Stolen Boats/Motors & Even Trailers

Stolen Motors ;  Sad to say, many fishermen find that “kicker” motors of from a 6 to 15hp size are a prime target for thieves these days.  There are things you can do that MAY help prevent the ordinary thief, like bolting it to the transom, but use Loctite on the threads or peen the ends of the bolts over.  Padlocking it to the boat surely won’t hurt.  These may slow down the theft if it was an opportunity type theft.  However if they are really after something and they think they have the time, they will make their opportunity.  And bolt cutters are sold in the hardware stores every day and I doubt if ID is required for this purchase.

 I began to wonder after looking on e-Bay as to why many of these seemingly running motors are broken down and sold as parts.  I can see it if the power head was blown, or a lower unit seized up, but occasionally about all of the parts are being sold at the same time where the person selling them appears to no real idea what he has.  That is until you realize that you do not see many of the mounting/clamping brackets put up for sale that have the Model and Serial Numbers on them.  Kind of makes one begin to wonder???

 Stolen Boats ;  Usually there is no such thing as recovering a USABLE boat if it was stolen, just ask the insurance companies.   The reason is it will be stripped of everything of value and dumped in some area, many times not so isolated and usually without the trailer.  The are not really after the boat, but the motors, all your gear and electronics.  If they can get it in a package deal, then they get braver.

I know one fishing equipment related sales rep who was getting ready to go on vacation.  His wife and he were packing, loading things in both the van amd the boat parked separately in their driveway.  The thieves must have been parked across the street or had a lookout, as between his and her exits from the house to the boat/van and back, the thieves backed in, hooked the trailer to their vehicle and were gone in less than 3 minutes while the owners were inside the house.  It was recovered 3 days later, stripped, but left on a Freeway On Ramp.

If you park it so the trailer is accessible, sometimes they just throw a chain around the trailer tongue at night and pull the boat down the street far enough to then be able to securely hook it up if no one notices and or follows them.  If someone comes too close they just throw the chain and drive off.

Preventing Boat Trailer Theft ;   It can be rather disheartening to return to the launch after a day of fun / fishing only to find your boat trailer missing from your towing vehicle.  Many of us do padlock the trailer hitch lever down so it can not be disconnected from the ball.   This can also be a good thing to get used to doing as it is a reminder to not forget to snap the lever down onto the ball.

But what about securing the hitch extension into the bumper’s receiver?  If you just use the original spring snap clip to hold the pin in place, it is rather easy to pull the pin, slide the trailer rearward enough to get the extension out of the receiver and then transfer the extension to a waiting vehicle that has the same commonly used receiver.  To prevent this, I have drilled my extension pin out enough to also accept a padlock bail, as shown in the photo below on the right. 

It is nice to purchase 2 padlocks using the same key for this situation.  You do need to remove the extension padlock occasionally and clean it up.  I have found that if you don’t, the lock may become hard to unlock.  Therefore it may be prudent to smear some Vaseline around where the bail enters the base to keep out water (which turns metal into rust) and over the key slot to keep the dust from getting inside the tumbler.

The thing you can do is get a high grade tongue lock, a rubber coated cable with a titanium heavy duty long shanked padlock.  Wrap the cable around your axle where it can not be slipped off if the tire is pulled off, and wrap it through the holes in the rim of the tire.  This will help prevent them from being able to brake your tongue lock and just driving off with your trailer.

However one area where drift boaters frequent and has had numerous trailers stolen, the trailers leave the area on the back of a flatbed truck, loaded with a winch / overhead boom set up, not towed by the hitch.   So if you see a truck coming out of any launch with an empty trailer loaded on the back of a flatbed, contact LE with a license number.

If Oregon would require all trailers to at least have a license plate, trailer theft would drop significantly in SW Washington according to the Law Enforcement Officer`s that were contacted after trailer thefts.

For those of you who may wonder what the upper license plate frame says, it is “Crime Control”, and the bottom, “Not Gun Control”.

Padlock on the hitch Padlock securing the extension to the receiver


The list below was put together by a major insurance company.

Thieves typically strike where they find an easy opportunity. You can help deter theft by keeping in mind three basic principles – TIME, NOISE and VISIBILITY.   Do things that increase the time it would take to steal your boat.  Take preventative measures that would force a thief to make noise in order to steal your boat.  Keep your boat where it is visible, making it difficult for a thief to steal your boat without being noticed.

Below is our top ten list of simple precautions you can take to help prevent your boat from being the target of a thief.

1. Do not leave your key in the ignition when the boat is not in use, and do not leave your key on the boat when it is unattended.

2. Secure your boat and trailer so it cannot easily be moved.  Park something big in front of it.  To those of you that have a swing away tongue you can remove the bolt that drops in to lock the tongue in place.

a. On Land – if the boat is to be left on a trailer for a short period of time, install a high quality trailer hitch lock.  If the boat must be left on the trailer for a longer period of time, remove one wheel from the trailer and lock the removed wheel in a secure location, away from the boat.  Also, chain the trailer frame to a large tree or other immovable object.

b. On the water – if your boat is large enough to carry or tow a dinghy, remember that a dinghy in the water is tempting to thieves.  Stow it aboard your boat if you can, or if it must stay in the water, use a cable and padlock to secure it to the primary vessel.  If your dinghy has an outboard motor you should remove it if possible, or install an outboard motor lock to secure it to the transom.

3. Never leave your boat parked near the road with a “For Sale” sign posted on it.

4. If your boat is kept at a marina, choose one with full-time security and good lighting.  Make sure your marina is aware of when your boat is being used by you or an operator approved by you.  The sooner they become aware the boat isn’t in its slip or where it is supposed to be, the sooner they can notify you so efforts can begin to locate your vessel.

5. Install an anti-theft alarm and/or tracking system on your boat.  Your local marine supplier should be able to recommend a quality model.

6. Remove all personal property, such as portable electronics and fishing equipment, from the boat when not in use.  If it cannot be easily removed, stow your equipment where it is out of sight and preferably in a locked storage location.  Use a diamond-tipped tool and etch identifying marks on all electronic cases, high-value rods and reels, HD/Flat Screened TV sets and other expensive personal items.

7. If the boat is kept at your home, store it behind your house or on the side of your house.  Avoid leaving it in a spot that is visible from the street.  Also, if possible, park it so the trailer tongue doesn’t face the street.  Install specially designed stern drive and propeller locks to help prevent theft of them.

8. To avoid entry into your vessel’s cabin, replace the spring-latch locking assembly with a deadbolt-type and padlock it.

9. Do not leave registration, title or document papers on the boat when it is not in use.

10. If you must leave your boat for an extended period of time, ask a friend to check on it regularly.

Of course, if the worst should happen and your boat or equipment is stolen, it pays to have comprehensive insurance in place and current photos.

Recovered Merchandise If you had your stolen unit covered by insurance, and it was finally recovered, but if you did get paid by the insurance company for the loss, remember that the insurance company now actually owns the boat and or motor, so you need to notify them if you do do manage to somehow get it back and it is anywhere usable.   They will probably sell it to you for next to nothing or they may even tell you to keep it.   But if you don’t tell them, then it is the same as you stealing it from them.

Actual account;  “I actually had a truck stolen and I was paid for the truck, 4 years later it was found in a police yard where it was being held since the day after it was stolen.  The thief drove it until it ran out of gas and left it on the side of the road.  Somehow the paperwork got lost so the police apologized and gave me the truck back 4 years later.  I called the insurance company because they had the title and I bought my truck back for $500 total.  They paid me $6,500 for the truck when it was stolen and it was basically in the same condition when I bought it”.

 Stolen Outboard Motor Serial Number List?   Insurance companies collect the serial numbers for every boat policy they sell.  If you cannot find the serial number to your unit, and you bought insurance on the boat prior to the loss, they will have the info.

Suggested guidelines if your motor is stolen.  The thieves are going to likely dispose it it SOON, so act quickly.

(1)    File a police report, provide them with make , model, and serial number.  If you do not have the model and serial number GET IT NOW BEFORE YOU NEED IT.  Give a picture, if you have one, if not, AGAIN, GET IT NOW   Think about any markings, dings, etc. that could help identify it.

(2)    Call your insurance agent, ASAP.

(3)    Run an add in a couple of newspapers or Craigs list wanting to buy a motor of the model and size of your loss, wait to see who calls

(4)    Check local pawn shops

(5)    Keep an eye on e-Bay and Craigs list

(6)    Do a periodic on-line search for an engine of your make, year, and model.  But don’t bother to use the serial
number as it will likely have been removed anyway..

(7)   Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to be returned, but miracles do happen occasionally.

(8)   Take a trip one day to some of your local boat launch facilities, kick back and just watch, you never know what may turn up and it can be entertaining seeing all the misadventures.

(9)   Don’t buy any motor that has the serial number altered, unless you can positively identify it as yours.  If it has been altered, contact law enforcement.

(10) I have heard that many of these boats and motors will wind up in Mexico.



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