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Five ways to keep your boat safe in winter storage

by Scott Croft 23 Sep 15:56 UTC
Could you be making it too easy for boat thieves this winter? © Scott Croft

Pretty soon, millions of recreational boats will be put into winter storage to await next year's season. As they sit unattended for months, they can easily become a target for thieves. Will your boat be on a crook's hit list?

Here are five signs that may welcome a thief as well as simple things you can do to thwart them, from Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS).

  1. Leaving electronics aboard your boat mounted on a bracket over the winter is a sign that says "come take me." Bring home any electronics that can be removed easily. For permanently installed electronics, take pictures and record model and serial numbers in case you need to file a claim or police report. If you want added protection, ask your insurer if it offers lower deductibles on claims made for electronics, the most common theft insurance claim during winter storage.
  2. Fishing gear, watersports equipment, expensive life jackets and other gear often get stolen with electronics. Bring them home, too, along with the boat's registration. The title should never be stored aboard.
  3. You automatically make a crook's target list if you have a PWC or an outboard-powered boat that is less than 26 feet and stored on a trailer - the most common types of vessels stolen. Florida, California and Texas (in that order) may be the top three states for boat theft, but if you live elsewhere, you're not immune. If storing your boat at home on a trailer, arrange it so the tongue does not face the street for an easy getaway. Remove one wheel from an axle. Hitch receiver locks may also deter theft. PWCs should be stored inside a locked garage or secure storage facility.
  4. On sterndrive-powered motor boats, outdrives are targets for theft as they don't take very long to remove and are expensive to replace. Consider removing the outdrive annually each fall at winter storage time and storing in a safe location, which can also allow for annual preventive maintenance such as a critical bellows inspection, a common cause of sinkings.
  5. Leaving a portable outboard on a small boat transom just begs a bad guy to come take it. Small outboards should always be removed and stored in a secure location, such as a locked garage or basement. Install a lock on larger outboards.
BoatUS offers additional ways to prevent off-season boat theft. If you'd like to compare your insurance policy coverage or get a free quote, go to BoatUS.com/Insurance.

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