As a private eye in Portland, Oregon people hire me to research a wide variety of cases: missing persons, infant custody, surveillance, etc., but the majority of my cases have any type of fraud or theft. I recently received a phone call from a very perturbed sounding man who wanted me to “catch” the one who stole his outboard motor.

I am a recreational boater and fisherman and own a ship so I learn how expensive new (and even used) outboard motors are. Even a small 20 – 30 HP outboard can simply retail for 4-5 thousand dollars, so I can realise why this man was upset.

I discovered that he had been fishing for a local river and parked his boat from the parking area much like every other boater. At the end of manufactured he hauled his boat home and parked it in the driveway. Nothing unusual about this.

Then morning he went outside and realized that his 50 HP Mercury outboard was missing – just gone. Someone had cut the control cables and easily lifted his motor off his boat. A 50 HP motor weighs about 250 lbs. therefore the thief should have been big and strong or there are two thieves. Was his outboard locked for the transom? Sadly, no.

From the engine oil drops I noticed about the driveway I figured the thieves likely first cut the control cables and unscrewed the bolts securing the motor towards the transom. Then, they backed their vehicle (likely a PU truck) into your driveway and lifted the motor to the bed in the truck. The whole process likely took under 5 minutes. Five minutes of “work” for a number of thousand dollars is not a bad haul for the crook!

What made this man more angrier was that 72 hours after here replaced his outboard, someone stole the propeller away from his new motor whilst it was for the river parking zone area! What a streak of bad luck. Someone steals your outboard. You spend 1000s of dollars to replace it then someone steals the $200 prop from your new motor. Yikes!

In investigating this example I was capable of develop a suspect but was not able to recover my client’s stolen outboard and propeller. My investigation says a tandem team of thieves would cruise the boat parking garage and identify outboard motors they desired to steal. When the boat owner could leave the car park they would then adhere to the boater home. Then they’d come back from the dead of night and steal the outboard. I suspect that sometimes they might just steal the props off outboards – specifically if the outboard was locked to your transom.

Before I worked on this example, outboard propeller theft was an issue that I have never given much thought but I found out that it is a very real problem and plenty of THOUSANDS of boat propellers are stolen each and every year.

Why is outboard motor theft and propeller theft so rampant? Thieves are opportunists and like “big-money” goods that can be easily stolen and easily sold or traded. Outboard motors are valuable costing several thousand and are also easily removed from your boat (specially the smaller ones) in a few minutes. Many propellers cost 100’s of dollars and can be removed in under a minute simply by unscrewing a straightforward nut.

Outboard motors have serial numbers if the owner has recorded the serial number and reports the theft towards the police there exists a remote chance that someday the motor may be recovered but propellers haven’t any serial numbers and therefore are untraceable.