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Old 20-03-2019, 11:21   #1
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Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

The CSSN and Noonsite reports make sobering reading, particularly regarding the prevalence of burglary.


Realizing that:
- no solution will be 100% effective,
- awareness and avoidance of chronic trouble spots is part of the answer,
- and best-practices conduct is part of the total picture (e.g. avoiding unnecessary displays of wealth, buddy boating, avoiding obvious signs that the boat is unoccupied or a suitable theft target)


--What physical deterrents are reasonable?


In particular, what reasonable steps can be taken to harden or secure the companionway?


What can and should be done with hatches and portlights to provide security while maintaining ventilation and an emergency exit route?


Does it make more sense to have a safe, or some other secure locker, aboard for valuables than to try to control access at the companionway? Are the items usually taken small enough in number and size that they can be secured?
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Old 20-03-2019, 11:29   #2
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

I've been boarded three times in the past five years, the last resulted in a punch up at 2am. The first two times a thief entered while we slept and stole phones and money. I now lock us in each night.

I have nice looking security bars in the companion way which can be locked from the inside. Also ss bars in the hatches. I leave the large front hatch Bar less as an escape hatch but it's closed at night. I now sleep better.

Never had a problem in the first 4-5 years.

Its impossible to cruise the world an avoid poor people, at some stage you will be a target, I believe in providing as little opportunity as possible or at least less than your neighbours
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Old 20-03-2019, 12:23   #3
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

There are some devices such as the "seen on TV" Tiger Light. A blinding light and pepper spray. Or you could sail with a large dog.
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Old 20-03-2019, 13:53   #4
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

You, the OP, sound like you are primarily concerned about protecting your stuff. As Dale noted, boardings often occur while the boat is occupied. Sometimes ending in one or more crew getting injured, killed or raped. We are much more concerned about crew saftey than stuff. Stuff is replacable, insurable and can be lived and cruised without. The attacks on the crew can end a cruise permanently, from physical or emotional traumas.
Our approach, only used in areas that are possibly threatening, is do what we can to discourage any boarding while we are aboard. Keep the decks clear, keep the dinghy secure and we set our alarm system. It uses under deck strain gauges to set off a series of alarms. Starting with a dog barking if you step on the swimstep to all lights and very loud alarm if you step in front of the companionway. The strain gauge approach eliminates false alarms.
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Old 20-03-2019, 15:02   #5
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

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You, the OP, sound like you are primarily concerned about protecting your stuff.

I, the OP, am well aware of the existence of more violent crimes, and am aware of the various mitigation strategies for those. They include the ones you mention as well as various more active sorts of approaches that lead to long, pointless threads on CF due to the wide differences in background of CF posters. I prefer to keep my own counsel in this area.


Stuff. People stealing stuff. I approach this from a balanced point of view. I've been hit before. It's not just the stuff, it's the disruption. The time spent replacing missing things. The repairs to whatever was damaged during the event. Cleaning up the mess from them setting off fire extinguishers or pouring out the contents of drawers, bottles, and cans. The lost intangible sense of place, psychologically.



Which is why I ask what is reasonable and prudent. Perhaps the answer is nothing except to turn the other cheek, shake the dust off one's sandals, and move on to the next anchorage. Your thoughts?
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Old 20-03-2019, 15:13   #6
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

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I...
Which is why I ask what is reasonable and prudent. Perhaps the answer is nothing except to turn the other cheek, shake the dust off one's sandals, and move on to the next anchorage. Your thoughts?
Best approach is to skip known hot spots. Actual crime reports trump the I went there and had a good time report. Reports that include violent crime go to the top of the avoid list, even if they are old. If you do get hit then in most places you are best to dust off and move on. You won't win much in central America or most of the Caribbean fightng the good fight. Of course if it turns into violent crime, then you might not be able to just move. Check some simple theft cases that went bad, like the one in St Lucia.
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Old 20-03-2019, 15:24   #7
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

what about motion sensing lights?
I like the strain gauge alarm..
micro switches on things that should be closed when the alarm is on..


just wondering.. and need to figure out what to do on our boat..




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Old 20-03-2019, 15:34   #8
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

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what about motion sensing lights?
I like the strain gauge alarm..
micro switches on things that should be closed when the alarm is on..


just wondering.. and need to figure out what to do on our boat..




-dkenny64
Motion detectors can be useful, but they are often susceptible to false alarms. Too many false alarms and you stop regular use.
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Old 21-03-2019, 08:43   #9
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

Motion detectors are only useful in an enclosed space without windows or with the curtains drawn. They can be set off by bright lights on walls within their view or tree limbs moving outside.

May be useful as a backup to micro switches in an enclosed space.
A good backup to consider are glass break sensors as they detect door jambs being broken and breaking glass etc.

The strain gauges are a great idea for a boat.

Where can you get/build an alarm system based on strain gauges?
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Old 21-03-2019, 08:59   #10
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

Something I now do is leave my cockpit light on, the cockpit is very lit up. IMHO people prefer to climb on a dark boat, darkness is a theifs friend. In fact the last time I had a boarder he climbed aboard at the bow, I believe this was due to the cockpit being well lit (it wasn't the previous times). Due to the bow being high its hard to climb onboard from a kayak, we heard him because the kayak hit the hull.
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Old 21-03-2019, 09:26   #11
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

I had a locking companionway, also had SS "jail bar" drop board made. I had a cheap 9volt Radio Shack "screamer" with fishing line trip wire. Man that thing was loud. Kind of a digital siren noise. Just string the trip wire across the cockpit or etc.
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Old 21-03-2019, 10:01   #12
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

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Originally Posted by SilentOption View Post
There are some devices such as the "seen on TV" Tiger Light. A blinding light and pepper spray. Or you could sail with a large dog.
You don't want a large dog, mine 170 and 140 pounds Great Pyrenees. If they barked in the cabin your ears would ring for days.
A lot of food and used food too, input kinda equals output.
But I know my sheep are safe at night at home.
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Old 21-03-2019, 10:05   #13
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

Handful of tacks on the side decks.
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Old 21-03-2019, 10:16   #14
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

Jammer-
I think that "reasonable" totally depends on your personal comfort level, skills, and budget. If you go to a iron shop or someplace to have an aluminum or other stock companionway "gate" made up, you can say "Make it 2'x3'x1/2"" come back in a week, pay the man and be done. If you want to start wiring up alarms or motion sensors...it can take a bit longer to figure out where to install the pieces, what to protect, how to power them and keep them waterproofed. But, that's not necessarily expensive if you have the parts available.
A couple of cans of wasp spray, which shoot out a 20' stream of chemical that will temporarily blind an intruder, is cheap and legal, even where "pepper sprays" wouldn't be.
A standard alarm system's "pressure mat", just like a doormat but with a wire coming out of it, can be placed in the cockpit. Easier to pick up in the morning than Slocum's tacks...and no problem unless you have birds or flying fish landing in your cockpit at night.
Reasonable? Figure, if someone steals one cell phone, one pair of decent binocs, one vhf...any of those can be a fast two or three hundred dollars, and a major inconvenience. For the same price, start with the companionway "gate", spend more incrementally as needed. And when some irresponsible political nanny like the State Department says "You really don't want to go there", you know, ask around and think about it.
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Old 21-03-2019, 10:35   #15
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Re: Securing the companionway and other approaches to burglary mitigation

It's time to replace my drop boards, so I've recently spent some time thinking about this and scrolling through pages of googled images. Some of the light airy examples that can be found make me wince. I don't yet have a solution, but have some thoughts on the companionway hatch.

I realize that not everybody sails in the North Pacific, but the number-one boarder to be concerned about remains a following wave. Particularly for those who have drunk the JSD Kool-Aid. As they say, drop boards are the worst possible solution - except for all the others. Although if the geometry allows, a real ocean hatch seems attractive.

If the dropboard channel is currently formed by a couple pieces of easily-jimmied wood trim, it seems like an easy first step to replace this with SS U-channel. (As per project shown on James Baldwin's Atom blog.) This might require shaving a bit off the ends of the boards, but if one is replacing them anyway, no problem. Problem: first search failed to yield a convenient source for the right size channel. Might end up needing to build new boards to fit the channel that can be found.

If building a sweet door project, for pete's sake people, don't put the hinges on the outside! Unless you are just leaving it unlocked all the time anyway.

Lewmar and ilk don't seem to have much interest in providing a good way to lock or open their hatches from the outside.
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