Modern technology can keep your boat safe, secure, and easy to check on – no matter where you may be. It’s a great era for boat security.
Many people don’t think of the marine industry as a place where tech thrives, but truth be told, when you consider advancements like digital switching systems on boats, the latest in marine electronics, and new outboard technology, it becomes clear that our watery world is evolving technologically at quite a rapid pace. One-way tech is playing a bigger and bigger role: boat monitoring and boat security. That’s a good thing, because unfortunately, boat thieves are also evolving to be more and more sophisticated. You want to make sure Mom’s Mink stays safe and sound whether she’s sitting on a trailer, in a slip, or on a mooring? These days, you have a number of options.
A US Coast Guard camera captured this image of a stolen center console during a 20-hour pursuit, which began off Florida and then covered over 325 miles. Eventually, the boat was recovered and three men were apprehended.
Basic Remote Boat Monitoring Systems
Remote boat monitoring systems come in a number of levels, starting with basic, inexpensive tracking systems. These won’t let you know if your boat is being stripped or if it’s sinking, but they certainly will help you keep constant tabs on its position. If your boat gets stolen, obviously, this is the first step in recovering it. In some cases, these systems also meet minimum requirements to get you an insurance break.
Some basic options for tracking include simply hidden devices which allow you to set up a geo-fence around the boat, then track its position via satellite and send you an email or text message, should the boat break through the geo-fence. The GOST Nav Tracker 1.0 is one such unit; it goes for a bit less than $1,000 and also has a “panic button” feature that allows you to alert designated recipients (again via email or text) of your position, speed, and heading if there’s an emergency onboard.
The Spot Trace works in a similar fashion, but is powered independently of your boat with four AA batteries. They claim a 52-day life with a clear view of the sky and position checks at 60-minute intervals (about half that with a 50-percent obscured view), so that means you need to do some monitoring yourself, to make sure the batteries are live and the system stays active. Cost is just $100 for the unit, with a $15/month or $150/year basic service plan.
Advanced Boat Security Monitoring
More advanced boat security systems not only track the boat’s position, but also include an element of theft deterrence. GOST is again a major player in this realm, with systems like the Watch and the Phantom. As you might guess from its name the Watch is a video recording system, which also allows you to remotely view cameras placed onboard. The Phantom is a more extensive system that can handle up to 64 different wireless sensors – ranging from door contacts to deck pressure sensors – and can be controlled by multiple users with different zones and key FOBs. GOST’s top-of-the-line Apparition combines all of the above functions and can take up to 192 sensors, as well as adding sirens and the ability to incorporate strobes or even glycol-generated “cloaking” fogs that can be triggered to scare off nefarious characters who step aboard without your permission.
Just how much do these more advanced systems cost? It varies quite a bit depending on how far you want to go, and can range from a couple thousand dollars into the tens of thousands of dollars.
A less expensive option is to go with a cellular-based system like the Siren Marine MTC. Starting at around $600 (and requiring a service plan ranging from $125 to $180 a year), the Siren system includes a base station that communicates with wireless or wired monitors including motion sensors, entry sensors, and snap contacts (that can ping you when a canvass cover is popped open). The system can enable you to trigger an alarm, flip on the lights, or otherwise take action when notified of unauthorized entry, via Siren’s app. (Get the full scoop on the system in Siren Marine Launches Next Wave of Connected Boat Technology).
Both of these boat security systems add an element of remote monitoring aside from security, which can give any boat owner who leaves their pride and joy in a slip or on a mooring some serious piece of mind. High water alarms, bilge pump monitors, battery charge level indicators, and other systems can be checked at a glance, on the screen of your smart phone, from virtually anywhere in the world.
One additional capability both the GOST and Siren systems allow for is remote control, as well as monitoring and theft deterrence. Just how much you can control on your boat, ranging from triggering sirens to flipping on the lights to starting the air conditioning, depends on how technologically advanced the vessel is. On boats with digital switching systems the sky’s the limit. But on older boats a digital relay can often be added to specific switches to afford remote control.
What all of these boat security systems share in common is an added layer or remote monitoring and security that wasn’t readily available at reasonable price-points just a few years ago. And while there’s no doubt that the thieves who steal boats will work to find ways around these systems, there’s also no doubt that today, modern tech can give you a serious leg up on those criminals.
Get more great boating articles from Lenny Rudow on BD.