Smooth Sailing: How to Keep Your Boat Safe and Secure
It's boating season across the country, from Cape Cod to Coronado. But after your day on the water is finished and you're hot, sunburned, tired and ready to hit a cool shower it's easy to assume that as long as your boat is tied to the dock, it'll be safe and secure until you get back.
That's a mistake that could leave your boat drifting out to sea without a paddle.
Boat and yacht owners often have a false sense of security and think that a crime cannot happen to them, said Philip Farina, security expert with Farina and Associates, Ltd. of San Antonio, Texas.
"It's important to realize that boat owners are exposed to various levels of man-made and natural risk," Farina said. "This may include fire, weather, theft and robbery, violent crime and of course, the terrorism element, to name a few.
"An event against just one boat owner has been shown to send catastrophic ripple effects throughout local, regional and international boating communities," he added.
Marinas have differing levels of security, ranging from open access to 24-hour armed guards. But even if security is high, you can't depend on someone else to watch your boat all the time.
Don Weiss, with Maritime Vital Asset Protection LLC of Riverview, Fla., said that it's helpful to think of providing security for your boat in the same way you would for your home.
"You are ultimately responsible for your vessel," Weiss said. "Make friends with your neighbors and slipmates. Know the area where you keep the vessel, and keep up to date on crime trends in the area."
You can also help improve the safety for everyone at the marina, Weiss added, which can help deter criminals from taking your (or a neighboring) boat off for a private three-day cruise.
"Keep an eye out for each other," he said. "Boaters tend to be sociable, and thieves tend to want to be left alone and unchallenged. If you see someone who doesn't appear to belong, say 'hi' and ask them how they are, or if you prefer not to approach them, ask or phone marina staff about your concerns."
One step to take before ever docking your boat is to make sure a marina has adequate security measures, such as controlled access to the piers, security cameras and good lighting.
Once you dock, Farina suggests putting up old-fashioned signs, such as "Trespassers will be prosecuted," to keep people from hopping on your boat uninvited. Make sure the signs are in both English and Spanish.
Not all of us can hang "Gone Fishing" signs on our office doors every day, so most boats sit unattended throughout the work week.
But the longer the boat is left unattended, the more susceptible it becomes to burglary and theft.
According to the Boat Owners Association of the United States (Boat U.S.), the most common items stolen from boats include electronics, outboard motors and outdrives (another kind of marine engine).
Farina suggested installing the following anti-theft features to protect your boat and items stowed on board:
Security film: A high-quality security film can be applied to all the windows on your boat, strengthening them against impact. These not only can bar or delay intruders, but can also aid in preventing damage from weather and keeping your vessel cooler.
Lighting: Install proper lighting on the exterior of your boat. Motion-activated floodlights cost little yet have huge benefits. Inside the boat, place low-cost timers on lamps and program them to give the appearance that someone is aboard. Put timers on the television or stereo as well.
Access control: It's a good idea to have your boat's doors and locks re-keyed every two to three years. Ensure that you have a deadbolt or other high-security latch on all doors leading to the exterior. Window locks should be functioning properly. Sliding-glass doors should have a lock installed in addition to the already existing latch.
Alarm system: Installing an alarm system is also wise. If you choose to not go with one that is monitored by an outside company, there are other alternatives. These can be inexpensive and are typically placed on windows or doors and emit a loud alarm when they are opened.
Safe: If you must keep valuables on board, consider installing a hotel-grade safe to hold them. They're inexpensive, come in many sizes and are easy to install. Otherwise, place your valuables in hidden areas of your boat. That doesn't mean under the bed in your master cabin; that's where thieves typically look first. Instead, try underneath the kitchen sink, inside a pantry or cleaning supplies closet, or a pet's area.
Signage: Simple signs that mention the words trespassing, crime, prosecuted, surveillance or CCTV are cheap but effective deterrents to those who might consider stealing from you.
Technology: New, inexpensive surveillance systems that allow you to monitor your vessel round the clock are in use by many boat owners. You can access the feed from your laptop or even your cellphone.