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Marine Security Systems for Boats

High-tech security systems protect your boat from thieves and more.

February 4, 2015
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Today’s boat security systems range from cellphone-size satellite ­communicators costing less than $100 (plus an annual subscription) to customizable networks topping $5,000 that include everything from cameras to a multitude of sensors, feeding streaming video, data and alerts to your computer or mobile device. Systems can also be configured to trigger conventional audible alarms with flashing strobe lights.

Such systems are not just for vessels afloat. Boats stored on trailers also benefit from electronic security devices. In addition, installing a system could reduce your boat insurance premiums. Indeed, a growing number of insurers now require security systems on high-end boats, particularly those that fish or temporarily berth in foreign waters like the Bahamas or Mexico.

Wireless Communications

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At the heart of today’s ­advanced ­electronic marine security and ­surveillance systems is wireless ­communications. For example, the NT-Evolution 2.0 SM control unit ($2,999.99) from GOST ­(Global Ocean Surveillance ­Technologies) uses the ­Inmarsat satellite ­constellation for ­two-way communication via a ­compact puck-style antenna with a GPS ­receiver and the Nav-Tracker website ­(tracking.gosttracker.com). You can also add voice and text messaging to a mobile device within cellular range. It will call up to eight recipients.

Perfect for center-console fishing boats, the water-resistant control unit also has an internal battery for backup power in case of an onboard power failure or if thieves decide to cut the power in an attempt to disable the system.

Designed for any size vessel, the ­BoatLink+ system package ($699) ­notifies boat owners wirelessly via ­cellphone or email notification if a ­sensor is triggered while the system is armed. The BoatLink+ web portal (my.boatlinkplus.com) displays the system status, arms and disarms the system and more.

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Alarm Sensors

A vast array of sensors stand ready to monitor your boat. The NT-Evolution 2.0 control unit, for instance, interfaces with up to 64 ­wireless sensors. GOST’s NT Evolution 2.0 SM package ($4,999.99) includes infrared-beam sensors that register onboard motion, a pull sensor that indicates if the boat is pulled away from the dock, and a high-water ­sensor, as well as a siren, a high-intensity strobe and a key fob for arming and disarming the system from the dock. You can also add a deck-pressure sensor, smoke ­detector, door sensor, low-voltage ­sensor and more. The BoatLink+ ­package, comes with ­monitors for the cabin door, engine-start switch, ­bilge-water levels and AC and DC voltage levels.

Geo-Fencing and Tracking

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Many security systems allow you to set up an anti-theft perimeter called a geo-fence. With the system armed, an alarm is triggered when the boat leaves a predefined perimeter of the last locked location.

The BoatLink+ system lets you set geo-fences with diameters of 200, 400 or 1,000 feet, and with each alert, the current GPS location is sent. The GOST system is similar in nature: You set a geo-fence though the Nav-Tracker website, and it alerts you if the boat exits that perimeter.

GPS tracking of the boat position works in conjunction with geo-fencing, tracking the boat’s location at any given time. The GOST Nav-Tracker 1.0 ($1,125), for example, is a ­relatively simple, cost-effective antenna and ­transmitting device that not only ­allows you to set a geo-fence, but also monitor the boat’s movement online.

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An even more economical ­alternative, the SPOT Trace ($100, plus an annual service fee of $100) is smaller than most cellphones, and the lithium ion ­battery-powered GPS receiver/satellite communicator automatically alerts you when it senses boat movement. It uses the Globalstar satellite constellation to communicate your boat’s GPS position via text and email every five, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. The Extreme ­Tracking ­Upgrade service ($199 per year) increases the update interval to every two-and-a-half minutes.

Devices such as the SPOT Trace and GOST Nav-Tracker 1.0 can be hidden from view, stashed in lockers or cabinets where thieves can’t readily find them. The water-resistant GOST antenna can even be mounted below deck; it can transmit through as much as a half-inch of solid fiberglass.

Video Monitoring

Remote streaming video is ­becoming an increasingly common security choice, allowing you to see what’s happening aboard your boat when you’re not there. For example, the GOST Watch H2O (scheduled to debut this year) will ­provide real-time video ­monitoring as an option with the Evolution 2.0 SM package, connecting with up to six cameras and communicating via the free GOST Watch HD app.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that today’s fishing boats are attractive targets for nefarious types. Once a boat is stolen, it is often gone for good, likely ­spirited overseas and sold on the black market. The good news: Plenty of evidence ­supports the effectiveness of today’s sophisticated electronic ­security systems in thwarting thieves, sending them in search of easier targets. Most saltwater anglers are heavily invested — emotionally and financially — in their boats. Adding an electronic security system helps protect that precious investment, keeping you and your crew fishing for years to come.

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ELECTRONIC GUARD: The BoatLink+ system lets you set an anti-theft perimeter, then alerts you if the boat exits this circle. Courtesy BoatLink+
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GOST NT Evolution 2.0 key fob for arming and disarming the system from the dock. Courtesy GOST
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WIRELESS WONDER: Designed primarily for center-console boats, the GOST NT Evolution 2.0 security system connects with up to 64 wireless onboard sensors. Courtesy GOST
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MINI-MONITOR: Once the SPOT Trace ­senses motion, it sends an alert to your ­computer or mobile device, along with ­updates on your boat’s location every 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. Courtesy SPOT
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