Vir­tual Se­cu­rity Guards


Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - JIM HEN­DRICKS

A lot can hap­pen to your boat when you’re not around. Thieves may creep aboard. The bat­tery can go dead. Or the hull may spring a leak.

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. Land­based 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.


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.


Many of these boat se­cu­rity systems are sur­pris­ingly com­pact. The hub for the Siren MTC ($599) mea­sures just 6 ⁄ 1

2 inches by 4 ⁄ inches by 1 ⁄ inches. The 1

2 2 Gofree Track hub ($999 for the cel­lu­lar ver­sion) mea­sures about 3 ⁄ inches by

4 7 inches by 1 ⁄ inches deep. 3

4 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 WiFi 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.


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.

By Jim Hen­dricks

Keep­ing tabs on your boat with an app from afar helps pre­vent theft, sink­ings and other cala­maties.

KEEP­ING TRACK: The Gofree Track sys­tem works with Lowrance and Sim­rad hard­ware, and uses Wi-fi, cel­lu­lar and satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

MO­TOR MON­I­TOR: The Nau­tic-on sys­tem re­lays en­gine data to a marine me­chanic to ex­pe­dite ser­vice and re­pairs, right.

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