Securing your boat from intruders

These ideas for how best to keep potential thieves and attackers from getting into your boat, deter them and prevent your valuables being stolen, were taken from a discussion thread on Yahoo Cruisers Network Online and from the Marmaris Bay Cruisers Forum.

Published 10 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Anyone have stainless steel (SS) security bars or mesh put on their companionway and/or hatches which allows good ventilation? Just stopped by a stainless steel fabrication shop in San Diego and got sticker shock, not to mention worried about the mesh on the hatches ruining the look of our salon. Of course, we want the hatches to still be readily available as an escape in case of fire or sinking. I didn’t like the idea of “hair (spring) clips” through holes in the ends of the bolts as they can be stiff and difficult to get out, not to mention looking rather unfinished.

All the ideas entertained!

We had SS security bars made of 1/4″ rods for our V-berth and aft cabin hatches prior to leaving Florida for Trinidad back in 2004. They worked so well that we had two more made in Trini for our pilothouse salon hatches. Each set is secured to the hatch frame with “omega ” hardware and 3 individual padlocks, two of these act as a hinge and the 3rd on the opposite, acts as a potential release for opening in an emergency. The beauty of this arrangement allows the breeze to get in but you feel secure throughout the Caribbean, including Venezuela. Well worth the investment!

I had one sliding ss bar installed inside each hatch and secured into the inside wood frame. The slide is locked with a bar-shaped padlock that looks nice too. The key for each hatch is kept in the handhold nearest to the applicable hatch yet far from the reach of anyone outside the hatch. In the companionway I had a thick solid one-piece plexiglass companionway door made that has evenly spaced holes in it about the size of a shotgun barrel. I secure it with a toggle bolt between the companionway door and the related sliding companionway cover. I can see everything going on in the cockpit without risking exposure to any dangers and the ventilation is excellent. I had the bars made in Curacao by Eric of Diamond welding and the door made in Miami. I lubricate and test everything to make sure we can escape quickly if or when needed and can sleep with my hatches open; Unfortunately, the reality for those of us who actually sail from place to place is that security has become a concern. Planning for potential problems has and continues to make my experience both relaxing and much safer.

We have installed 1/4″ stainless steel bars in the 1″ wood framed screen that slides into our aft companionway hatch.  This allows ventilation in our aft cabin where we sleep.  The screens slide into a fiberglass channel and the bars extend into the channel so they can’t be kicked in.  Once the top of the hatch is pulled closed we secure it with a simple wood bar that easily slides into wooden notches I screwed in under the hatch.  It is simple, cheap and easily inserted and removed.  We now know that no one can enter the boat without our having a lot of time to react. I bought the stainless steel rod in Trinidad, but I don’t remember the cost ($50.00 ?) I only installed it in the aft cabin to see how it worked.  I plan to repeat the procedure on the forward companionway hatch, but other projects have taken precedence. I am still pondering on how to secure similarly barred screens for our overhead hatches.   Our screens there are secured with simple thumb screws which could easily be kicked in.  That will require a much more extensive refit to be strong and look good.

I have purchased an inexpensive wireless alert to tell me if anyone comes into the cockpit.  The system consists of a battery-operated infrared detector mounted in the cockpit, and a battery-operated alarm mounted on the bulkhead of the master stateroom.  The detector is mounted on the frame of the cockpit door so as to remain silent for items outside the cockpit …no alarm for rocking boat, etc.  It will go off if something comes over the cockpit coaming.

The cost is about  $18 from Harbor Freight, per the attached link.  It’s not as impressive as bars, and it only helps when you are on board, but it’s cheap and quickly installed.  Like bars, it gives you time to react.

We had stainless bars fabricated and installed in the Rio Dulce by The Shop (not sure they’re still around) after being robbed in Utila. The most important thing about safety bars is to consider how you will get OUT of the boat in the event of a fire.  Ours are individually locked with Abus locks which are keyed the same. The keys are positioned under each hatch in the floorboard level key fitting for the floorboards. For anyone wanting more information as well as several photos,  I’ve done a post on the Pros and Cons of hatch bars as well as a post on Details of Hatch Bars.

You can find both of those posts here:

Pros and Cons of Bars On Hatches:

Details of Bars on Hatches:

Marmaris Bay Cruisers

Regardless of how many locks and security devices you keep aboard your boat, any boat can be broken into. The key to keeping your boat and her contents safe lies in making it so difficult and time-consuming for a thief that he/they give up and go elsewhere!

Keep in mind three factors that discourage thieves everywhere – time, noise, and visibility.

Thieving is an annual occurrence in the Spring in anchorages in many areas globally and in our area, especially off Marmaris Bay marinas, Yat Marina, Pupa and off Ataturk Statue. Here are a few tips for the security of your boat, above decks and below decks:

To protect your valuables below deck, should you have a break-in,  if possible, install a safe.  It doesn’t need to be large but it should be well-concealed, fixed in place and unremovable, and accessed by combination or a specially shaped/notched key which is for your safety only.

If you do not have a safe, hide anything of value that cannot easily be replaced  (jewelry, computer, hand-held equipment).  Be imaginative and select a hiding place that appears to be something else than its true purpose,  a place that will take a lot of time to be found.

A thief will look in easy, common and quickly found places for cash, jewelry, mobile phones — anything he can sell within the next 4-8 hours at most.

While in an anchorage, wherever you may be, keep an eye out for swimmers, small boats, speedboats, skiffs, that cruise around the anchorage. This craft (and even the swimmers)  may be looking for potential thefts.

On deck, double lock bicycles to stanchions, keeping in mind that if anything can quickly be taken and is not easily removed, it will be taken.  Dinghies left in the water, outboard engines whether installed on the dinghy or on deck are often favorite items for thieves.  And a dinghy alone, asks to be stolen.  The only thing a thief need is oars.

If you have a break-in, as soon as, make a list of what has been taken and include a description, value of the item, serial numbers from owner’s manual or bill of sale you still own,  brand and other definitives.  Also note on this list your physical location and GPS coordinates, time frame you were absent and the item(s) stolen, and a contact phone number, passport details and a resident permit/visa number.

Then report the theft, with the list, to the marina nearest to your anchorage and ask them to report it to the coast guard and police (in Turkey this is the gendarme). If the marina does not wish to do this, you will need to do it yourself.


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  1. December 24, 2014 at 2:20 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    I grew up on a ranch in Texas and we used fence chargers. High voltage in pulses, no lasting effects but once you touch it, you don’t want to do it a second time. My little motorboat is 105′ long, nonconducting fiberglass with a stainless steel rail all around.

    Are you starting to get the picture? Being well grounded in salt water, I’m a little concerned about the increased effect. So, I’ll test it first (a volunteer this point would be great)on myself as it’s not as bad if you know it’s coming. Of course, I’ll put up warning signs. Any thoughts?

  2. December 17, 2014 at 2:19 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    Posted on behalf of SherrintheSea who was boarded by intruders in Papua New Guinea in December 2014:

    Footnote 15 December 2014

    We bought a General Electric motion sensor alarm from the Chinese electrical store in Papindo, a suburb of Kokopo (opposite Ela Motors). It takes AA batteries and small round ones (easily bought everywhere) and cost about $50 Australian.

    We put it in the cockpit facing aft and it works very well. Should stand us in good stead in the bigger towns further north and in the Philippines. A great investment.

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