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SECURITY ON-BOARD CANAL BOATS & NARROWBOATS

Whether you are leaving your canal boat / narrowboat for a few hours or a few days or weeks, make sure you have locked up securely to ward off any potential intruders

An important, but common sense subject.
 
The sad fact of the matter is that if someone really wants to get in they will. Do not underestimate the callousness of desperate thieves. They will think nothing of smashing a window or levering open a door with wrecking bars. Total protection is exceptionally difficult to do within the confines of the law.
 
That said, you really have to assess risk on your own terms. How far you go with security is entirely up to you. Many owners don’t bother at all and many boats are simply left unlocked or at best poorly secured. Maybe that’s why we can be considered “soft targets” by some fools in urban areas!
 
Basic Measures
 
There are some basic measures we can take to help improve our boat security.
  1. Car alarms are based on 12VDC operation and so are the majority of our boats. Therefore a good quality alarm system, appropriately advertised, can be a deterrent to a casual thief. Top units will message owners of security breach.
  2. GPS trackers are also a deterrent as the most sophisticated units can again, automatically inform you and the police if your boat moves for any reason.
  3. Disable your engine.
  4. Chain your boat to an appropriate mooring whilst in urban areas. This deters those fools who think it’s a laugh to cast off the boat after a drunken session at the pub. Usually considered by the perpetrators as a harmless prank, this can be quite distressing if you are the victim. If it’s not possible to use chain or steel rope and a padlock, try heavy duty nylon cable ties around the loose ends of the rope to make it just that little bit harder to untie the mooring knot.
  5. Used close to bollards and T studs to clamp ropes together, these ties can be very effective at preventing casual casting off.
  6. Fit window guards and bars across entrance doors. An extreme modification maybe, but one some owners decide is necessary.
  7. Upgrade all locks to the best quality available and secure hatches and doors with heavy duty internal hasps.
  8. Use cylinder padlocks, such as high security van types, which are harder to casually pick than conventional keyed padlocks.
  9. Fit CCTV (further information below)
  10. Fit PIR activated security system (further information below)
  11. Fit a locking fuel tap. There maybe a few hundred pounds worth of fuel in your tank!
  12. Don’t leave valuable kit on the roof. Time over we hear complaints from people who have had fishing tackle stolen whilst on holiday. Thieves rarely break in for it, it’s often “lifted” from the roof or deck.
  13. Chain up bicycles. Just because they are on your roof or deck does not make them impossible to steal.
  14. Low consumption LED lighting has made leaving a cabin light on a practical and cheap way to deter thieves. A 12v timer can also be used to make it look realistic
  15. Fake TV’s – very reminiscent of the film ‘Home Alone’ but these can be purchased cheaply on line. Consuming only the power of a night light, it provides realistic flickering and scene changes.
  16. Mark your valuable items using indelible invisible marker. There are also various UV marking systems/subscriptions on the market.
 
Again, most risk can be reduced by the application of a bit of common sense.
 
Wireless Security Systems
 
An alarm system may initially seem like a big investment, but if you aren’t in secure moorings and/or away from your boat for long periods of time, this investment can be worth every penny. As with houses, an alarm is an effective deterrent to a have-a-go burglar and it is widely quoted that houses with security systems are three times less likely to be burgled than one without a security system. 
 
A typical wireless system may have a number of devices such as vibration sensors, pressure pads, passive infrared (PIR) beams, door contact switches that are triggered whenever someone enters the boat. The system is generally armed/disarmed using a key fob or key pad panel. Signals pass from the sensors to a control unit, and like domestic systems, they will have features such as entry/exit delay timers and tamper protection. If you have pets on-board another useful feature is to be able to eliminate detection at ground level, but have the alarm activated at waist level. The control panel will work from the boats 12v battery system. 
 
How the system activates depends on the model; some will emit a siren and/or a strobe light. A siren can be a deterrent to the thief in itself even if there are no other boaters in close proximity. Vibration sensors are good as they will detect if someone tries their luck by kicking the door but not breaking it down. 
 
Security Cameras
 
Systems can be installed to record still or video images when someone (or something) moves within a specified range, rather than constant recording. Although a hidden camera won’t deter a thief, it may provide evidence to both the police and insurers as to what happened. Many can be run using standard AA batteries, although some can be hard-wired. Some systems can be linked to send images to your camera phone and/or email. Built in microphones enable you to call up and listen to what is happening aboard.  A temperature sensor can also detect if your boat has become too hot or cold. 
 
Remote Boat Monitoring 
 
Apps are now available to not only monitor security using IR motion sensors, but also to monitor power output, temperature and humidity of your boat. SMS or emails can be sent regularly (twice a day if required) to reassure boat owners.  Additional software can also be purchased that can remotely activate/deactivate your boats heating system. 
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