The sad truth that comes with reading statistics about theft involving boats is simple: once it's gone, it's gone. Last year CNBC reported that boat theft increased nationally by 1 percent. In Florida—a top state for boating and, thus a target-rich environment for criminals—the recovery rate for stolen boats is less than 40 percent. In California, it’s 55 percent. And sometimes, the thieves don’t want the whole boat. They want the helm electronics or the outboard engines. In Florida alone, about 600 boat engines a year get stolen.

boat theft

Is your boat actually secure and protected from possible theft? If the answer is no, follow these tips—it's better to be safe than sorry.

According to BoatUS, the largest category—by far—of stolen boats are those from 20 to 29 feet length overall. They’re usually boats that come on twin- or triple-axle trailers, and they usually have outboard motors. Think center consoles and bass boats. Those are the high-value targets for thieves.

To stop these scoundrels, a whole industry of boat-security equipment has sprung up. Options include everything from security cameras to old-fashioned locks and digital geofencing.

And in the case of preventing boat theft, old school can still work well. Physical, heavy-duty locks can be a trailered boat’s best friend. They’ll lock the engine to the boat, they’ll lock a chain around the tires, and they’ll lock the door to the cabin closed. Sometimes, depending on the boat’s design, old-school locks also can secure the helm console shut, protecting the electronics inside.

Boat anti theft devices

Think about boats with locks the way you think about cars with antitheft devices: They may not be perfectly protected, but they’ll be a pain-in-the-neck enough that thieves will move on to the next one, and leave yours alone.

When it comes to cameras and digital tracking features, Global Ocean Security Technologies, or GOST, has become a leader in the boating world. Its top-of-the-line system right now is the Apparition SM XVR GPS, which combines numerous features.

GOST boat security

The Gost Nav-Tracker 1.0 packages were designed to offer basic GPS satellite tracking with a push button to arm/disarm a geo-fence on boar and are designed to meet insurance requirements.

Sensors and motion detectors set off alarms if they get tripped on doors, hatches, companionways or even the liquor cabinet—which means you can scare off the bad guys the second they step aboard or lay a finger on anything. Video feeds include live mobile streaming and high-definition recording, so you can catch them in the act and have their faces clearly visible for law enforcement to see. And Gost’s Nav-Tracker lets you see your boat’s GPS coordinates, so even if the thieves do get hold of her, law enforcement can chase the thieves and get her back.

That last feature is noteworthy. Earlier this year, GOST announced that its Nav-Tracker system helped to recover a 34-foot Regulator in Florida inside of 49 minutes, setting a new record (previously, the record was 54 minutes, set in 2009). The owner knew his boat was being stolen because it breached a geofence—it cruised through a digital distance perimeter without him on board, setting off an alarm—and the Nav-Tracker alerted him. He then called the authorities, and the U.S. Coast Guard found the boat by tracking its course in the digital system.

Ironically, that Regulator was christened Can’t Touch This. Perhaps it’s worth thinking about security when naming your boat, too. There’s no need to taunt the thieves with a dare.

To learn more, read our features on Affordable Boat Monitoring and Security Systems, and Boating Independence for Kids: Technology Adds Protection.

Written by: Kim Kavin
Kim Kavin is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who specializes in marine travel. She is the author of 10 books including Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Vacations, and is editor of the online yacht vacation magazine