Preventing theft of canoe

We have a cabin about 300 feet above a lake. It therefore is not easy or practical to haul our canoe up from the lake each time we use it. For the past two years we have left the canoe down at the water, chained with a light chain. However, we have recently discovered that one of our neighbors has a long criminal record for theft and also a bad drinking problem that makes his conduct sometimes irrational. We strongly suspect him of a minor break-in at the cabin itself (someone broke into our storage shed and crawlspace). The cabin is now completely covered by a security system, but the canoe is vulnerable (and valuable). I want to attach a very strong lock and chain to the canoe, but if I attach it to any of the cross-beams, it looks as if they could be easily unscrewed. So, here (at last) is the question: if I drill a hole (maybe two inches in diameter) through the canoe (which is made of fiberglass) up above the water-line, next to the rim, is that likely to damage the canoe or compromise the fiberglass in any way?

If anyone has any other suggestions about how to attach the lock and chain securely, I’d appreciate hearing your advice. Many thanks for your help!

Why drill such a big hole?

– Last Updated: Mar-18-06 12:01 AM EST –

Option One:
You can do exactly what you suggest, but if I were to take that route, I'd drill a hole no bigger than one-half inch, for starters. Put a one-half-inch bolt through that hole (with washers on both sides), and figure out a way to anchor a ring to that bolt which is roughly as durable as the chain or cable you will use for locking it up. Use a bolt of such length that once you tighten the nut to anchor it in place (not too tight or you'll crush the fabric), the end of the bolt is flush with the top of the nut. That way you can peen the nut in place so it can't be removed with a wrench (to make peening easy, hold a big sledge hammer firmly against the other side to act as an anvil while striking the punch). Andy how to attach your locking ring? If you can't weld, take the bolt you plan to use to a welding shop and they can attach one in a couple of minutes (do this before you attach it to the boat!). I'd even go one step further and grind off the flats of both the bolt head and nut since it need not be cranked on very tight. Once the nut has been peened on, there's no way place for a wrench, and you can be sure the peening job is gonna hold!

Option Two:
People often instal "Tugeyes" or a home-built equivilent in the stems of their canoes. This is basically a little PVC pipe that connects the right and left sides of the hull, right near the "pointy end". Usually people put a loop of rope through that there, but if you make that passageway big enough, and you can thread a steel cable through there. With a fiberglass canoe, you'll end up doing some fiberglass work to do the job up right.

Option Three:
Speaking of peening nuts so they can't be unthreaded, how about doing that to the hardware that attaches the thwarts to the gunwales? There are lots of way to "bugger up" bolt threads so they won't come apart, and on such small bolts, a good squeeze with a pair of vise-grips will do the job (if there are no exposed bolt threads, just crush the nut). The whole idea is to make removing the thwarts too inconvenient for a the average thief to bother with. Of the three options, I like this the best because it's so quick and simple. If you ever NEED to remove the thwarts, you can still do it if you have plenty of time and the proper tools.

Maybe a lasso Security Cable?

They’re designed for kayaks, but may work for canoes also.

Those TugEyes look like a great idea.

I hope
I hope your canoe will be very safe. My kayak is locked in the garauge. I already have floorplans for my house when I buy land and I have decided to keep my kayak inside one of the rooms. since I degsinged the plans, I can make the kayak get into it’s special area easily and very sercurly. So the kayak fits into the house.

I prefer stealth

– Last Updated: Mar-18-06 12:57 AM EST –

methods.Perhaps bury a concrete block with a short length of chain coming out of the ground; storing your canoe upside down and chaining a thwart with a lock, which wouldn't be seen as the canoe is upside down.Cover the chain with some brush when you're canoeing. Any attempt at theft would be hopefully averted and at least delayed when the thief wouldn't know why the canoe wasn't moving. If it's dark out this is to your advantage. Reminds me of a neighbor who used to cut through my property and ruin my feeling of privacy. He denied ever cutting through my property. One day I strung some chicken wire loosely from my house to a tree at the edge of the property,right at dusk. That night I heard some rustling, a "what the cluck?!!" He walked into the wire and tripped and fell. Problem solved. I have 5 boats outside with a log-splitter. 11 years no problems.

Security cam ?
Nail one of these up in a tree. It might not keep the canoe from getting stolen but it’ll provide proof of who took it.

There’s probably cheaper ones if you Google around.

Maybe even one of those fake security cams with a red LED and antenna on it would do the trick.


Just hook up a switch that will activate a strobe light and loud disco music if the canoe is moved. It would scare me off.

Custom made cable for your canoe

– Last Updated: Mar-18-06 9:07 AM EST –

No holes necessary in the canoe.

I went to The Pennsylvania Sling Company and had them make a custom cable for my Spirit II. I drew up what I wanted and they made it on the spot while I waited.

The best way to describe it is a bridle for a horse. It looks something like this


The O slips over one end, the ---- is long enough to go around the back of a tree and the C goes over the other end and is connected together into another O by padlock. Cost was about $22.

Tebpac now owns it along with the Sprit II. The ----- section is long enough to go around the back of a pretty large tree. If you are going around something smaller, just put one or two overhand loops into the length of ---- to effectively shorten it. When done right, it is impossible to get the padlocked O----O off the canoe without cutting the cable. Of course, a determined thief will do just that.

Look in the Yellow Pages under Cables and Slings or some such thing.

Take a hand grenade…
And set the canoe on top if it in such a way that it will keep the spoon depressed and you still have access to it. Very carefully remove the pin. Carefully cover the grenade with leaves or other camouflage. Back away slowly.

You may have to buy another canoe at some point, but nobody will steal your second one, ever.

I was just sitting hear laughing. I saw the thread on canoe theft and started reading through it thinking to myself, “how the heck did that cable system work?” I should have taken a picture at the time I picked it up but was too excited just getting the canoe to think about it. Thanks for recap!


how about
some “bullet hole” decals applied to the canoe? No one would want a canoe with holes in it right?

or dig a maze
pattern or a bunch of random holes around the canoe, with feces covered pointy sticks at the bottom. Cover holes with landscape cloth and a layer of leaves. Make sure you make a schematic so YOU remember haw to approach the canoe. When the buzzards start circling you know your canoe is still safe.

Someone chopped down a tree to take the Grumman that was chained to it at my In-laws cabin.

Another time I had brought out a fleet of demo boats and was actually letting the staff of a competing outdoor shop (we’re all friends in town) paddle the lake. One girl had to leave early so I told her to just leave the gear on the beach, its within sight, will be fine.

Hour later we hit the beach, load up the boats and realize her paddle is missing. Someone says they saw a guy in a row boat near the kayak. We could see the row boat docked 1/2 mile around the bay. I jumped up onto the roof of the concession stand and sure enough from there could see the orange paddle blades in the row boat.

I untied and unloaded a kayak from the truck, and as I paddled over to the row boat I figured that if he is going to make me chase down the gear he stole from me, I’m going to make him chase down his gear. I untied the row boat from the dock, hooked it to my tow rig and towed it back to our beach. Took the stolen kayak paddle out of it, through the oars in the water to float as they may, and half sunk the row boat with the stern half sticking out of the water on the beach.

What if that paddler was paddling the chain of lakes and just stopped to use the restroom then came back and her paddle had been stolen? What’s she gonna do then?

Security cameras are getting cheaper every day, then you may know for sure who is doing what and can take appropriate action with confidence (if thats your style) or at least you’ll know.


good quality
cable and lock is a must. I think I am right by saying a good cable can’t be cut by most bolt cutters, they just crush and stay intact. Another thing is to make up a cover for the lock itself, maybe out of 4" square tubing about 10" long, that the ends of the chain and lock are secured into. This way it will be almost impossible for bolt cutters to get at.

I have 3 kayaks that I am going to have to design something like this for at the cottage.

Good luck, and stay away from the grenade idea. Too hard on the boat.

Thanks for all these suggestions . . .
. . . even the funny ones, which gave me and my wife some big laughs!

The reason I had been thinking of a fairly large hole is that I purchased a thing called a “bike club,” which is a version of “The Club” used for cars. It is made of thick steel that would be impossible to cut with a bolt cutter (or so it seems to me). The diameter of the “bike club” is about an inch. I had been thinking of putting it through the hole and leaving it permanently attached to the canoe. I would then attach cable or something even stronger to the “bike club” and attach the cable to some steel poles that are down near our dock.

It’s a shame to have to even worry about any of this, but the ex-con who lives in our neighborhood is often desperate for money, and this canoe could easily be re-sold. He already got two trolling motors and two bikes from the security shed before we had it wired.

Thanks again for all the good suggestions!

Here’s an Idea
have a BBQ and invite him over. Show him that you care about him as a person. Tell him some paddling trip stories and invite him on your next trip.

A video of the crime is needed nowadays,
to actually be certain of any legal action being successful against the thief. It’s probably even better and safer to film a criminal act than to try to prevent it by accosting the thief in the act of the theft. A threat of surveillance might suffice, and a cheap voice activated tape recorder could be put under the canoe that would state, when the canoe was moved, “You are being filmed by a hidden camera, and if you continue your act of breaking and theft, you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Please be advised that the best thing to do is to leave this canoe alone, and leave the area immediately.”

Customize the canoe! or get canoe cart
You could paint your name in contrasting epoxy paint on the INSIDE of the canoe bottom. Who would want it then?

Or get a large canoe cart and haul it up to the house.