Security and Theft Deterrence

So I had an idea…I run across many cruising threads in my virtual travels discussing ways to deter thieves and I wonder…will it happen to us?  Call me anal-retentive on the subject of safety and security – must be the military training in me so…here are my observations and what we are doing about it.

My first priority is to our personal safety and security.  We are a well prepared boat in the safety area.  On the security subject, my mind wanders constantly to two big ones (Boarding and Theft).  Both (I assume) go hand in hand – as any uninvited boarder likely has ill intentions.

Pirates are another story!  See the many “guns aboard” discussion threads in Cruiser’s Forum but we do not have  gun aboard SV Take Me There.  We have a ROBUST steel 25mm Flare Pistol.

Deterrence is our first theme.  We employ some passive efforts to deter would-be thieves but we are a big boat and if I were a thief on reconnaissance I would take a look at this one.  We now have the #1  “active” deterrence measure – a dog!  More on that as the Admiral  introduces Gus the Boat Dog to our followers.

Passive Deterrent Measures:  Keep it out of sight and/or put it where its hard to get at.  All gear that can be stowed out of view is kept that way when we are asleep or not aboard.  All of our lazarettes have combo locks but they can certainly be pried open.

Active Deterrent Measures: The big visible “goodies” that we can’t hide are the new tender with that nice new 4-stroke outboard and the kayaks (2).  The tender is lifted on davits (or on the fore-deck) with the motor mounted using a west marine outboard locking plate. The kayaks and the tender have locking cables for on deck and going ashore but these really keep an honest man honest.  Our real deterrence tool when on-board is the Iris By Lowes Home automation and Security System which I have modified to meet “boat needs.”  If a thief boards us to steal gear, we installed infrared break-beam sensors that trigger a Zigbee Hall-Effect contact sensor (modified Iris contact sensor) to set off the Iris alarm – which also turns on the cameras and the lights and alerts us by phone app, text and email.  We considered motion sensors but they don’t do well on boat decks – too much stuff moving/reflecting…etc (we use a motion sensor below deck in the salon).  We placed the break-beam units in a perimeter around the gunnels and across the swim platform to trigger lights and sound an alarm siren (if activity continues) when uninvited guests try to climb aboard.   We are also installing a TILE chip (get these at Lowes too) in each Kayak, RIB and Outboard that sends a location signal when it senses a Blue Tooth signal to help us find/recover any stolen gear.  We have also installed a hidden kill switch on the tender outboard; Locking rings on the main & mizzen mast sail tracks and a hidden kill switch for the mother-ship engine ignition.

Recovery is our second theme:  If it gets stolen – the thief wins and we are out “some stuff.”  We have a chance to re-locate it with the TILE or catch the thief (after the fact) because we have potential video.

SO – here’s our deterrence scenario – A thief recons our boat by day and decides to make a visit when we are away or at night (asleep).  Thief approaches the boat and boards quietly.  Ideally – The dog hears him and barks (he leaves).  If he doesn’t – he gets a load of rock-salt from my flare pistol as soon as I am on deck.  Assuming no dog – Iris takes over.  If thief steps aboard and breaks a trigger beam (swim platform or gunnels) – deck lights and cameras come on and he slinks away thinking he’s been discovered – and we have video if we are not present.  If we are aboard – he gets rock-salt (flare) or my fishing spear.  If emboldened…he tries to lower the tender (from on fore-deck or davits) and lights, cameras and siren trigger because the contact sensor opened when he moved it and set the alarm off if he stepped over a break-beam sensor – again, the rock salt or the spear… and I can always gaff him if he is in the water (not sure why Brian from Delos didn’t do that in Madagascar?)…see the Delos Tender Theft Video…but they did catch him!

If the thief gets away – we move to the recovery measures via local elders, authorities or police.

If none of this works – its insured!

OK – we are not made of money and all this stuff costs something but some or all of the investment may be good for you…it is for us…and EBAY & Amazon are our favorite places to shop!  A quick shake-down on minimum costs that could get you started – and based on my research a HECK of a lot cheaper than “Marine-Specific” systems with a lot more agility and versatility.  All of this stuff (below) runs on 12V using transformer wall-packs.  I even run the cameras from small 12V cells with a local solar panel for each battery so I don’t have to run a lot of wiring through the boat.

Total minimum cost about $ $800 (new)…deals can be had on Ebay!

The extras we have provide us lots of remote monitoring (more $$$) and conveniences that include:

  • Iris Outdoor Camera – to record on deck activity when a sensor is triggered – with night vision to 20 meters and motion sensing
  • PTZ Wireless Camera  – to view our boat when an alarm/alert is sent while we are ashore (Pan/Tilt/Zoom) Mounted atop the mizzen mast looking down on decks
  • GE (Z-Wave) Lamp Control Switch Modules – controls circuits aboard based on rules you set in Iris
  • Iris Water Shut-Off Module – closes the water line (pump or shore) if bilge sensor detects water (or if you forget to – which we do)
  • GE outdoor switch modules – schedules and controls many other appliances aboard (water heater, cabin lighting, radiant heaters, deck lights, bilge pumps, Air Conditioning…anything with an on/off function)
  • Smoke/CO2/Fire Sensor
  • Leak-Smart Water Leak Detector – Modified as bilge water sensor

This Iris “thing” has been my own “Frankenstein” project.  I use this system in our land based properties and loved it…so I adapted it to help us aboard.  Its turned out to be pretty handy and agile.

If interested in technical details of how we modify/re-purpose off the shelf stuff to meet cruising needs – use our “connect with us” link on the main page.