|Safe & Secure|
to electronic monitoring devices and high-tech security hardware, your boat
can be safe even when you're not aboard.
By Capt. Ken Kreisler — December 2000
The phone call from the marina to the boat owner's answering machine went something like this:
"Beep. Uh, Mr. Smith? This is Hank over at Gunkhole. One of your neighbors reported your bilge pumps going off a little too often last night. I went to check it out, but the cabin door's locked. Just thought you should know."
"Beep. Uh, Mr. Smith? It's Hank again. Looks like your water line is a little too far down. Just thought you should know."
According to most insurance reports, the likelihood of your boat sinking at the dock is greater than it is at sea. Besides following a preventive maintenance program that includes inspection of all through-hull fittings below the waterline as well as bilge pumps and batteries, installing a remote high-water bilge alarm can help prevent Hank from calling you.
Depending on how big or complex your boat is, these sophisticated devices can monitor water levels and report those findings to you. In addition, because most dockside sinkings involve battery or shore-power failure, remote monitoring of these vital sources is also possible.
Systems such as Flagship's DSC-PC1550 are capable of overseeing six different onboard locations and alerting you to problems even when you're not at home. "In an alarm situation where the owner is not aboard, our system will first attempt to communicate with a `central station,'" says Flagship president Tom Martland. (A central station is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year monitoring site that will take a call from the boat's security system and attempt to contact you.) "If that fails, it automatically switches to a dedicated wireless band of the central station's network," Martland adds. (He speaks from experience: His 56-foot boat suffered $28,000 in damage from a partial dockside sinking because a corroded 3/4-inch brass fitting let go.) A basic six-zone system costs about $500.
Going one step further, Satellite Security Corporation's Locator uses GPS, wireless, and Internet technology to track, monitor, and control electronic devices via your PC. The system's software allows you to log in and locate your vessel's exact position and monitor the status of shore power, bilge pumps, and other key systems and even diagnose problems. The Locator unit costs $1,995 with monthly service charges of $40, plus Inmarsat charges of $80 per month. (Inmarsat, as you may recall, is a global mobile satellite system offering broad voice and data communication services.)
If you're too busy to be bothered with monitoring your boat, you can let your marina operator do it for you. Newport Marine Systems' LS 5000 Marina Security System utilizes wireless sensors placed in strategic areas aboard your vessel. The office has a monitoring station with a visual layout of the marina. Should an alarm trigger due to flooding, fire, fumes, low battery, or intrusion, a graphic representation of the situation appears. Marina personnel can then either fix the problem or contact someone who can.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.