It is always with a little sadness that we put together the Rewards pages of the magazine each issue. Many of the photographs supplied by the owner's of stolen boats show family groups around their pride and joy.

Klamp It - highly visible and a good deterrent

Many have probably worked hard, made sacrifices and saved to be able to buy their boat in the first place so that their family can enjoy a day out on the water, fishing or just cruising. To have some miscreant (we can think of stronger words, but they would be unsuitable for this magazine) steal their pride and joy is devastating - and the impact it can have on the whole family, especially the younger members is far reaching.

We know of one instance where a boat was stolen from a home driveway and a family with two young girls. Despite the fact that the boat was recovered, the impact on the family lasted for many months - the two youngsters were afraid to sleep in their own bedrooms at night in case someone came to take them away. The miscreants don't stop to think of these aspects or are such low life that they couldn't care. All they can see is the profit they hope to make by stealing someone's property.

This year around Australia the incidence of boat theft is becoming unacceptable. It is getting to the stage where a boat can't be left in a private driveway or in a backyard without the fear of it being stolen.

Club Marine has records of boats being stolen from driveways, backyards and even from a security garage under an apartment block. And leaving a boat on a nature strip outside a house is inviting it to be stolen. In some cases it may not be possible to leave it anywhere else, especially in some inner city suburbs. But at least let the neighbours know who owns it and if a stranger takes an unusual interest in it the neighbours are aware of who owns it.

Trojan Sentry- also highly visible, comes in its own carry bag

Statistics also show that many thefts occur around building and construction sites. There is always a lot of noise and strange trucks and vehicles coming and going, so a stranger is not noticeable. The arrival of a heavy truck or a tow truck is not unusual in this environment. It only takes a matter of minutes to hook a rig up behind a tow truck or a heavy vehicle and it is quickly around the corner and in many cases never seen again.

Unfortunately, it does not matter how well a boat is secured if professional thieves decide to steal the rig there is not much that will stop them - besides mounting a 24-hour guard on it. However, there is a lot an owner can do to stop the opportunist who sees a rig unsecured and decides to steal it on an impulse.

The first thing is to make the rig unattractive to steal and the easiest way to do that is with a security device. If there are a number of rigs or trailers at a boat ramp or in a yard a thief will always be attracted to the rig that does not have any security devices attached and is easy to take.

Club Marine has looked at a number of security devices on the market and tested them on a variety of trailer couplings. We evaluated them for ease of fitting, storing in the back of a car or 4WD and deterrent factor. We didn't rate them for their security factor as we were able to remove all of the devices, some were easier than others, and none would present any major problems to professional thieves. And for obvious reasons we are not going to let on how we did it.

Most of the devices were well priced for what they offered. There are some on the market that are outrageously expensive and for the average boat owner they can cost more than an annual insurance premium, so we only evaluated the more affordable ones.

Hitch Helmet - is obvious and can be used as a safety device

Two types of trailer wheel clamps were tested and both rated well in the deterrent department. The Australian-made Klamp It was easy to fit and comes in sizes to fit wheel diameters from 9in to18in. It is lightweight and folds up for storage. Klamp It also makes a smaller clamp for PWC trailer wheels.

Trojan Sentry is made in New Zealand and is similar to the Klamp It. It has a larger diameter plate to stop the wheel nuts being removed and comes in its own carry bag with a special compartment to keep the lock keys in. There are models to fit most trailer wheels but it takes a little longer to fit because of the design of the arms.

Hitch Helmet fits over the coupling and comes with a separate tow ball that slots in to the body of the device and then sits in the coupling. It has the added advantage of being able to be used when the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle and acts as a safety device to stop the rig coming adrift from the tow bar. There is also a stand that can be bolted into a concrete driveway, the coupling is attached to this and the Hitch Helmet sits over the coupling to secure the rig to the stand.

The Trailer Safe Lock is a dual-purpose device. The manufacturer is under no illusions that it is simply a deterrent device and says so in the instructions. But the advantage of this one is that it can also be fitted while the trailer is attached to the vehicle and also acts as a safety device to stop the rig coming adrift. Trailer Lock is a simple device that fits over the coupling to prevent it being hooked up. It is better than nothing.

The Trailer Cop fits inside the coupling so that it can't be hooked onto the tow ball of a vehicle. It comprises a barrel the shape of a tow ball that is expanded with an Allen Key until it fits tightly inside the coupling bell, a barrel lock is then inserted to stop access to the Allen Key slot. It is fiddly and there is a chance of loosing the bits and pieces that make up the device such as the Allen Key or the barrel lock and its key. It is quite small and would be easy to leave behind. We have managed to misplace the whole thing already. Also, the instructions advise to tighten the device very securely in the coupling. Do it up too tight as the instructions suggest and it will break. Once fitted it is not very obvious.

Trailer Safety Lock - a simple deterrent with the advantage of being used as a safety device.

Chain and padlock. Not worth the time and effort. It may slow a thief down slightly when used with a security device, but the chain can be cut with a pair of bolt cutters in seconds. The chain alone offers no deterrent at all.

During our tests we found that despite the use of security devices the most vulnerable part of a trailer was the coupling itself. It is a simple matter to undo the bolts holding it to the frame with a shifter and fit another coupling. We recommend that the nuts be tack-welded to the bolts.

Unfortunately, trailer manufacturers use galvanised nuts and bolts and the welding can damage the galvanising and rust marks will probably appear.

These can be painted with an anti-rust paint or a primer. Some manufacturers are not keen to recommend this saying that it makes the original coupling harder to get off if the owner wants to fit another style of coupling. In view of how simple it is to remove a coupling there is probably a case for manufacturers to think of a way to solve the problem.


Trailer Lock - a simple and cheap device

All the devices we tested are designed for conventional tow bars that are fitted as a complete unit. However, the modern Hayman-Reese tow bars that are generally fitted to current model 4WDs can present a problem. It is no good having a security device fitted if the complete tow ball can be removed with the device on it and simply slid into the fitting on another vehicle - as can be done with the Hayman-Reese design. Devices that lock the retaining pin in the assembly are available. However, this is an additional $40 cost.

At the end of the day it is up to you to take some simple precautions to make it harder for someone to steel your rig. Don't take the attitude that "she'll be right, it won't happen to me" because it can and probably will if you ignore it.

Klamp It
Trojan Sentry
Hitch Helmet
Trailer saftey Lock
Trailer Lock
Trailer Cop
Chain and padlock

Trailer Cop - No obvious deterrent and too many bits and pieces.
It is a simple matter to undo the nuts and bolts holding the coupling. Welding the nuts is recommended.
A chain and lock is a waste of time. It can be cut in seconds.

The above table is designed as a guide to the devices available on the market at affordable prices. Club Marine does not make any recommendations as to the effectiveness or otherwise of any particular device. It is up to the individual boat owner to decide what is best suited for his/her rig and particular circumstances. Remember, even a simple device is better than nothing.

The devices have been ranked from 0 to10. Prices are approximate and can vary between stockists.

Club Marine wishes to thank Steve Bosman at Carac trailers and accessories in Dandenong,Victoria for his assistance in the preparation of this story.