Raiders looted 10 narrowboats moored on the Trent and Mersey Canal in Staffordshire - then stole a boat to cart away their haul.
Offenders hit the Ash Tree Boat Club, off Armitage Road, between Rugeley and Armitage, early on Tuesday, causing thousands of pounds of damage.
They are believed to have struck between 3.30am and 4.30am, escaping in light cruiser Water Witch which was laden with their haul.
It is believed they towed it along the canal, because they could not get the engine going, then abandoned it near the Plum Pudding pub and the Armitage Tunnel from where it was later recovered.
Police believe that a van was then used to take away the stolen goods.
Property taken included a large amount of fishing equipment, cameras, a television, brass ornaments and CB radios. It included a number of birthday presents.
The secure moorings are close to the Ash Tree pub. Club spokeswoman Joy Boland said there was no-one in the boats at the time and they are not used as overnight accommodation.
Mrs Boland said that it was the club's 40th anniversary year and the raid had been very upsetting for members.
She added: "It is the first time something like this has happened to us in all those years."
Anyone with information should ring PC Griffiths or PC Alison Lewis on 0300 123 4455 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.