Unfortunately boats sometimes get stolen just like cars. Sometimes they are easier to steal than cars, at least initially, because they are often left unsecured and they can be sailed off without much noise when no one’s around. It’s important to lock boats when they are not in use, especially in high traffic boating areas such as busy harbors in vacation areas.
If your boat has been stolen however, all may not be lost. There are some steps you can take to try to get it back. Let’s take a look at some avenues you can pursue in attempting to find a stolen boat:
Notify Police and Coast Guard
The first step if you suspect a boat is stolen is to notify the police and coast guard. The police may work with the coast guard themselves, or you can contact the coast guard yourself. These agencies will begin to attempt to trace the boat. They will most likely want information about the boat such as its description, its hull identification number (HIN), it’s year, make, and model, and so on. There may be other law enforcement agencies such as “watercraft offices” in your particular state of residence that deal with boat and water vehicle related crimes as well.
Talk to Other Boaters
Talk to other boaters that have been boating in the area and see if they have seen a vessel that fits your description. Law enforcement may also do this as a part of their investigation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t interview a few people also. Boats are quite conspicuous when in the open water, so there is a fair chance that someone may have caught sight of it. If someone has, try to get them to specify the date and time as accurately as possible, any descriptions of who was aboard the craft, and any other relevant information. You can take this information back to the law enforcement agency you are dealing with and supply them with it. They may do a follow up interview with the witness.
Keep in Mind Non Waterway Theft
Remember that a thief may not have stolen the boat by piloting it away on water – they may have loaded it, say, on to a truck and driven it away. Often simple circumstance will make clear which has occurred: if your boat was stored in a garage far from any water it’s certain that the means of stealing the boat was vehicular in nature. But if the boat was moored and afloat, that does not automatically mean that is was stolen via a waterway. It may still have been taken away by car or truck. Check out both angles and try to get a sense of the most likely escape route. Footprints and other clues can sometimes be of help here.
Reenact the Crime
If possible, get use of a boat similar to the one that was stolen and reenact the crime. Pretend you are the boat thief. Place the boat where it was situated and ask yourself how you would go about stealing it in the most efficient way. You can even go as far as taking the boat out on the water and finding likely landing spots where the thief may have had a vehicle waiting and made a getaway. You’d be surprised by how doing such a reenactment can bring up clues and angles you may not have thought of.
Consider Air Searches
This may sound extravagant, but sometimes boat owners are also plane owners. Alternatively, a plane can possibly be rented and piloted by either you (if you know how to fly) or somebody else. This has a precedent – it is not just a crazy idea. A boat owner named Steve Boone found his $180,000 stolen pleasure boat this way. He rented a plane, and after an hour and half of flying spotted his stolen boat being hauled along on a highway. The individuals driving the vehicle were stopped by police and arrested, and Steve got his boat back. This just goes to show you that resourcefulness can pay off when looking for stolen boats or other items.
It is a shock to have something large and valuable like a boat stolen, but try to keep a cool head and follow the steps above. Also use originality in your approach in trying to piece together what happened. Boats are large and easily seen items and present many difficulties for a thief to maneuver secretly, so your chances of someone having seen your boat are fairly good. Stick with it and try as many avenues as possible, and with a little luck your boat may well be recovered.