These 7 tips can prevent your boat from being stolen

Small motor boat driving away Photo by Jan Ohrstrom/Shutterstock

When you’re packing up to head home after a weekend at the cottage, the last thing you want to worry about is your boat’s security. Fortunately, there are some easy measures you can take to prevent and report boat theft. We sat down with the CEO of Boating Ontario, Rick Layzell, and Georgian Bay OPP Const. David Hobson to learn about the best ways to keep your boat from being stolen.

Put your keys in a safe place

Taking keys out of the ignition may sound obvious, but it’s an all too common way boats get stolen. “We tend to get a little relaxed about our toys,” Layzell says. If you’re leaving your boat at a marina, put the keys in a locked glove compartment in your car. Otherwise, take them inside to your cottage and put them in a locked safe or other hidden location you’ll remember.

Chain your boat to the dock

Throwing a rope around a dock cleat may only take a thief a few seconds to untie. For a sturdier option, use an anchor chain. This won’t necessarily prevent theft altogether, but it will take more time for a thief to dismantle, which makes it easier to catch them. Make sure to inspect the chain annually and replace it if you see signs of corrosion or thinning lines.

Cottage Q&A: Which dock chains last?

Protect your motor

Some thieves are only interested in stealing the outboard motors since they’re harder to track and easier to sell. If the motor can be removed, store it somewhere away from the boat—in a garage, basement, or locked shed. If it’s too heavy to move on a regular basis, install an outboard motor lock like this.

Secure your trailer twice

For a trailer-bound boat, Layzell recommends using a Master Lock trailer coupler since they’re much harder to break through than a typical lock. You should also run a chain through a wheel and attach a second lock to it, or take off the wheels entirely when they’re not in use overnight.

Keep identifying information

  • Make sure to take note of the hull serial number, which is found on the “upper starboard quarter of the outside of the transom” according to Transport Canada, or on the boat’s purchase order, if bought through a dealer. 
  • Keep some photos of the boat. 
  • Register the boat with Transport Canada, which will grant you an official certificate showing your proof of ownership.

Do a personal property search when buying a boat

A personal property search, also called a lien search, will allow you to check the ownership history of the boat, including storage status and previous liens or repairs. If a boat you want to purchase has been stolen, the lender or bank that owns it will be notified.

Report a stolen boat

If your boat has been stolen, your first step should be to report the theft to the OPP and Service Ontario. Provide them with the identifying information you kept, as well as the approximate date, time, and location of the theft. If you think a boat you want to purchase has been stolen, call them and don’t arrange a meeting until the seller is proven legitimate.

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