shows a decrease in stolen boats, but Florida remains No. 1 in most stolen boats for the third year in a row, and three Florida cities top the list nationally.
Florida had 1,114 reported boat thefts alone in 2018, followed by California with 483 and Texas with 378. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa were the hot spots for boat thefts, with 203, 68 and 64 incidents, respectively. Of all the watercraft stolen in 2018, 1,733 (or 39 percent) had been reported recovered as of April 4, 2019. Of the recovered watercrafts, 52 percent were recovered within nine days of being stolen. The holiday with the most watercraft thefts in 2018 was Labor Day, with 26 thefts.
According to the NICB, all boat owners can practice safe and smart ownership by taking the following steps:
Review your coverage. Boat insurance policies can vary widely in what they do and do not cover based on a number of considerations, including the type of boat, the waters it will traffic and how many months of the year the boat will be used.
Take photos of your boat and its equipment. Make sure to consider value of things like life preservers, depth/fish finders, anchors, etc., when determining the amount of insurance you will carry.
Do not leave your title or registration papers in the boat. Take them on and off the boat with you.
Remove expensive equipment from your boat when the boat is not in use for extended periods of time.
Carry coverage for physical damage. This coverage insures your boat against damage and loss caused by common risks, such as sinking, fire, storms, collision and theft. The property usually covers the boat hull, boat motor(s), described boat equipment and the boat trailer if requested.
Carry liability coverage. This coverage applies if your boat causes injury to others or damage to other boats, docks or structures. It might also provide protection against lawsuits, including the payment of settlements and legal fees.
Strive for discounts. The best way to lower your boat insurance premium is to become a safer boater. Most insurance companies offer a discount to boaters who have completed an approved boating safety course.
Chain and lock detachable motors (especially dinghy motors) to the boat.
Just one lock? Try another, and another. You simply can’t have enough. The goal is to make someone else’s boat more attractive than yours, so the more locks a thief sees—on the trailer tongue, outboard engine, salon entry door, helm station equipment, lazarette lockers—the better the chance he’ll move on.
Find a better hiding place for the key. Never assume your key’s hiding place, i.e., in the washdown compartment, is so good that thieves won’t find it.
Don’t stand out. You may want to think twice about hanging a “for sale” sign on the side of your boat. Use a full winter cover to hide attention-getting gear. Store all valuables, removable electronics and paperwork at home during the off-season.
Check with your marina to see what type of security they offer.
Form a “marina watch” program with other boaters to keep an eye on each other’s vessels and report any suspicious activity.
Install an audible alarm system.
Check out new anti-theft technologies. Devices that send alerts to your cell phone, take photos/video, provide tracking, or kill the motor if your boat moves from its virtual boundary can stop a theft in its tracks.
Disable the craft by shutting fuel lines or removing batteries.
Use a trailer hitch lock if you’re parking a boat on its trailer.
Install a kill switch in the ignition system.
In the furtherance of watercraft theft awareness and prevention, the NICB brochure: “Boat Theft: Leave Thieves in Your Wake,” suggests that boat owners should use a common-sense approach to protecting their watercrafts. In addition to the above advice, NICB recommends always docking in a well-lit area, securing your boat to the dock with a locked steel cable and locking the cabin, doors and windows and removing registration or title papers when the craft is not in use.
Finally, to be prepared for the possibility of a watercraft theft, NICB encourages boat owners to take photos of their boat and to be sure that their boat and equipment are marked with a Hull Identification number, a serial number that uniquely identifies every boat and will ultimately help law enforcement with recovery efforts.