Skip to main content

Boat Burglars

All-inclusive security systems embrace the latest gear to protect our favorite pastime.

Here’s a sad but true fact: Our boats mostly sit idle while we’re off generating the funds to enjoy them. When I was young, isinglass or canvas were often the only deterrents to prevent thieves from hopping aboard and making off with whatever they could carry.

Today, most marinas have some level of security, but there are just as many quays where boats sit with no protection—including, quite possibly, the dock behind your home. When you can’t keep eyes on your boat, today’s security systems offer multifaceted solutions to protect your investment.

Large center consoles are the number one target for thieves in South Florida, according to Global Ocean Security Technologies (GOST) President and CEO Jay Keenan. They’re easy to trailer, most have expensive, premium electronics packages and there are just so many of them. Generally, they’ll gut your glass bridges, either brutally or with the finesse of an expert marine electronics master. Often they’ll have a truck and trailer ready to haul it off.

01-GOST intruder HR PRG

Keenan also points out that South Florida is a big jump-off point to international waters, where the boats can be more easily sold or pressed into service running contraband. He shared chilling videos of beautiful custom center consoles weighed down with fuel barrels, bandits at the helm—off to their nefarious business.

Since 2005, GOST has been taking a more holistic approach to security with customizable packages where theft protection is just one component in a comprehensive system that includes alerts for smoke, fire, high water in the bilge, low voltage and shore power loss. Keenan feels that GOST’s all-in-one coverage is better than several integrated third-party systems. “Think of security as layers of an onion,” he tells me, “fewer third-party systems give you less chance of error.”

I wanted to know what is the best package for the thieves’ quarry of choice: big, multi-engine center consoles. Keenan suggested GOST’s $4,999 NT-Evolution 2.0 SM (Security & Monitoring) system that can be armed via key fob, app or website.

The wireless system includes dual infrared-beam sensors (“Invisible trip wires that when crossed set the system off,” says Keenan), a high-intensity strobe, a 120-decibel siren plus the aforementioned vessel system monitoring hardware. A dock pull sensor is also included—if cut or disconnected, it sets off all the alarms. Keenan says with all the soft targets around, thieves are usually scared off once the alarms are triggered. More components can be added such as acoustic sound barriers and mini-dome HD cameras.

But if they’re persistent, desperate or just plain stupid, the most compelling security measure that’s part of the 2.0 SM package kicks in: GOST’s Nav-Tracker, which ties into the Inmarsat satellite network to track the vessel once the security geofence is broken. Immediately, up to 10 people can be contacted (including Coast Guard and local police) via text alerts every 10 minutes with the exact location of the vessel. Last year, GOST broke its own record with the help of local authorities when it recovered a 34-foot Regulator in only 49 minutes after its geofence was breached. The previous record was 54 minutes, which is also quite amazing.

More insurance companies now require some type of theft-deterrent security on high-end boats—it’ll give you peace of mind at a price that’s a small fraction of the boat’s value (the basic Nav-Tracker 1.0 starts at $1,000.) Two veteran South Florida captains I spoke with agreed on the need for security but also said the manufacturers need to step up and do more—adding passcodes and tracking devices on their products is a good start.

Truth be told, thieves will come up with ingenious ways to get what they want no matter where your vessel is. Give them more than a locked gate and a guano-covered plastic owl as a deterrent.

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.