The theft of tenders and other small boats continues to be a sporadic but stubborn problem throughout much of the world. The United Kingdom even has a website devoted to the topic – stolenboats.org.uk.
These days, the culprits are not just opportunistic thieves who happen upon an unlocked inflatable at a dinghy dock. Many of them now come equipped with the tools and skills they need to cut bolts, hotwire ignitions and cart off outboard engines weighing hundreds of pounds.
More and more captains are fighting back by installing GPS-based anti-theft systems in their tenders, according to Dean du Toit of National Marine Suppliers in Fort Lauderdale.“They’re asking for them often, with more thefts happening in The Bahamas and in Fort Lauderdale and Miami,” he said.
A review of the online local news website thebahamasweekly.com turned up reports of stolen tow-behind fishboats in the upper 20- and low to mid 30-foot size range – including such pricey brands as Regulator and Intrepid – in spring and summer of 2009.
With the recent slowdown in Bahamas tourism due to hard economic times, du Toit said, “People are being a little bolder.”
While there are several brands of anti-theft devices for tenders on the market, he reported that most of National Marine’s clients had been asking for the Nav-Tracker GPS system.
When a Nav-Tracker transmitter is installed in a tender and is armed, it creates what the company calls a wireless “geo-fence” with a 500-meter radius around the boat. If the tender moves outside the “geo-fence,” the Nav-Tracker system uses Inmarsat-based GPS satellite technology to track the vessel and to send its latitude/longitude position, speed and heading to up to 10 people by e-mail or text message every two minutes.
“Most of the time it’s just like LoJack; people don’t even know it’s there,” said du Toit. “[Then the authorities] can recover the boat before it’s been stripped.”
Nav-Tracker also can prove helpful in the case of a tender that slips its towing harness during a rough passage. “We actually just got a call from a captain last week who was towing his tender at night and lost it. He did not discover that it had happened until the next morning,” said Jay Keenan, president and CEO of Nav-Tracker distributor Paradox Marine in Fort Lauderdale. “At that point he contacted us and asked us to increase the frequency of the reporting of the Nav-Tracker on the tender so he could locate it.” Keenan added, “I checked up on it the other day and both of the vessels are back together now.”
Paradox Marine recently introduced a new addition to the Nav-Tracker line called NT Evolution. A hybrid Nav-Tracker/Marine Magellan system, this new tender security device incorporates up to 32 wireless sensors, including infrared beam motion detectors, high water, low voltage and smoke alarms, as well as up to eight wireless relays that operate AC or DC functions on board. The new system can be controlled by a key fob remote that lets the user flash the tender’s lights and sound a siren or alarm to scare off the thieves. In addition, the system sends out Nav-Tracker boat position alerts via a sophisticated third-generation tracking website that incorporates a Google Earth interface and utilizes the Inmarsat satellite network.
“This system was originally designed for our customers in The Bahamas and other areas in the Caribbean where theft is a major issue,” Keenan said. “It has been our experience that it's much better to repel the intruders as quickly as possible, to prevent having to chase after them to get the boat back.” He added, “We've had good luck so far with getting local authorities in various areas to assist in recovering stolen vessels, but as your readers are all too familiar, you cannot always count on receiving assistance from local law enforcement. By the way, to date we have a 100 percent recovery rate, knock on wood.”