Being the victim of boat theft is a nasty experience so we’ve got our top 10 tips on how to keep both your vessel and your belongings safe


Whether big or small, marine crime has a big impact on its victims and can generate fear among boating communities. The first step to tackling the problem is ensuring that you’ve done everything you can to protect yourself from boat theft.

The following tips should help you to have peace of mind that you’ve left your boat and its belongings as secure as they can be.

1. Never leave anything valuable on display, this includes items lose in the cockpit or on deck such as rope and fenders.

2. If you can, take any valuables off the boat with you, or make sure you lock them away and keep the curtains drawn when the boat is empty so thieves can’t see inside. If you’re unable to take some items with you, ensure you mark them and photographs of the item.

3. Stickers stating that all valuables have been removed from the boat is also another good deterrent.

4. Make sure you use strong padlocks to secure any cupboards. Fit good strong locks and hinges where possible and invest in an alarm if one can be placed on the vessel.

5. Keep your life raft and engine secure as these are some of the most valuable items on your boat. You can get locks specifically designed for outboard engines that hold up against strong attempts at removal.

6. If you need to step away from the ignition, always take the key with you.

7. Keep a list of all the serial numbers on valuables like your radio, navigation equipment or outboard engine. In the event that your boat is broken into, you’ll have copies to pass the police, making it easier for them to trace stolen items back to you. It’s also worth making a note of any scratches or marks your equipment has, as it could help identify it in the event it is stolen.

8. Mark everything you buy for your boat with your postcode and contact details.

9. Keep your boat keys separate to your engine keys, so should either of them be stolen, a thief won’t have access to both.

10. Make sure you’re part of the Boatmark scheme, which will see your boat given an electronic tag, programmed with a unique 14-character Hull Identification Number.

If you’re concerned about theft in your area, consider setting up a watch with your local sailing club or motor group so that vessels are checked over regularly. Frequent patrols should also help deter thieves from targeting you in the first place.

Those who do become victims of marine crime are encouraged to contact their local police force on 101. In the event that anything is stolen from your boat, it’s worth checking sites such as eBay and Gumtree in case whoever stole your property attempts to sell it on. You should contact the police if you recognise any items being sold online that you believe to be yours.

  • Sinik

    ‘3. Stickers stating that all valuables have been removed from the boat is also another good deterrent.’
    Really? You mean thieves walk along the pontoon looking for boats that haven’t got those stickers and think, “Oh, no sticker here, I’ll break into this one.”

    ‘4. Make sure you use strong padlocks to secure any cupboards.’

    This was written by someone who doesn’t know how boat furnishings are constructed (clue: lightweight thin materials). Follow this advice and all the locked cupboards will be smashed up instead of just being rifled. Thousands of pounds to repair the damage, always assuming you can find someone to do the repairs, otherwise you’ll have to do them yourself.

    ‘Those who do become victims of marine crime are encouraged to contact their local police force on 101.’
    Give me patience. Have you tried doing anything via 101? It’s freakin’ useless. They’ll fob you off to get rid of you, then send you a letter saying they treat all crime with the utmost seriousness and will investigate the incident carefully, followed up by another useless letter from Victim Support, and that’s the last you’ll ever hear of it.

    I only read these articles for a bit of a laugh nowadays, and I’ve cancelled my subscription. This isn’t journalism, it’s eyewash.

  • DJ

    Great article… Boatzing provides you online tools to inventory your boat complete with serial numbers as well as track your boat, and so much more !