Trinidad Cruisers Exploring the Island

Outboard and Dingy Security

How to keep your stuff from sailing away.


It has been said that you don’t have to have absolute security, you only have to be more secure than your neighbor. This may be a compelling theory, but losses tend to be a random occurrence. So, the thief may have not cased then entire anchorage, but have only seen your dingy and looked no further. So, what can be done to reduce the risk of losing your dingy and outboard.

Cruisers tend to use smaller outboards then the local fishing or boating population. We mostly use 15 hp or smaller and are evenly divided between two and four stoke. There is little market for inflatable dingies locally. In most cases, the dingy is discarded and only the outboard is taken. Many dingies are recovered having been discarded with the transom missing where it has been cutaway to recover the outboard.

My stolen outboard advertised for sale to a friend.

Make It Stand Out

The first and maybe the most important step is to make your outboard identifiable. Paint it a bright color, make it look old, put stickers on it, mark it as a smaller hp, or otherwise make it less attractive to the theft and easily spotted at a distance. You should take a good photograph record to aid in recovery. Serial numbers are easily obliterated or masked. Engraving a phone number or some other number on it may make it less attractive and easer to trace.

Lock It Up

It goes without saying to LOCK IT UP and if possible, hoist it. A thief will pick the unlocked dingy every time. Unfortunately, bolt cutters are widely available. But, make them carry the biggest ones possible. The wire anti-theft devices sold in marine stores are easily cut by the smallest of bolt cutters or even a sharp knife. In my opinion, stainless steel 8 mm or better chain is the best. Watch them cut chain in the chandleries to get some idea on how effective it is. It usually takes two persons or one person and a strong floor and makes considerable noise. When the thieves have time and don’t mind the noise, angle grinders are used. If you hoist it consider using Dyneema line (it is much harder to cut with a knife).

Use a good lock. Look for one as rugged as possible and made of materials that are not easily cut and will stand up to the marine environment. The cheap locks sold in chandleries or hardware stores are not good. Go to a locksmith or order a reputable one online. It may be necessary to have a ring welded to the end of the chain to accommodate a better lock. Bike locks can be used. Choose a well-made and secure one. Get in the habit of always locking your dingy up. One day of laziness cost me mine. Think if securing both the outboard and then dingy with a single chain is possible. Many secure the outboard to the dingy with one device and then fasten the dingy with another. This allows the dingy to be stolen and the outboard cut off at their leisure at some place quiet. The ring on the dingy is often the weak link. Consider a monofilament line to a can full of bolts as a simple alarm.

Frame off a video of the thieves.

Know your neighbors

Your next level of protection are your neighbors. Get to know them and their habits. Let them know yours. Exchange phone numbers (or WhatsApp). Have a good light and horn. Five blasts are a sign of distress and should bring people running. Keep the VHF radio on and tuned to the local calling channel. Use extra caution when anchoring in a bay alone.

Marinas and Police - The Reality

Marina security is set up to protect the marina not your possessions! Security guards are the lowest paid profession. Most marinas expect you to recover your lost outboard through your insurance. It is also in the marina’s best interest to hush up any thefts, so as not get a bad reputation. It is a fact of life. They may be very nice, but they are in business to make money for their owners. This also applies to local police and marine patrols. Only when thefts get so out of hand that the marinas get worries will any preventive action be taken.

Another(?) stolen outboard offered for sale on Facebook Market Place.

Your dingy and outboard are stolen - what now?

Forget them, they are gone! What you do from this point on is only to help your fellow cruiser from getting theirs stolen. A few are recovered. Most are stolen by local gangs that are well known to the local police. It is sad to say some are taken by your fellow cruiser. A few bad apples in any barrel. Police are often unable or unwilling to risk their lives to enter a gang area to recover a rich yachtie’s outboard. Again, a fact of life. You may see it advertised on social media or marketed back to fellow cruisers. Mine was. Use extreme caution in recovering lost dingies as gangs may be tempting you to enter their domain and rob you again. Seek and abide by profession advise.

Report the thefts far and wide. Make lots of noise. Marinas will ask you to suppress the loss, don’t! Post the theft on as many places as possible. It may help get yours back, it for sure will help others. Report the theft to the police, but don’t expect much.