Recently, a sailor, freelance writer and contributor to this magazine, Alan Saunders, had his C&C 38, Trinka, stolen from its mooring in North Carolina. The boat, missing for some days was eventually found in South Carolina. Now Saunders is dealing with the repairs necessary to get the boat back in some semblance of shape (the belowdecks suffered considerable damage when thieves tore out electronics and other gear) so he can return it to its mooring in North Carolina.
The boat was not equipped with a security system or a GPS tracking system. Would such a system have prevented the theft? Hard to say exactly, of course, but there is some impressive technology on the market for alerting boat owners that someone is trying to steal their boat. And if the criminals do make off with the vessel, these packages allow you to track your boat and provide that info to law enforcement personnel, reducing the time until the boat is found and recovered.
One company with an impressive suite of products is Global Ocean Security Technologies (GOST, www.gostglobal.com) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The security systems include the Nav-Tracker GPS Tracking System, the Marine Magellan Insight Security, Monitoring & Surveillance System, the GOST Immobilizer and the GOST Acoustic Barrier.
According to GOST, the Nav-Tracker GPS Tracking System has a transmitter that can be mounted discreetly on a boat. When the system is turned on, a wireless “geofence” with a 500-meter radius is created. The Nav-Tracker unit uses GPS to monitor the boat’s location. If the boat moves outside of the pre-set “fence,” the Nav-Tracker uses an uplink via Inmarsat satellites to an earth station and then to GOST’s dedicated server to notify up to 10 people by e-mail and/or text message every five to 15 minutes with the vessel’s latitude/longitude, speed and heading. Other elements can be added to the system like door contacts, infrared beam sensors, deck pressure sensors and high water sensors. The unit also has an optional 130-decibel siren that can be added for extra protection.
The Marine Magellan Insight Security, Monitoring & Surveillance System is a more complete control setup for monitoring the systems on larger yachts. The system sends e-mails and text messages when events occur and saves a snapshot or video clip to the user’s account — which is accessible on any computer or mobile phone with Internet access. Once logged in, the owner can see what the onboard camera sees. When motion is detected, it also allows the owner to view streaming video off the boat on their computer or cell phone. The Insight product can also notify a boat owner or captain with a phone call if there’s high water in the bilge, low-battery voltage, loss of shore power, smoke or intrusion.
The GOST Immobilizer is a boat security system for single-engine boats, yacht tenders, RIBs and PWCs. The device is controlled via a wireless key unit. When turned on, the Immobilizer blocks high-current draw from the battery while still allowing low-power consumption components such as stereo memory to function normally. When an engine startup is attempted, the Immobilizer sounds a timed siren and prevents the engine from turning over. Finally, the GOST Acoustic Barrier powered by Inferno, can function as a sound barrier or as a traditional siren. It effectively stops intruders by generating a patented, unbearable pattern, frequency and intensity of noise. This one sounds like it might be a good device for keeping pirates off the boat.
The Seakey C-pod from SeaKey in Sweden (http://c-pod.com/main.php?lang=en), has a similar monitoring function as GOST’s Marine Magellan system. The C-pod unit can monitor battery level, bilge water level, intrusion or fire. It also has the security function of a geofence. Should the boat move more than 250 meters without authorization, the owner will be notified. C-pod also has a “heartbeat” function: it sends out a signal at regular intervals. If the heartbeat signal fails, a message will be sent to warn the boat owner that someone has unplugged the system.
The Blackline GPS Harpoon is a GPS unit that includes monitoring and security features that should speed the recovery of your boat should it get stolen (www.blacklinegps.com/products/harpoon/index.html). Along with the GPS unit, buyers get a key fob that arms the GPS when they are in the boat and disarms it when they leave. Should the boat be moved when the owner’s key fob is not present, an alarm is sent via e-mail and text. And the unit’s GPS tracking allows the Blackline service to track the boat until it is recovered.
There are other GPS tracking hardware and services, products like the Red Knows Mini-Finder (www.axtech.se/en/minifinder.php), the Boat Nanny (www.theboatnanny.com/product.html), Beacon Wireless Solutions (www.beaconwireless.net) and the SkyMate 200 Sentry Mate (www.skymate.com). The best mix of price and features will depend on the owner, the boat and the type of voyaging you do. But there are plenty of products available that can track your boat and help you avoid the problems of theft and damage.