Are You Protected?

Are You Protected?

Intruders can gain access to your boat even in your home port. Here’s how you can be safe rather than sorry.

By Diane M. Byrne — March 2003


Illustration: Charlie Hill
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Several years ago a husband-and-wife crew who'd been serving aboard a 102-footer for many years without incident suddenly found themselves in an unfamilar and uncomfortable situation.

It was late at night, and the two were sound asleep in their stateroom on the upper deck when a thud jolted them awake. More sounds of thumping and rustling seemed to come from the boat deck just a few hundred steps from their room. With no way to determine what was happening other than to carefully venture outside, the husband grabbed a flashlight and baseball bat he kept beneath the bed and quietly made his way aft to investigate. Upon reaching the boat deck, he noticed the normally tied-down cover to the tender was unlashed. Although his heart was pounding, he had the presence of mind to shout a few choice words and bang the tender with the bat. In seconds he was face to face with an unkempt and, quite possibly, dangerous stowaway. A few more shouts and some threatening motions with the bat, and the husband successfully convinced the intruder to leave the yacht.

While history thankfully didn't repeat itself with this yacht or her owners, the fact remains that it's just one example of the issues facing owners of all sizes of vessels today. Some people, it seems, are under the impression that only those individuals who want to explore remote regions need to be concerned about onboard security. True, the chances of encountering pirates is greater in Southeast Asia and parts of South America, but--and this is an important but--you can encounter intruders of all kinds in ports all over the world, including stateside. In fact, the above-described encounter happened in Nice, France, in a marina that the yacht had visited countless times. And some owners can tell you stories of thefts of expensive electronics and fishing gear that took place while their boats were tied up behind their homes.

So how do you protect yourself against violations of your property as well as potential harm to your friends and family while they're aboard? Just as there are systems for home security, there are a variety of electronic-based yacht-security systems, ranging from relatively simple units to complex systems.

Step onboard nearly any large yacht at a boat show, and you'll see perhaps the most common application: small television monitors in the pilothouse that, with either black-and-white or color displays, reveal any activity in key areas, thanks to tiny hidden cameras. These closed-circuit television systems (CCTVs) are often integrated so that you or a crew member can keep an eye on, say, the aft deck and both side decks simultaneously while you're sitting in the pilothouse. Walter Pullens, vice president of sales for Florida-based security company Maritron, recommends placing cameras at "all points where people could enter your boat without someone seeing them." For example, on most boats and yachts this would mean the port and starboard decks as well as aft; on megayachts Maritron has additionally installed cameras on the masts and the upper decks.

As helpful as CCTV systems are, however, not all are designed to keep watch on unauthorized personnel. After all, a camera ceases to be helpful if it has a fixed field of view that a person can avoid. That's where digital video tracking comes in. Pullens says this system is unique to Maritron. It has installed various types of security systems onboard vessels ranging in size from a 50-foot Hatteras to megayachts like the 316-foot Limitless and, in fact, says it does so in a way that distinguishes between intruders and authorized personnel--even your family pet--to reduce the chance of false alarms.

Next page > Are You Protected? continued > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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