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Stolen kayaks

I'm sorry to report that like the flower children of the sixties the number of sea kayakers have increased to such an extent that we have attracted those who seek to rip-off our relatively trusting community. Because nearly every kayaker we meet is honest, we tend to trust that anyone who is buying or selling a sea kayak will also be honest. This trust has been nice but events have shown it is time we became less naive. Seattle suffered a rash of sea kayak thefts from the fall of 1994 through 1996. The prime suspect in these thefts lived on a Lake Union houseboat until February 1996. The kayaks he was suspected of stealing had been taken from houseboats, waterfront yards, kayak storage facilities, and kayak shops.  He was arrested in the Summer of 1995 and charged with the sale of a stolen kayak. He was released pending trial but disappeared shortly before that trial. He was arrested in 1997 in California and extradited to Washington, on the old warrant, to stand trial for the sale of several stolen kayaks. He was convicted but at sentencing was released to parole in California. At that sentencing the judge said: "I'm going to make you California's problem". He certainly did. While on parole in CA the thief sold several stolen kayaks in the San Francisco area but was not prosecuted for any of those crimes. He didn't limit his crimes to kayaks, however, and spent several years in San Quentin prison based on several other much bigger crimes of fraud and theft he had been convicted of in California. In 2007 he was out on parole and back among us and suddenly kayak thefts become a much bigger problem than usual in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007 and 2008. This thief apparently became aware of this website in late 2008 and although he has not been imprisoned (and is known to have since advertised many other items that were stolen) he is not known to have stolen any kayaks since (as of 2011). Paddleboards however have been advertised and stolen since 2008 though and it should be known that this thief often hangs out near the water and among boaters and those who live on the water. Beware: he is over 50, gray haired, friendly, and can be disarmingly charming.

How to avoid becoming a kayak theft victim

Check your insurance policy. Most boats are not covered by homeowner's policies or are only covered to a maximum of $1000 unless you have additional coverage that includes them.

Especially if you live near the water, make sure your kayaks are put inside, or are out of sight (from the water or the land), chained and/or cabled up, and booby trapped in such a way that a thief would have to make a lot of noise to get it. If you must store your kayak outside remove anything you can and store those items inside away from the kayak (for example; hatch covers, hatch gaskets, removable seats etc.)  in order to make your kayak harder to sell and therefore less desirable to the thief. If you do this and your kayak is subsequently stolen the new buyer may quickly show up at a kayak dealer for parts replacement items (so if your kayak is stolen without the items you removed call the manufacturer and all the dealers of that model in your area to report the theft and the items the thief or new buyer may be trying to buy--as well as filing a report of the theft on our Stolen Kayak Report form and with police). It is important to report a kayak that has been stolen to the police as soon as you find it is stolen. The police could have the thief and your kayak together but can't even arrest him for possession of stolen property because you haven't reported it stolen yet. Don't store paddles or gear with the kayak. The thief will likely take them as well, or if near the water, may use them in his get-away.

One method used (twice that we know of, once in Seattle and once in Portland) is for the thief to call someone who has advertised a kayak for sale. The thief then arranges to come and look at it. In the Seattle case he didn't show up that evening but the next morning the kayak had disappeared. In Portland the thief made arrangements to see the kayak in the morning at the sellers location and the kayak disappeared the night before. If you are selling a kayak get a phone number and call the prospect back before revealing the location of your kayak, especially if it might be easy to steal where you have it stored.

What if you already bought a stolen kayak?

Because possession of stolen property is a crime (a felony in Washington if the property is worth over $250), whether you know it is stolen or not, a stolen kayak makes its buyer a victim as well. The kayak that seemed to be such a good deal will have to be returned and you will be out what you paid for it (unless a reward has been offered). If you bought a kayak you now suspect might be stolen, call the police and the local dealer of that brand. DO NOT RESELL IT! Sale of stolen property is a much bigger crime than possession of it and knowingly selling stolen property is a serious felony. Once you've called the police and the local dealer also call Mariner Kayaks (206)367-2831 or Contact Us by E-mail to report it. There may be a reward and in the past Seattle dealers made special offers of selected new kayaks at cost or offered a great deal on a used kayak to help keep the thief's honest victims (who had reported the stolen kayaks they bought when they discovered the kayak might be stolen) paddling. Several San Francisco companies have offered rewards by 2008.

How not to buy a stolen kayak

Always go to the sellers home to buy a kayak. Ask the seller for the model, colors and serial number of the kayak. Call the police to check the serial number, but don't stop there. [Note: Often the kayak is sold before the victim is even aware of the theft. A potential buyer calling the police to check the serial number against stolen kayaks will likely be told that it hasn't been reported stolen even though it has been. Unfortunately, even if it had been reported police, their records are often scattered because of category or jurisdiction. There is probably no specific category for kayaks in their system. A stolen kayak report might be filed under recreational vehicles, boats, sporting goods, etc. Also, a thief often sells the kayak in a different jurisdiction from where it was stolen.]

If you are looking at any kayak you have suspicions could be stolen, call the local dealer or local manufacturer who probably sold it originally. They may be able to check who bought it originally and contact them for you or assure you that who you are dealing with is in fact the owner. The dealer may also know if a kayak has been reported stolen (a theft victim often needs to call their dealer to get the serial # for the police because they never wrote it down--unfortunately a lot of dealers never bothered to write it on the invoice and now have no records they can go back to to get the serial number of you missing kayak so FIND THE SERIAL NUMBER ON YOU KAYAK, WRITE IT DOWN AND PUT IT IN A SAFE PLACE YOU WILL REMEMBER. DO IT RIGHT NOW!). The serial number should be on the hull about one foot from the stern on the right side of the kayak. The dealer can also likely tell you what a new one is worth and if the used price for it is reasonable.

If you are suspicious of an ad for any reason (maybe the price sounds too good to be true, or there is no photograph of the actual kayak for sale in the add (a generic photo likely copied off the web could mean the seller doesn't have possession of the kayak yet, but knows where he can steal one to deliver to you), or if the seller wants to meet you somewhere or offers to bring the kayak to your location (rather than you coming to their home), or someone other than the seller you had been talking with came by with the kayak to complete the transaction so you never see the seller face to face and therefore can't identify him to police, or the seller claims to have another kayak of the same model but of a different color  than the one he first advertised and is now offering you the chance to buy that one at a good price, or if anything else makes you even a little suspicious about the transaction call Matt at Mariner Kayaks at (206)367-2831to report it while the conversation is fresh in your memory. You could be providing an important and timely clue to catching a kayak thief. The thief often will advertised in papers (or online) some distance from where he plans to steal the kayak.. If you made arrangements to meet somebody to buy a kayak and the seller didn't show up (or was supposed to call you back and didn't) you were probably lucky. Somebody before you in line (or who WAS called back now has a hot kayak on their hands. If this has ever happened to you call Mariner Kayaks (206)367-2831 to report the details. You may have a key piece of evidence to help convict a thief. Several people we are aware of have called the police to report what they were sure were ads for stolen kayaks (or suspicious circumstances in answering an ad) but even though they were later shown to have been absolutely correct, they were told by the police that unless they knew for a fact that the kayak was stolen, there was nothing the police could do. That is true because unless the item is reported stolen there is little they can do and it is not yet their problem. Call or e-mail Matt [(206)367-2831] about anything that seems suspicious about a kayak for sale or trade anywhere. Feel free to call at any time of the day or night if you want information in a hurry. If I'm not awake I go back to sleep very easily. If you get an answering machine leave your name and phone number and a brief description of your concern and I'll call you back as soon as I can.

If you see a kayak on a vehicle that has been wrapped in such a way that its identity has been obscured try to get the license plate number and make, model and color of the vehicle and (if possible a description of the driver) and report it ASAP to Matt at (206)367-2831. The thief often tries to cover the kayak to try not to be spotted holding a kayak that can be identified as a stolen one if it has already been reported to the police before he has delivered it to his next victim (the buyer). The thief usually steals the night before he has made arrangements with at least three people to meet to buy the kayak (that won't be stolen until the night before delivery). The thief usually advertises weeks before the sale and has the ad removed well before he steals and delivers the kayak. Beware if you are dealing with a seller who hasn't returned your call. The thief will almost never answer his phone when you call but will have you leave a message first and call you back later.

List of Stolen Kayaks

This list contains many of the kayaks stolen since 1995. Make a copy and put it in your car. If you see a kayak that fits one of these descriptions, try to get the serial number, the car license number, or find out who the owner is. Do not confront them! Most likely he or she is a naive buyer who thought they were getting a good deal on a kayak. What is important is the information they have as to who sold them the kayak. So treat them with respect, we need them to be cooperative rather than hostile. The prosecutors will need all the evidence they can get to convict a kayak thief. If you know or suspect a kayak is one on the list Contact Us by E-mail ( ) or phone (206-367-2831) and we will put you in contact with the proper authority for that kayak and contact the theft victim.

If you have had a kayak stolen recently (or in the last five or six years), please contact us with the information requested in the Stolen Kayak Report (or fill out a copy and mail it to us). We hope to make this an international database of stolen kayaks in order to make it harder for thieves to prey upon our community. 

 Go to Mariner Kayaks' homepage
(More information on serial numbers and what information to
include in a stolen kayak report can be found in the
Stolen Kayaks section of the Mariner Kayaks website.)