Ahoy, fellow boaters.
My name is Brandon Wright and I’m the Founder and CEO of Barnacle Systems. Over the past few months, I’ve not only seen reports of an increase in boat-related thefts abroad, but I’ve also seen it at my local marina and yacht club. Before I started Barnacle, I developed surveillance and security systems as a Project Manager and Electrical Engineer at FLIR Government Systems for nearly a decade. These systems protected royal palaces, military bases, international borders, and other high-value assets. Now, I’ll tell you, the feeling that you get when you’ve been able to scare off a bad guy or, even better, apprehend that bad guy is truly a one of a kind feeling. I’d like to translate my experience of protecting high valued assets into the following useful tips that boaters can use to protect their boats and their gear.
Observations from boat and accessory thefts
I’ve been researching boat and accessory thefts since starting Barnacle in 2017. Here are some of the trends that I’ve been able to identify:
- Thieves are motivated, but they’re also lazy and want quick wins. If a thief is coming in via dinghy or another small boat, they’ll bring a couple of tools and will be looking to act fast.
- Thieves rarely walk through the front gate at a marina. One of our WeatherCam systems recently caught a thief paddling into a local marina before commandeering a 54′ Sea Ray.
- Once a thief has been successful on one boat, they’ll generally come back to the same marina days later to wreak more havoc. This can also be an indication that they live nearby. From my research, they’re often people that live on a boat that’s either at anchor or on a mooring ball near the marina.
- If a thief can get inside a boat and close a door undetected, they’ll likely spend a lot of time onboard. Once they feel safe onboard, they will take their time and target high-value gear. Sometimes stripping the boat completely clean. There’s a certain point when a thief feels invincible and will come back to the same boat to retrieve as much as they can.
I visit a lot of marinas. Given my passion for security and surveillance, I like to audit security when I enter a marina and asses how likely a thief will be apprehended after they’ve stolen from a moorage customer at that marina. What I normally see is one or two security cameras mounted at the main entry gates leading down to the boats. As I mentioned earlier, the main entry gate is not where thieves often come from. Few marinas that I have visited have cameras that record video at the breakwaters and waterborne entry points. Unless you’re at a sophisticated superyacht marina, you can’t expect every dinghy going in and out of the marina to be tracked and on camera. I have also observed either a lack or the complete absence of security guards in the evenings, which is when the marina is quiet and when the thieves operate.
I have been involved in developing surveillance systems at superyacht marinas that provided complete situational awareness, but these came with a seven-figure price tag. These types of systems are expensive, often need specialized maintenance, and they are overkill for small marinas. As a result, I recommend that you do what you can to protect your own boat and equipment and not rely completely on your marina’s security system.
What you can do to protect your boat
- Make your boat unappealing to criminals. In my daily dock walks, I see a lot of fishing gear left unsecured, outboard motors unlocked, and accessories left out to grab. Please, put away your fishing gear and lock it up. Make a small investment to buy some locks from your local hardware store.
- Secure your dingy. Dinghies make great rafts for thieves to throw stolen gear into. They’re very valuable and they’re generally tied insecurely beside boats at the marina. If you can secure your dinghy with a lock and chain, this creates an obstacle for the thief to overcome. The more locks and chains a thief can see, the less likely they’ll stop and target your boat.
- Add a security system. Add a security system to your boat with door sensors, laser sensors, a siren, and flashing lights to scare off intruders before they can steal your equipment. If they do make it inside of your boat, systems like BRNKL capture a photograph of the intruder that can be used by authorities to apprehend the individual. With these security systems, you can get notified on your smartphone or tablet if an intruder has attempted to enter your boat allowing you to call the authorities. As an added benefit, most insurance companies reward boat owners who have security systems with discounts that can offset service costs.
Until next time, stay smart and stay safe!
To speak with a member of the BRNKL team about the security of your boat, call our toll-free number at 1-877-552-7655. If you’d like a demo of how BRNKL protects boats like yours, visit https://app.brnkl.io and click “Demo Mode”.