Search and Rescue


In January, thieves ran PWCs up to a 35-foot Fountain that was docked in Fort Lauderdale, cut her lines, and quickly towed her away. Within seconds, the boat’s owner received a text message on his cellphone alerting him to the fact that the vessel was on the move and providing her exact positioning, speed, and heading. Armed with this information, he contacted the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, which immediately dispatched a helicopter to track and retrieve the stolen vessel. Though the would-be thieves escaped as the chopper hovered overhead, the $200,000 boat was recovered in good condition. And the total time for the entire operation? A mere 54 minutes.

Though this kind of retrieval might sound well suited to a cops-and-robbers flick, last January’s recovery was very real. In fact, it’s just one of a slew of similar tales that Paradox Marine proudly posts on its Web site, and deservedly so. There’s little doubt that the quick rescue was possible thanks to the company’s Inmarsat satellite-based Nav-Tracker 2.0 system, which—along with the Marine Magellan system—is one of its signature security offerings for boats of all sizes.

Paradox Security Systems—a security system manufacturing company that was founded in 1989—first expanded into boats and yachts in 2005 when its boat-owning president asked an engineering team to develop a wireless security system for the marine market. Thus was born the company’s first nautical product—the Marine Magellan. In January of 2007, Paradox Security Systems gave exclusive licensing rights to develop the marine market to Paradox Marine. Today, the latter distributes its products to more than 100 countries.

Because Nav-Tracker and Marine Magellan are in many ways Paradox Marine’s bread-and-butter products, I asked director of research and development, Brian Kane, and president and CEO, Jay Keenan, to walk me through some of their more salient features. First up was the Nav-Tracker 2.0 ($1,499), the gizmo responsible for the Fountain’s rescue. It comes in several versions but at its core, it’s a 100-percent satellite-based GPS tracking system that’s mounted discreetly on a boat (typically under the gunwale, as it can transmit through a half-inch of fiberglass). When activated, the unit establishes a 500-meter security zone around a vessel that, if breached, triggers e-mails or text messages that are sent to as many as ten recipients. Those messages include information such as the boat’s latitude and longitude, speed, heading, and distance to the closest city. An owner can even track his vessel via a new Google Earth interface, meaning he can actually watch his boat move on his iPhone while he sits in traffic 2,000 miles away.

Another of Paradox’s signature products is the Magellan system, which comes in a variety of packages and models, including the Inmarsat- and cellular-based Insight. (Magellan package prices range from $1,499 to $7,000.) This system grants owners near-complete access to their boat from any computer or phone with Internet access, as long as she’s within Inmarsat’s satellite-network range (which Keenan says is basically, “everywhere except for the north and south poles”). Like the Nav-Tracker, the Magellan Insight sends warnings via voice, e-mail, or text message, alerting owners to all manner of situations—say if there’s high water in the bilge or if the vessel’s batteries are running low. Owners can also log on to a personal Web page to view streaming video from their onboard cameras and can control all A.C. and D.C. accessories from their cellphone. Keenan reports that owners have been known to use this function to boot up the air conditioning before they arrive at their marina or make sure there’s ice ready if they’re heading out for a day of angling.

But the system isn’t just about comfort; it’s also about security. The Marine Magellan can accommodate as many as 32 wireless sensors to be hidden around a vessel, everything from smoke detectors to invisible, photoelectric beam sensors, which are often used in the cockpit and flying bridge. There are even canvas-snap sensors, which are exactly what they sound like: hidden triggers epoxied into boat-cover snaps that activate if the cover is tampered with. The Marine Magellan Insight then immediately sends location information to several prearranged individuals (just as with the Nav-Tracker), which can also be viewed on Google Earth and which are updated every 15 minutes. Plus, the two-way voice reporting that comes with the Insight means that once you’ve been alerted to a theft, it’s possible to dial into your boat’s system and actually communicate with the intruder onboard your vessel. “Owners can talk to the thief and say, ‘the police are on their way,’” explains Keenan. All from the safety of a remote location, of course.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.