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As always, the rule down here is lock it or lose it. It’s sad but true. Some new friends of ours just had their dinghy stolen and they haven’t been the only ones. These guys were fortunate in that their dinghy was later recovered. Most are not so lucky.

I have written a couple of posts on how we lock our tender but I don’t think I’ve specifically made mention of how we lock the engine onto the tender’s transom. As it’s really the outboard that is the valuable commodity for thieves, this is a key part of the equation.

The image below shows the Outboard Motor Lock that we purchased back in Canada. You can see it installed on our old 4-HP Tohatsu (like anyone would want to steal that). While certainly secure, I would not recommend this lock. It rusted in short order and I felt that we were running the risk of having it seize itself onto the engine. If that had happened we would have needed a grinder and a lot of effort to get it off. Secure, yes, but not good for cruising.

After we disposed of that device, we simply ran a padlock through the two clasps. This would prevent someone without tools from loosening them and removing the motor. It would not have prevented someone with bolt cutters or a hack saw from cutting the engine loose.

The image below shows the lock that our friends on Arctic Tern constructed out of a piece of discarded stainless tubing. They had a channel milled into it, the width equal to the diameter of the locking bolts of the engine. A hole was also drilled in the center the size of their stainless padlock’s clasp. The rubber cap is just cosmetic. Our friends slide the tube over the handles and then use a good stainless padlock through the middle to prevent it from being removed. Very clever and relatively cheap!

The lock below is the one that our friends on Banyan use. It is constructed of stainless steel and prevents access to one of the locking clasps. It looks pretty strong and I suspect you would have to beat on it with a mallet for some time to remove it. I was also told that there is a separate cable which feeds through it so that it could be locked to another object.

Of course, you could always just get a huge engine like we have now which attaches to the transom with 4 large bolts, not quick-release clasps. I’d like to see someone try to pick our engine off the transom and walk away with it!

If you have any great ideas on this subject, or know of any unique products, please share them in the comments.


  1. Mike, your new outboard is harder to steal, but keep an eye on the lower unit. Here in Florida, that’s all the rage. 10 minutes with a ratchet, and the lower unit will come right of. They don’t have your whole outboard, that’s true, but neither do you. McGard and maybe others make locking bolts/nuts for outboard motor lower units.

    Might be worth checking.

  2. I have one similar to the stainless tubing pictured, it works great! My outboard is so old (and a 2 stroke) so I’m pretty sure nobody would want to steal it anyways, but it offers peace of mind that my outboard will still be there.

    I’ve always wondered (as I haven’t started cruising yet) how do you secure your dinghy once you get to shore? I’ve only anchored out at small anchorages, so I’m not sure if they’re typically safe up on the beach or need to be locked down to something?

    • I assume you mean on a beach and not a dinghy dock. If we are going to be right there where we can see it, we will likely not lock it. We do try to drag it very high up the beach and tie it to a tree or set an anchor though in case the tide comes in. If we are going to leave it unattended, we lock it to a tree. If we can’t lock it we usually look for another spot. Obviously with our new tender we will not be dragging it up onto a beach. We’ll need to come up with a different SOP for it.

  3. A couple of observations with these locks Mike; The people stealing these days tend to take the dinghy- then remove the motor – set the dinghy free. The best way to get around a lock is to use a chainsaw to cut the transom out of the boat and work on the lock problem later. An easier method we have seen is to remove the screws from the aluminum plate that your engine is attached to and it will lift off the fiberglass. Recommendation on that one is to through bolt the aluminum plate. We use the same locks as you are talking about but also run a 30′ cable through the lock at the engine, goes through the gas tank and connects to the bow U-bolt and then is our dock lock cable. The biggest thing we do to prevent theft is run Mercury NOT Yamaha.

  4. I face the two quick release handle towards each other and lock the two together with a padlock.

    Can it be defeated by a determined thief? Yes almost any locking system can.

    Is it enough to deter the thief looking for an easy target? I hope so.

  5. Mike, we had a Tohatsu 5 hp stolen off our 19′ sailboat transom while parked on a trailer on an Air Force base. The outboard was secured with a Master lock that slid over the adjustable clasps/bolts that secure the OB to the bracket. There was no sign of any damage or parts lying on the ground. I was told the OB bolts are soft metal and easy to break or cut off. We’ve since moved our boat to a much more visible location, and use a kryptonite cable wound around the OB bracket and transom pulpit. The Stazo looks like a much better solution. We are interested in options as we plan to get a 9.9 hp for our new 10′ RIB, which we’ll use when we sail our catamaran through the Bahamas next year. We’ll also need to get high tensile S/S chain to secure the RIB to a dock or elsewhere. Such a shame we have to go to such lengths to protect our stuff.

  6. The SS tube that Arctic Tern’s crew designed looks simple and reasonably effective. They should patent the idea, and productize it. I’ve heard that some of the charter companies with bases in the Caribbean lose up to 10% of their dinghy outboards each year.

  7. The Kooks wrote: The biggest thing we do to prevent theft is run Mercury NOT Yamaha.

    See what WINDTRAVELER did:

    • We don’t need to read about it, we know them personally and have seen their sexy yellow yammy. The thing is, the cowling can be swapped pretty easily for one not quite so well marked.

  8. Here’s one from Garhauer, which is a company you’ve probably heard of. If not, you should look them up, as they builid the best marine hardware at really good prices.

  9. Unfortunately the kinds of folks who steal and buy stolen outboards are not the same people who buy new ones. This means that the manufacturers of outboard motors have nearly zero incentive to design outboard that have effective theft-proof locking systems that are easy to use and deter theft. In fact, nearly every time an outboard motor is stolen the victim has to go out and buy another one from the legal market of these motors -often a new one or maybe a used one which still further increases demand on new motors as supplies go down.

    This won’t change much until we as consumers demand that outboards be designed with good places to secure locks. My little Mariner 2b is identical to the Yamaha version other than stickers. The stickers are gone and the oxidized grey cover has been spray-painted gray again. It’s sort of an ugly little motor. There are holes in the mounting bolt pivoting handles for a lock to go through them and lock them together -immobilizing them. But these cast handle pieces are easy to break and not very hard to replace. A good hole through the mounting plate of the motor where a lock could be simply clipped to a cable or chain would have been much more secure and cost the company nothing but the lost opportunity in the future to sell a new outboard to someone who’s motor just got stolen.

    • I’m not familiar with your engine specifically but the larger Yamaha’s (ours is a 9.9) do have a secure spot on the housing to lock it to the dinghy. Unfortunately, any lock used to do that would be subject to the same issues that I wrote about today: salt and crud. Also, because they would be opened and closed infrequently, people need to be diligent about regularly checking them.

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