Parking Security Tricks?

I just drove back from Maine to Ohio towing my Trailex aluminum trailer with a new-to-me QCC 600X carbon/Kevlar kayak on top. We stayed in a hotel in PA and I was conscious of avoiding having something stolen. The trailer could even be attractive to scappers as it’s worth $40 or so in aluminum. I had a coupler lock on the trailer and a lightweight cable lock attaching the kayak to the trailer. Those are just a minor deterrent and wouldn’t stop a thief with tools. For added security for the kayak, I removed the hatch covers and brought those into the room. Since QCC is out of production, I figured a dishonest QCC owner who lost a hatch cover might be tempted to take mine, and figured a kayak thief might be less inclined to steal a boat that would have to be re-sold with missing parts. I also managed to park under a light near the lobby. The probabilities were in my favor and everything was fine in the morning.

I’m wondering if others have any interesting security tricks as well…

I used to travel with a $4000 folding kayak set up and on the rack (I could have folded it up and stashed it inside the vehicle but that seemed like too much hassle). I was as much afeared of vandalism as theft since a vandal with a penknife could have created major mischief with the fabric and rubber skin. So I would bring along a 6’ x 20’ lightweight cotton canvas painter’s tarp, the kind that they lay along a wall to catch the drips. It is just the right size to cover and obscure a boat and I would “mummify” it with multiple wraps of rope and straps and add a locking cable to the rack for good measure. I doubt that my protocols would have deterred a determined thief, but they would have had to dig down to see what the wrapped item was to assess if it was worth the trouble. Nobody ever bothered it, despite it having sat out in the parking lots of some pretty janky motels over those years.

There were times with that and other kayaks that I actually carried them into the motel room with me for the night.

Now I am down to just 3 non-foldling boats (plastic kayak, skin on frame and a solo canoe) and for future long trips I opted to get a “toy hauler” small motorhome. Based on a 16’ Penske box van, the rear overhead door and pull out ramp are intact and any of my boats will fit inside the cabin. Kind of a pain to have to step over a boat or two to get to the bathroom, but certainly the most secure way to transport. My other 4 boats are folding kayaks and packed in their duffels, all 4 of them could fit under the fold down double Murphy bed.

The hatch cover removal is a good ploy – like removing the wheels and seat when you lock your bike to a public rack. It would be wise to rack the kayak(s) inverted to avoid them filling with overnight rain when you do that.

Almost all of the kayak thefts I am aware of occur when a kayak is left unsecured on a regular basis in a yard where it is visible from the street. Unless it is a very short boat some planning must be made to steal it. Most people can’t just throw it on their roof and drive away.

Another factor is that the average thief wouldn’t have a clue as to what its worth or how to sell it. You can’t just wander about town with a 16’ bright yellow kayak and offer it to passersby. And most kayaks are unique enough that people would not want to paddle it anywhere near where it might have been stolen.

Storing it out of sight when possible and using a heavy duty cable lock is generally sufficient. Keep in mind that there are many thousands of boats in marinas and on community kayak racks that would be easy to steal, but I’ve rarely heard of a problem.

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My wife and I have have driven with two fiberglass/kevlar boats on top of our car all over the Northeast, from PEI and Nova Scotia to Florida. When we stop at a hotel we do lock the Hullavator arms, lock both kayaks together and to the car with a (fairly flimsy) cable lock and we always park in a brightly lit area as close to the front door/office as we can. We’ve never had a problem.

This was a long time ago, but I used to put a small portable motion detection alarm up on the seat of my canoe when staying at a motel. If the car/boat is parked right outside the room, there’s at least hope that it would be effective. I just looked on Amazon to see what was available. There’s plenty of options under $20. Search for: “portable motion alarm” or “bicycle alarm.”

I don’t believe you make a kayak less attractive by removing hatch covers. Thiefs are dumb. They will probably not even know, there should be a hatch cover over the opening.

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One comment above, I live in a city and can leave the kayaks relatively visible in the back yard. They are pretty beat - the two good looking boats are in the basement - and as said above there is not an easy fast resale opportunity. Not like you can run down a city the street carrying a 16 plus foot boat to the nearest illegal buyer and get money for the thing. Also found out some years ago that the skinny sea kayaks actually scare non-paddlers. Overheard a conversation from an adjacent back yard one evening between a couple of guys talking about how they were not willing to die in one.

But on anti-theft provisions - some while ago someone posted here that they put empty recyclables in the boats sometimes when they travels. So there would be a racket if anyone moved the boat. Similar to the motion sensor. I have a couple of the latter on my windows and they make a heck of a noise.

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A couple of years ago I transported a 23’ C4 canoe from the east coast through Canada to Whitehorse and back for a race on the Yukon River. Not that a thief would know the value of a carbon fiber boat or what to do with a boat of that size, but it did have a fabric cover and I had a bicycle cable lock around a thwart to the car roof rack. I had some bags of gear stored underneath the boat that would be impossible to remove without unstrapping the several straps from the canoe and lifting it up slightly. In the nine days to travel there and six days to return, I always tried to park in front of or below my motel room window where I could keep an eye on it. The Yeti cooler and other gear were removed nightly from the carrier rack at the rear of the car which itself and the trailer hitch were locked to the car.

When traveling it is best to sleep with your gear and/or trailers. On the rare occasion of a motel stop I like to park the rig in front of my window or at least in a place where I can see with a light.

I have much greater fear of people breaking into my parked vehicle while I am gone on a multiple day trip. I often have out of state plates with a trailer behind my truck. California near Redding is the worst. I pay for people to watch my rig. A campground or a fish camp is the usual place to leave it, not a public boat ramp or parking lot.

People have asked me if what we know to be hatch compartments are seats for passengers. This has happened at least twice.

The average American views boats as passenger vehicles, so don’t assume a thief will understand the problem with missing hatch covers.

When traveling with kayak(s) either on trailer or rooftop, I always parked so that the rig and boats were easily visible from my room window. This meant asking specially for such parking when calling for a reservation (always advisible with a trailer anyway).

For extended parking on multiday trips, what we did varied. In Yellowstone and at Lake Powell, we simply parked in the designated area for such vehicles. But when I assumed I’d be on the water for up to two weeks at Flaming Gorge, I paid to store the truck and trailer in a fenced parking area which was locked at night. We also paid to park our vehicle for a week at a private campground in AK, where we had stayed just before taking off. Same arrangement on a previous trip when all of us were on the water for a month.

A different deterrence method: Yesterday while driving in an expensive resort destination, I saw some beautiful big log bedframe pieces in an open pickup bed, parked right on the main drag. The truck cab rear window had a couple of stickers on it, one of which showed a gun and the words, “Just try and take it.”

My main security ‘trick’ is to put 2 foot high chicken wire around your vehicle when you go for a wilderness paddle. Those porcupines can chew through a tire in a couple of hours. Also, it’s a bad idea to leave anything food related in the vehicle as we’ve had several bear break-ins. And they usually panic and trash the vehicle once inside.

Amen on porcupines and bears. We used to hike into a tiny cabin built on forest acreage along the Clarion river owned by friends and after being kept awake several nights by the damned porkies gnawing on the plywood door and woodbox frames, on the next trip we packed in 3’ wide rolls of 1/4" metal mesh hardware cloth to staple over the door, box and entire perimeter of the cabin.

Back in 1975 we were concerned about leaving our van parked for a week at the trailhead while we backpacked up 30 Mile Creek in Banff (grizzly country) so we cleaned it out thoroughly. When we got back to the lot at the end of the trip our vehicle was intact but the sedan parked 20 feet away had a crushed in hood and a back door deformed and torqued off the hinges and covered with huge claw marks. The back seat was shredded and clothing and mauled food packages were strewn all around the car, inside and out, including obvious remnants of an entire family sized box of powdered donuts. Judging from the claw marks that was one big (and probably happy) bear.

Ironically, though we escaped theft by bear in Banff on that trip, we had arrived back at the car a day early due to human crime. We had packed in 2 1/2 days’ march from the trailhead, planning to to do several branch hikes from a basecamp. On day 3 we hiked with day packs up some alpine ridges but upon returning to camp we found it ransacked, obviously by humans rather than animals (tents unzipped and ropes cut by knives). My new stove was gone, as was one of my companion’s high end sleeping bag and the hanging bag with our food had been cut down and emptied. Stealing someone’s food from their backcountry site should be a capital offense. We had to make do with a meager supper of what we had left in our day packs and then do a 23 mile forced march out on day 4 with nothing but water and a few shared granola bars. We heard at the tent hostel we stayed at a few days later that a group of Francophone Euro-trash hippies had been previously evicted from that camp for suspected theft and trying to sell what were thought to be stolen gear items.

I will say that in a span of over 50 years of wilderness trekking that was the ONLY case of theft from an unattended campsite that I experienced. And have only had one case of paddling crime, in 2003 when my partner and I left our kayaks on a dock on the Housatonic to have dinner at a riverside restaurant on our way back from a trip out through the delta and into LIS. When we came back to the boats we saw that the spray skirt had been pulled off his boat and his new $200 break-down casting rod and reel stashed in the cockpit had been pilfered. We had seen a bunch of young boys loitering near the dock and guessed it was their mischief.

Yes, removing hatch covers is for that even more rare thief who actually knows something about kayaks and is a thief nonetheless.

Make sure your insurance is sufficient to cover it then don’t worry any further. But don’t be stupid about where you park either.

There’s certainly more theft in the densely populated US, but that should also mean there are more people to spread insurance costs.

I’ve got replacement value insurance on my stuff, so that if my 20 year old CD Solstice GTS were stolen, I’d get a new (or equivalent) one via my insurance company (even though I bought it used for less than a third of retail.)

That having been said, who wants to deal with a broken window and stolen stuff while on a trip. Might mean you’d miss a long-planned float or ride, as you’re not going to get replacement goods right away.

Me, I’m really careful about where I park and what’s left in the car. Usually the car is empty, with all the stuff brought to the hotel/motel room. I haven’t traveled with a kayak, not sure how that would change things. At minimum, it would be locked to the (locked) roof rack with a bike lock. Sure, a motivated thief can get through a bike lock quickly, but it sure would deter a casual thief…as would a motion sensor/noise maker.

I forgot to mention that I locked the kayak to the roof or trailer with a Lasso Lock. Nothing is absolutely secure but a lock adds more time and futzing to a potential theft.

I made cables that I ran through the wheels and around the frame.
Also a long steel pipe with a big flange welded at one end and the other flattened and drilled. I slide the pipe through the holes in the wheels and padlock the flatttened end.

You can also cable-&-padlock the kayak to the trailer.

If Grand Thieft Auto is 10 years if you steal a ratty VW or a Porshe, which are you going to risk jail to steal?
I trashed my Malone trailer with all sorts of stupid bumper stickers and such to make it look like it is falling apart. That way the thief will go after the Thule trailer.

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In addition to locking my boat to my roof rack with a cable lock, I also have an additional cable lock that has a 120db audible alarm that goes off if the cable is cut.