Lock It or Lose It

Inexpensive ways to secure your most prized possession.

By Shane Murray

 

Heavy duty brass lock, CE Smith.

Storing your boat at the end of the day can be nerve-wracking, with all the reports of boat theft in Florida these days.

Fortunately, lock manufacturers have made some great products to help detour thieves.

A hitch lock, or coupler latch lock, is installed by depressing the coupler handle, passing the device through the aligned holes, and locking it down in the depressed position. This keeps the trailer coupler secured and “locked” around the ball that is connected to the receiver, which is in turn connected to your vehicle (don’t forget your receiver lock).

For years, people have been using standard padlocks to secure their trailer hitches in place. Unfortunately this is not the best solution. Manufacturers such as Fulton, Master Lock and CE Smith offer products better suited for the job. Specialty trailer locks are more resistant to hacksaws, bolt cutters and picking devices. Master Lock makes the Armorlock Coupler Handle Lock with a shackle guard, and Fulton and CE Smith offer corrosion-resistant Hitch Locks. CE’s is made of brass;Fulton’s is solid cast steel. All three products retail for less than $18.

In addition to the hitch locks, coupler locks supplement the security of your trailer. These are used when the trailer is not hooked up. Fulton Performance Products (Gorilla Locks) and Master Lock both offer similar coupler locks. My current favorite is the Master Lock 379DAT. This universal coupler lock fits 17/8-inch, 2-inch and 25/16-inch couplers manufactured by Reese, Fulton, Valley, Atwood, Shelby, Putnam, Hammerblow, Dutton-Lainson and UFP. Retail price is around $28. A ball occupies the space inside the coupler; some others just have a small post. The Gorilla Guard line requires purchasing separate locks for different coupler sizes at retail prices ranging from $30-$50. Look for a surrounding guard that encases the coupler lip; this offers more protection from prying. Gorilla Guard does offer a universal coupler lock with a ball.

Unfortunately there is no perfect solution, but by using a hitch lock in conjunction with a coupler lock, you can discourage thieves looking for the easiest rip-off.

Master Lock coupler latch lock.

Additional tips for securing your boat:

>Store in low-crime, well-lit areas

>Use wheel/hub locks

>Lock wheels on separate axles together with a small length of chain

>Store with motor trimmed down so lower unit acts as a “land anchor”

>If opportunity affords, keep your trailer and boat under constant surveillance

>Use outboard motor locks and remove props for periods of long storage

> Secure portable electronics with locking mechanisms or remove completely

>Remove tackle and pushpole

Electronic Guard Dogs

For boaters with high-dollar investments, the SeaKey system can track your boat if it leaves your designated “GeoFence” area. The tracking is handled via a GPS signal. If  an event occurs, SeaKey can  automatically notify you by telephone or e-mail. Another electronic defense is the BlackLine GPS Harpoon.