Thief-proof your boat with these security tips
While most folks envision Black Beard or Captain Kid when marina Tiki-bar talk turns to piracy, theft and other such acts of waterborne skull-duggery, I think of my childhood mentor Sissaro Phillips and his small marina where the bait shack store had a rash of break-ins. His plan of action? A hand-written, cardboard sign in the window that stated he’d be waiting in the store three nights a week with a shotgun full of rock salt—it was up to the burglars to guess which three nights. While that’s not quite the end-all-be-all of security tips, it sure worked for him.
Boat theft is on the rise and while most of us can’t keep a shotgun-toting vigilante on board, there are simple, common-sense precautions every boat owner can take to reduce the chances of their boat being targeted by thieves.
Think Like a Thief
Take a walk in a thief’s shoes and case your own boat during the day and at night. First off, never leave your keys on board with the vessel unattended or worse yet, leave the engine running while making that quick run to the marina store. If you have to make it accessible for maintenance or repair personnel, provide a temporary access code (for boats with advanced security systems) or a combination padlock.
Is it in a dark, poorly lit section of the dock or marina? If so, you may want to relocate or ask the marina manager about additional lighting. How hard would it be to break into your boat? Can all doors and hatches be secured? Beef things up, and replace screws with through-bolts and metal backing plates where possible, especially where hinge or hasp screws are exposed to the outside.
Can hatch hinge pins be removed from the outside? If so, make sure there’s a sufficient number of dogs to firmly secure it (at least two and preferably four). Sliding glass doors and windows may have a wimpy latch of some sort, but simply placing a wooden dowel in the track channel behind the glass is a great anti-theft measure.
Don’t Forget Insurance
An essential part of your overall anti-boat theft strategy is to make sure you have adequate insurance coverage, but don’t view it as a substitute for proper security measures. Although you might get some new gear out of the deal, when you consider the downsides (higher premiums, increased deductibles, downtime, and aggravating paperwork), it’s best to prevent theft from occurring in the first place. That’s especially sage advice when underwriters may cancel policies with a loss history.
You can implement many common-sense anti-theft precautions at little or no expense. But, installing a new security system is an option that may be less financially painful than you think. This is especially true as many insurance underwriters offer sizable discounts to boaters that have acceptable security systems installed.
Install a Security System
The most simplistic of our security tips? A security system. There is a wide variety of security and monitoring systems on the market today that are both easy to install and relatively inexpensive. For example, the new ZigBoat from Glomex Marine Antennas USA connects to the Internet (via local Wi-Fi or the optional 3G USB dongle) to provide wireless remote monitoring of your boat’s systems as well as security functions.
ZigBoat’s basic kit (priced around $635) consists of a core module (gateway), a porthole/door sensor, a battery voltage sensor, a high-water sensor, and batteries for each. The gateway gathers and processes information from each of the sensors and sends a notification to your smartphone or tablet if something is awry. Installation is simple. Power to the gateway is provided by a DC to DC converter wired into your boat’s 12 or 24 VDC system. Place the gateway in a central location to “see” all the sensors installed. The sensors mount with pressure-tape, adhesive or screws at their designated location, be it at the battery bank, bilge, windows, or doors.
The sensors to alarm you that thieves may be on board are the porthole/door sensor includes a magnet that triggers the alarm when separated from the sensor. Use the included double-stick tape to mount the sensor on the door/porthole frame and the magnet directly opposite on the door/porthole frame that opens. The gap between them should not exceed five millimeters when closed.
Install the motion sensor(screws included) in a location with a clear view of the area you want to monitor, such in the upper corner of the salon. The sensor detects movements up to 18 feet.
Download the ZigBoat app and power up the gateway. The gateway creates its own network access point so your smartphone or tablet can connect to the system. Through the app, add the gateway to the list of devices.
After the sensor is mounted, insert the batteries. It will search for the ZigBoat network and join in. Add sensors to the app’s device list by entering its serial number. Each device has its own owner’s manual that provides detail of its connection, placement and safety features.
Most security systems have the ability to add a number of additional sensors to meet specific security or system monitoring needs. Options include video surveillance, smoke alarms, heat alarms, pressure mat sensors, GPS tracking, geofencing, and more. Whether you own a 17-foot flats boat or an 85-foot cruiser, gain peace of mind by keeping your boat secure.
By Frank Lanier, Southern Boating October 2018