Boats are rarely a purchase made with small change, and as such it’s understandable that as a boat owner you’ll want to make all necessary precautions to both deter and prevent thieves from getting their hands on your pride and joy.
There are a number of different methods you can employ to protect your boat against theft, from the very low tech (think padlocks, chains and trailer wheel locks) to the latest smart devices that track your boat and allow you to remotely view and access your boat’s security systems.
Whilst your own individual preferences and choice of anti theft and security measures will vary depending on the type of boat you own, one thing I would stress is that you should opt to use several in combination. Using this ‘multi layered’ approach ensures you give any would be thieves the hardest time possible, and accounts for the possible failure of one or more of the methods, especially those dependent on high technology. As we know
Hide The Goods! Use a Boat Cover
There’s a lot to be said for a good old fashioned boat cover, not only does it keep UV light from damaging and discolouring gelcoat and upholstery, it keeps dirt and seagull poop off the boat, and in terms of what we’re discussing here, it also keeps nefarious eyes from taking a fancy to your hard earned ride.
It’s especially worth covering up your boat if it has features that make it stand out from everything else in the boatyard; for example a cool vinyl wrap job or top spec electronics in the dash are all likely to attract unwanted attention when you’re not around.
Good Old Fashioned Locks and Chains
Also at the primitive end of the spectrum, locks are particularly effective when your boat is stored on a trailer rather than on the water. All too often thieves are able to make off with a boat because it’s a simple case of the crim hitching the trailer to their car and disappearing over the horizon with it. To prevent this from happening a chain can be threaded through the wheels and around the frame of the trailer and a padlock use to join either end. The boat trailer won’t go anywhere, and best of all the whole arrangement will cost less than 50 bucks. Motorcycle locks are ideally suited to this purpose as well.
Trailer Wheel Clamp
In addition to, or instead of chains and padlocks, a wheel clamp is an extra deterrent against thievery, and probably even more difficult to tamper with. Where a small chain can be chopped with a pair of bolt croppers and a lot of determination, a wheel clamp would require a hack saw and a whole lot more time and determination to remove.
Take The Wheels and Lights off the trailer
If you’ve got the tools and patience for it removing the wheels and lights from your trailer can be an even more effective security measure than a lock, and as a bonus, it doesn’t cost anything besides the cost of the tools to remove and replace said wheels and lights.
In fact removing the lights alone can be enough to deter a lot of thieves, after all the last thing anyone trying to make off with a boat that doesn’t belong to them wants is attention from the law.
A Noisy Scary Dog
If you’ve got a dog with a strong suspicion of strangers who doesn’t mind letting them know it, then this can be the perfect deterrent against boat theft.
Granted this one only works if you keep your boat in your own yard, but of course that can be one of the most vulnerable places of all, unlike a boatyard that probably has a high perimeter fence and a secure gate.
High Tech Systems –
Siren Marine System
If remotely monitoring your boat sounds like something you’d like to be able to do, a company called Siren Marine offers one of the most affordable solutions on the market to do just that.
For less than $1000 you’ll be able to rig up a fairly sophisticated system that not only monitors your boat from a security perspective, but also enables monitoring of other systems such as lighting and air conditioning so that you know everything is working properly. A bare bones system costs about $600, and for this you get:
- An phone app that allows you to remotely monitor and control critical systems and security features, in theory from anywhere in the world
- Remote GPS position monitoring and ‘Geo- Fencing’ – the former being fairly self explanatory and the latter essentially being an invisible perimeter around the boat in its immediate vicinity which immediately alerts you should the boat move beyond it
- Remote battery monitoring with alerts sent to your phone should the voltage drop too low
- Remote bilge monitoring by connecting to a bilge float switch sensor
- Engine monitoring by connection to the ECU to alert you to issues and service intervals
- Remote temperature monitoring of engine or accommodation space, or equipment such as a refrigerator or air conditioning system
Besides remote GPS and Geo-Fence monitoring; additional sensors are available for tracking motion on board the boat, including laser beam trip sensors, although these must be purchased separately. Most of these sensors don’t cost more than about $100, so tailoring the system doesn’t add too much to the cost of the basic package.
While the Siren Marine system is ample security for many, it does have its limitations, chief of which is that it doesn’t include more elaborate remote security sensors/devices.
For that you’ll need…
Global Ocean Security Systems (GOST)
…and one of their premier security packages. This company’s products are much like those of Siren Marine, but they offer a greater scope of surveillance and monitoring. For example their remote monitoring unit the ‘Phantom’ is capable of monitoring 64 different sensors, which might be overkill for some, but not if you own a 60 foot superyacht and you want to be able to monitor activity in many cabins and work spaces.
GOST also offer additional sensors and deterrents such as
- Glycol fog (smoke) emitters to fill the intruded space on board the boat, hopefully to encourage an intruder to leave, but at the very least to make it impossible to navigate their way away from where the boat is docked
- Strobe lights – again making for an unpleasant environment that’s impossible to operate the boat from
- Acoustic deterrent device – my personal favourite having fitted such a device to a boat several years ago, such a device emits an ear splittingly loud noise that will send even the most determined criminals running for the hills
All this extra functionality doesn’t come cheap however, and unlike the sub $1000 you’ll pay for a Siren Marine system, GOST packages run into thousands of dollars.
Don’t Forget Insurance
Unfortunately if a thief is determined enough they’ll find their way around every deterrent you put in place and find a way to steal your boat come hell or high water. So you should never overlook the importance of having adequate insurance in place.