Boat insurance

Washington 4th-worst state for watercraft theft

Thursday, June 22, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

police boat speeding across the waterWashington residents file more insurance claims for watercraft theft than all but three states, you can surmise from the latest National Insurance Crime Bureau report.

Florida led the nation by far in 2016 with 1,291 craft stolen, followed by California, Texas, and Washington, which had 216 thefts. Oregon ranked No. 16 on the list.

As you might expect, Washington's populous tri-county region – King, Pierce, and Snohomish – saw the most in-state thefts. The recovery rate for stolen watercraft in Washington is 50%.

The NICB stats cover several types of vessels, with personal watercraft (jet skis) the biggest theft target followed by runabouts, utility craft (like rowboats and fishing boats), cruisers, and sailboats.

scowling pirate with a gunWashington led the nation in runabout thefts with 102, ahead of Florida and California. Tacoma ranked No. 7 nationally for watercraft theft by city, with 39; the other nine worst cities are all in Florida.

The last time I blogged about NICB's report I joked that it's rare for hydroplanes to be stolen. But lo and behold, there in the No. 10 slot I found them, sandwiched between yachts and hydrofoils. Four hydroplanes were stolen in 2016. Undoubtedly they were smaller hydros, not the 30-foot Unlimited-class hulls that race at Seafair and the Columbia Cup.

Boaters, guard your vessels with extra caution in the spring and summer, with July being the worst month for theft. And if you wonder which holidays pose the most risk, watch out on Labor Day, with July 4 not far behind. Memorial Day – often rainy in the Northwest – ranked no worse than five winter holidays.

PEMCO and the NICB recommend these tips for preventing watercraft theft:

  1. When you "dock it, lock it." Secure your craft with a steel cable.

  2. Remove expensive equipment when not in use.

  3. Chain and lock detachable boat motors.

  4. Don't leave title or registration in the craft.

  5. Disable it – shut fuel lines, or remove batteries.

  6. Install an ignition kill switch.

  7. Use a trailer-hitch lock.

  8. Ensure your insurance policy covers your boat, trailer, and equipment.

  9. Photograph your craft and etch it with the hull ID number.

boat-safely-stored-in-garage.jpgOne final tip, and hopefully by now it's a familiar one: If you own a trailer boat, park it in a secure location. Don't park it where a thief can easily pull up, hitch it, and drive away.

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