In fact, 69 percent of boat sinkings occur while the boat is unattended at the dock, according to BoatU.S.
Boats kept on trailers and in dry storage are vulnerable as well. Land-based thieves can hook up and haul away your entire boat and trailer. Or they might strip it of valuables.
Outboard thefts have trended upward over the past year, especially in coastal states of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, where thieves prey on boat-storage yards and dealerships, according to a number of marine insurance companies.
“There has been a rash of organized thefts of multiple outboards throughout Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia,” says Mark Yearn of Norman-Spencer Agency Inc., an insurance provider specializing in coverage for boat dealers and marinas nationwide.
Outboards aren’t registered with state departments of motor vehicles, and so are particularly hard to trace, Yearn points out, making them ideal fodder for the black market. All of this lends greater impetus to the need for ramped-up vessel security, and an electronic monitoring system might be the answer.
Rise of the App
While security systems such as Yamaha’s Y-COP (which disables the outboard engines to prevent theft) and the portable Spot Trace (which tracks a stolen boat) have been on the market for several years, a growing number of systems rely on installed hardware and mobile apps to keep you posted on the welfare of your pride and joy.
Costing as little as $600 (plus a service fee), app-based systems from brands such as GOST, Nautic-On, Siren Marine and GoFree Track (designed to network with Lowrance and Simrad hardware) effectively monitor a variety of threats to your vessel.
Some systems offer sensors that detect vibration, motion, hatch openings and even the unsnapping of a boat cover, as well as monitor battery voltage, heat, high bilge water, bilge pump activity and more. When a sensor is triggered, an alert goes out via an app. You can also network some hubs with a video camera to see what’s going on aboard your boat from afar, using your mobile phone, tablet or computer screen.
Built-in GPS is a universal component, allowing you to monitor boat location. With a geofence enabled, the system alerts you as soon as the boat is moved outside the established perimeter. It also tracks the boat’s movement with the app.
Compact and Flexible
Many of these boat security systems are surprisingly compact. The hub for the Siren MTC ($599) measures just 61⁄2 inches by 41⁄2 inches by 11⁄2 inches. The GoFree Track hub ($999 for the cellular version) measures about 33⁄4 inches by 7 inches by 13⁄4 inches deep.
Some units receive GPS and send and receive cellular signals through fiberglass. This, combined with a small footprint, allows you to mount the main module in an out-of-the-way space where thieves are unlikely to see it.
Many of the sensors are even smaller, and some communicate wirelessly with the hub. Most systems let you choose the number and types of sensors, and you can expand your selection at any time. For example, Siren Marine currently offers 10 different sensors for its GPS- and cellular-equipped MTC hub. The system can be upgraded with additional sensors whenever you want.
Some systems network with your propulsion and other onboard systems for a remote overview of your boat’s vital signs. In case of trouble, the Nautic-On system, for instance, lets you relay information directly to a marine mechanic to get the problem solved as quickly as possible.
Another cool feature is the ability to control onboard systems from afar. With Track, you can remotely activate up to three systems such as air conditioning, refrigerator or lights.
The communication format used by app-based security systems varies. Siren Marine’s service plan connects using 3G cellular (as low as $19.97 per month). This works fine, as long as you and your boat are within cell range. Siren plans to offer a satellite service plan for global connectivity in the future.
In the meantime, Track offers three service plans. The options include Wi-Fi connectivity (free for the standard Wi-Fi system) for boats within close proximity, cellular (as low as $9 per month) for wider-ranging communication, and satellite (as low as $20 per month) for worldwide coverage.
Although most hubs typically draw power from the onboard batteries, many also have a built-in backup battery should the boat batteries go dead or thieves cut the power wires to the hub.
Read Next: Electronic Boat Security
Prevention is Key
When a boat or marine equipment is stolen, the chances of recovery are slim, according to insurance experts. Even recovered boats are often found in disrepair, stripped of equipment. So, prevention is the key to minimizing loss and heartbreak.
Your boat, motors, electronics and other equipment represent your ticket to great saltwater fishing adventures. You can help keep it that way with an affordable app-based security system — a virtual security guard for your boat.