Leaving a kayak unattended

I live in southeast Michigan (Ann Arbor) and just bought my first kayak. I’m a backpacker and have some ideas about combining the two activities that would involve stashing the boat somewhere while I hike, potentially leaving it overnight. In my backpacking experience (and car-camping as well), I’ve never worried about theft. I’ve left gear stashed or setup in a lot of places and have had no issues. I worry much more about critters getting into my pack looking for food or someone breaking into my car at a trailhead. To date (and I’m old!) critters have been my only problems.

So, I’m wondering what reasonable precautions, if any, I need to take about leaving my kayak unattended. It may sometimes be left at launch sites that are accessible by car, other times it will be somewhere more remote. Do I need to lock it like a bicycle? I was at a few Pere Marquette river launch sites last weekend and saw kayaks left on the racks setup right by the launch ramps. They looked like outfitters’ boats. Could I leave my boat like this as well if I’m camping overnight nearby?

FWIW, I will be traveling solo and I don’t have an expensive super light composite kayak… (It would be akin to someone stealing a Toyota Corolla. lol)

I know this forum may not be regionally specific but I’ve noticed that there are quite a few Michigan paddlers among you. I’m curious what your experience has been.

Leave a Note
Sounds funny, but I HAVE done it. One time left paddles back at takeout. My kayak was already unloaded so we left it and my gear at the put in for 30-40 minutes. I left a note something like this, “Hey, Bubba, I went back for more 12 gauge shells, be back in a few minutes. Jim”

Make it look as if you’ll be right back and I would think putting it in view of others will decrease the likelihood

it will be bothered. Remember, most thieves are lazy and cowards. Make it more difficult and and worrisome and you’ll be less likely to be a victim.

The only time you need to lock it up

– Last Updated: Jul-26-12 10:58 AM EST –

is when it is about to get stolen.

I have stashed boats many times and used a bicycle to run shuttle when I was paddling rivers alone. I usually carried a little cable lock and padlock and used it on the boat when doing the bike leg of the shuttle, and on the bike when paddling.

It would have been no real deterrent to someone intent on stealing the boat or the bike.

I have even left boats overnight on rivers. Sometimes when running the Chattooga Section III and IV we left boats in the woods near the river so as not to have to hike up steep trails with them to a campsite. I have heard of folks doing the same thing when running the upper and lower Gauley as well.

I never had a problem but lately I have heard of increasing numbers of folks having their boats ripped off. Boats got stolen off of vehicles parked at pull offs along the Nantahala River a few times in recent years.

About 3 or 4 weeks ago, a friend of mine kayaked the upper and lower Ocoee. For those who are familiar with the river, he was waiting for a friend to meet him at the private boater's take out on the lower Ocoee which has a sizable parking area and outhouses just off highway 64. There is usually a good amount of traffic and activity there when the river is turned on.

He had his boat and gear sitting out on the grass near the river and decided to eat a Powerbar he had in the boat. He walked away from his gear about 50 yrds to throw away the wrapper in a garbage can near the outhouses. When he turned around, he was amazed to find that someone had pulled into the lot, immediately loaded his boat and gear in their truck, and were ready to pull out of the lot.

To make a long story short, multiple people saw and could identify the vehicle. The culprits (2 young women who were probably crackheads) were apprehended. They had tossed most of his gear out their vehicle when they found they were being pursued and had been able to shake off the pursuers long enough to pull off the road and stash the boat, intending to come back for it. They were later apprehended and took police officers to the boat so my friend got everything but his paddle and river shoes back, which got tossed in the chase and could not be found. Drugs were found in their vehicle and the total value of the items made this a felony theft. The speed and determination with which they acted prompts me to believe this was not the first time they had done something of this type.

I get the impression that some local rapscallions have learned that boaters are easy targets that leave boats and paddles unsecured on their vehicles and their stuff lying around unattended at put ins and take outs and have started to target those areas systematically as a source of revenue to buy drugs.

the same thing happened to me
only, in my case, I was going to pee, and the missing item was a power bar, brazenly stolen from my kayak in broad day light. The crow was witnessed high above on a nearby branch but not apprehended. I suspect this was not his first felony.

I realize
nothing will stop a determined thief but these keep me from looking out the window at the hotel. In the woods just wrap it around a tree.


Unattended boats

– Last Updated: Jul-26-12 12:15 PM EST –

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway; boat theives are cowardly, lazy, scum of the earth.

Unattended, unsecured boats are targets of opportunity for thieves. Leave your boat unattended, and unsecured enough times, and somebody will steal it. Just a matter of time.

A boat secured with a locked cable, or chain, or left in plain sight will not stop a determined thief, but they are certainly deterrents.

There are 100s of thousands of thieves, roaming everywhere, free as the birds. Previously arrested for thievery; they received slaps on the wrists, a small fine, and a couple of days in jail, or were placed on probation to steal again.
I know; I was a probation & parole officer for 2 years.

Have your boat's serial number, and photos of your boat filed away somewhere to assist with it's ID, if it is stolen.

Good luck,

It is a good idea to look for a name and phone number on any used boat you are planning to buy, often under a deck plate on a canoe or inside a kayak. If you find one, give a call before you buy to see if the prior owner actually sold the boat or it was ripped off.

If thieves start to have difficulty unloading stolen boat, they will turn their attention to stealing something else.

Short Boats and Pick Up Trucks
If it can be thrown in the back of truck, its gone.

Quick easy secluded area begs for it to be stolen.

I’ve always used a lasso cable lock.

Make it tougher, make them think twice,

increase the chance it will be there when you return.

Another vote for cable locks
At launches or public places I would cable lock my boat to my vehicle or a tree.

If you are out in the wilderness overnight on a river or paddle and portage trip, you are probably a lot safer from casual thieves and may not wish to carry cables and locks with you. Most other wilderness canoeists are not going to steal someone else’s cached boat or food. However, I would still not leave my electronic gear or expensive ZRE paddles in an obvious cache.

Some drunk may treat your cockpit
as a urinal. On the other hand, if you pee into it yourself, the thieves may drop it in disgust, and you can rinse it out later.

fantastic idea
I am going to drink a case of beer right now and then go out and attend to theft-proofing my boats.

Need a lot of beer for your fleet, Pete

I’ve lived in many places
in the US and around the world including A-squared.

and Michigan is the place I ever had multiple items stolen from me. I’d find a good way to lock it up.

"Pee into it yourself…"

Lock it

– Last Updated: Jul-26-12 6:54 PM EST –

A WW-oriented board (mountainbuzz) frequently has anguished posts about stolen boats, paddles, high-dollar PFDs, and more. I don't remember anybody ever mentioning having locked them.

In my state, owners are supposed to write their name and address in indelible ink inside the boats. I limit it to my name (and phone # for the WW gear that's more likely to simply get lost on the water). The last thing I want is for a would-be thief to know where to break in and steal the kayak when the right time arises. So no address, and the hell with what the state officially demands. Besides, addresses change--indelible ink doesn't. Idiots.

Another tip: Write your boat's serial number in several places. In my sea kayaks, that includes all the hatch compartments PLUS some other locations that are not obvious. I keep all purchase paperwork for boats and major possessions, plus they all have serial numbers recorded, backed up, and one copy stored in a bank safety deposit box.

Also, if your state is like mine and requires that you keep your vehicle registration in it, don't store it in the glove compartment! Carry it with you (like in a wallet), so that it still is technically in the car...when YOU are driving it, not a thief.

Anything that thwarts a thief is acceptable to me. That includes some really mean traps.