The theft of a high-end ski boat in a Calgary suburb is a stark reminder of how quickly boats can disappear.
A recent story in the Calgary Herald has put Canadian boaters on notice, but the lessons are applicable around the globe.
According to the Herald, a family in the city of Calgary -- a major hub in central Canada and the largest city in Alberta -- awoke to discover their beloved Centurion Ri245 boat missing from their driveway.
Katherine Hodges, who owns the boat along with her husband, said they typically spend 30-50 days each summer on the water with their family. Given Calgary's short summer, that amounts to a lot of boating time. The family said they usually trailer the boat around both Alberta and British Columbia and have spent years documenting their adventures with their daughter.
Hodge's husband, Ryan Ewasiuk, said he stepped out of the house on Monday morning for some fresh air, only to discover the boat wasn't in its usual place.
Losing their Centurion, a luxury wake boat that retails for around $300,000 Cdn, was a devastating loss for the family.
The theft was even harder to swallow because Ewasiuk's neighbor had spotted the thief, he just didn't know it.
The neighbour, David Chalack, told the Herald he was preparing for an early morning business call and left his house to get coffee around 5:40 a.m. When he stepped out, he saw a truck pulled up outside Ewasiuk's home preparing to connect the trailer.
“I thought, well, good for you guys getting out early to go fishing,” Chalack said.
But Chalack also noticed that the SUV in the driveway wasn't Ewasiuk's. He chalked up the newer model GMC as belonging to one of Ewasiuk's friends or family. The man who was connecting the trailer didn't seem particularly concerned about onlookers as Chalack drove by.
It was only when Ewasiuk began asking neighbors if they'd seen anything that Chalack realized the man he'd seen was the thief.
“I wish I had stopped,” he told the Herald. “And if it hadn’t been for that call, I would have stopped, because that’s what we do. It would have been interesting to see how these felons would have reacted.”
Vehicle theft in Calgary increased by 19.5% in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the Calgary Police Service, but an increase in boat thefts and other recreational vehicles marks another troublesome trend.
The most difficult obstacle to overcome for many owners, as highlighted in this case, is how quickly thieves can operate, even if it's a large and identifiable boat on a trailer.
For boaters, there are several deterrents available for mitigating theft risk, like using a trailer lock or subscribing to a monitoring software. Companies like Siren Marine and Blue Guard Innovations offer GPS boat tracking allowing you to find your boat anywhere in the world. In Canada, Boat Fix offers a similar tracking program. But even then, professional thieves can circumvent a trailer lock in seconds, and often know how to search for GPS trackers and disable them before taking off. Adding security cameras facing your vessel is always a good idea, if for no other reason than to provide police with helpful evidence in the event of a theft.
Much like in automotive theft, stolen boats are typically repurposed in several ways -- transported out of province or out of country and resold, broken down for parts and sold to shady repair shops, or have their Hull Identification Numbers (HIN) modified so the boat can be re-registered under a fraudulent name.
No matter which method the thieves choose, the hardest thing to stop is their efficiency.
After reviewing the security camera footage from another neighbour's home, Hodges and Ewasiuk realized the thief was in and out in less than two minutes.
Police told Hodges that given their speed, it's likely the robbery was organized. “This was orchestrated,” she told the Herald. “They would have scoped out the place.”
In the aftermath, Hodges did her own investigation and visited several places where the boat could have travelled if it were headed out of province or out of country. She also asked shop owners about any suspicious activity, but got no leads. Their Centurion is seemingly gone, and despite it being unique and difficult to hide around Calgary's limited waterways, with each day the likelihood of it turning up diminishes.
Ewasiuk said the insurance claim may not cover the full value of the boat. He also added that between the monetary loss and the increasing operating costs of being a boater, they won't be buying another boat any time soon.
Their story serves as a solemn reminder to boaters that beloved vessels, while seemingly big and challenging to move, can disappear as quickly as a wallet or a car.