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Encompass® Insurance Insights & Articles

Protecting Personal Property on a Boat

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iPhone overboard! That's the last thing anyone wants to have happen while enjoying a relaxing afternoon out on the water. While the likelihood of losing valuables overboard is generally pretty low, there is always the risk for potential theft. When given the opportunity, thieves could make off with everything from expensive equipment and small outboard motors to boat propellers and even personal watercrafts. Don’t become a victim of marine theft.

1. Leave no valuables aboard. If it’s not there, it can’t be stolen. Many thefts occur because boat owners simply fail to remove valuable equipment from their boat, making their boats an attractive target for thieves. If you wouldn't leave a computer or phone on the boat overnight, why leave your boat equipment? Take your marine electronics, fishing tackle, and portable equipment off the boat when you leave. Mark all equipment, including rods, reels and tackle boxes. Engraved or marked equipment is less likely to be stolen, as it’s typically harder to resell. In the event it is stolen, these markings or engravings will assist law enforcement in returning the stolen merchandise back to its rightful owner.

2. Insure it. If you own a boat, boat insurance is important. Insurance policies can vary, so talk to your independent agent about coverage for your watercraft against physical damage and theft. You will also want to ensure your personal property on the boat is protected, too. Do a complete photo/video inventory your boat, equipment, motors and trailer (if applicable). Include marine electronics, depth finders, GPS devices, stereo systems, radios, and fish locators. Record all serial numbers associated with your gear and keep these records in a safe, secure location away from your boat. In the event of theft, you’ll have complete documentation to streamline your insurance claim and help police promptly return any recovered items.

3. Protect motors and propellers. Think a thief wouldn’t steal your stainless steel boat propeller or outboard motor? Think again. Secure motors and propellers with locks. If you use your boat sporadically, consider taking the small outboard motor with you to reduce the risk for theft when your boat is unattended.

4. Watch out for trailer boat theft. In the eyes of a would-be thief, a boat on a trailer is like Christmas morning: it’s easy to hitch up to your boat and trailer and then drive off into the night according to Boat U.S. Reduce the risk for theft by storing your boat and trailer in a secure boat storage facility or locked garage. If you must store your boat at home in the backyard, position the boat so the trailer tongue is not easily accessible. Consider parking another vehicle or large object in front of the trailer to make it impossible to remove. For an added layer of security, secure your boat to another heavy, stationary object.

5. Start a neighborhood “dock watch.” Successful boat thieves are experts at blending in with the dock community and can fool folks into thinking they belong. Talk to your dock neighbors about starting a dock watch program at your community dock or marina. Get acquainted with the folks who dock their boats near yours so you can spot and report suspicious activity. Finally, don’t assume that lockable gates are sufficient for keeping the boats at your marina safe. Gates won’t stop thieves from swimming in or accessing the dock by boat.

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