A club open to anyone who owns a Piper-built boat
UNDER LOCK & QUAY PART 1
Have you noticed how little is written, or is generally available regarding the security of narrowboats or other boats come to that. I strongly suspect that the subject ‘security’ can only be found in the ‘too difficult tray’ and even though I am trained in crime prevention (or crime reduction as is currently the trend, accepting defeat when it comes to crime!) I would struggle to give you a comprehensive guide to boat security.
Unlike mass produced forms of transport or buildings that are constructed under a wide range of regulations and standards, most narrowboats are particularly unique in their individual design, fabrication and fit-out. Think of the vast range of designs and variations produced by the Piper Family alone and you will understand why there is no ‘off the shelf’ security kit available to adequately secure your boat.
The way we ‘use and abandon’ our boat should be considered, to form the basis of our security requirements, but before we launch into specifics, let me state from the outset that no amount of time or money spent will ensure the desired outcome of preventing crime and the advice given by me does not constitute any form of contract. This advice is given free and I will not be held responsible for any outcome as a result of my advice.
You are also advised to note any recommendations made by your insurance company.
The parameters to consider are categorised and described in question form as follows-
What do I want to prevent?
At this point, I want to state quite clearly that ‘fear of crime’ can, if you let it, take away our enjoyment of boating and this is not my intention. The likelihood of you becoming the victim of crime is extremely small and I do not intend to cover the issues and fears for personal safety in this article. There is far more chance of injury due to boating accidents and simple measures of awareness and taking the time and care to avoid such incidents is sufficient. If members feel there is a need to consider ‘accident prevention’ as a separate issue, I would be pleased to hear from you.
Returning to the above questions, unlike car theft, how many boats are ever stolen (taken and sailed away!). Not that many, in fact so few as not to worry about. So - engine immobilisers and other fittings to prevent the ‘use’ of the boat are probably a low priority.
As our dear friend ‘Mr. Finch’ (a local thief) reminded me quite recently, the greatest threat is from a theft from my boat.
Fortunately, Mr.F only attempted entry by forcing the lid to one of the side doors to Jabez (which incidentally is moored in a private marina with a resident warden near our boat) yet he failed to get in due to substantial (replacement) lower locking bolts on the inside of the side doors.
He also attacked five other boats in our marina. Where he gained entry, he stole food and alcohol. My neighbour’s boat was entered using little force on her side door, secured only with a single small brass bolt, suitable for toilet doors only. She defended her choice of security stating that very little damage was caused and the repair easily effected. Potato crisps and wine were all that was taken and I could easily understand her point of view. I however possess that typical policeman attitude that ‘will not let them get away with it’ but you must decide for yourself the best course of action. Compromise is always worth considering, so discuss the subject with a sensible friend and plan accordingly. Why not remove all food, drink, money and other collectables, leaving a sign on display in the window stating this fact. You may wish to bluff by displaying an ‘Alarm Fitted’ sticker!
Alarms and Closed Circuit Tele-Vision will be dealt with in Part 2.
Before we consider ‘Locks, Bolts & Bars’, correct use of what is already in place will cost nothing but the short time it takes to ensure that windows, doors and hatches are secured before leaving the boat unattended, even for just a few minutes. Be aware that a lack of basic security will probably invalidate any possible insurance claim. Companies will usually only pay out on ‘forced entry’ and criminal damage to boats.
Theft of insecure items left on the roof or available in external storage areas, which are euphemistically described as lockers even though they are rarely locked, are of greatest risk. Casual theft of ancillary items such as poles, planks, folding chairs and life rings can be easily resolved by storing such items below decks, securing them to roof fittings with padlock & chain and fitting padlocks to locker lids & doors.
The next level in boat security will require the services of a locksmith or competent ‘do-it-yourself’ person, equipped with the necessary tools and appropriate lock hardware.
PLEASE NOTE- before increasing any security requirements, bear in mind the need to provide quick emergency exit strategies for all persons on board your boat especially for those who are less mobile.
ALL DOORS and hatches should be fitted with quick release mechanisms that do not require the need to search for keys or other unlocking devices.
SECURITY for While You Are There!
All doors can be fitted with substantial slide bolts. I have fitted ‘Press Bolts’ which are lockable steel bolts, manufactured by ERA. These require drilling and securing to the inside of doors and roof hatches with threaded steel bolts into the outer steel door face.
If fitting locking bolts, ensure that all bolts are ‘keyed alike’ (i.e. the same key fits all locks)
When correctly fitted, the key should remain in or near the bolt and when turned will automatically open the bolt in one positive action. As the name implies, the bolt can be pressed to lock it as is sensible to secure the front and side doors when cruising through city centres.
Window security can be enhanced by the addition of a wide range of locks and catches but the simple addition of a painted ½” wooden dowel across the closed window glass and secured vertically or horizontally will help.
Security for While You Are Away!
Securing the boat externally (as opposed to internally)
Fitting of a Five Lever Mortice Deadlock to the back door as the final security exit point (after all other doors have been internally secured) is probably best done when the boat is originally fabricated. The lock can be retrofitted, but a locksmith should be consulted. (It ain’t easy).
The opening edges of most front doors are usually too thin to accept the width of most door locks. I have found a lockable spline that operates a standard splined mortice bolt (used for the tops & bottoms of domestic wooden French doors) The main problem is drilling a large diameter hole through the external steel door plate, it is best done with the doors removed.
The problem with most security installations is that they require a high degree of accuracy and are often very time-consuming to fit.
It is impossible to cover the wide range of security possibilities but hope that this has provided food for thought. The ‘belt and braces’ boaters advocate the fitting of steel bars, hasps and heavy-duty padlocks and external steel window shutters. Much depends upon the risk factors for where the boat is moored or used, the desired visual appearance of your boat and how much time and effort you consider to be worthwhile.
If you wish to discuss your requirement, require specific advice or can offer comments on this article, please contact me.
In Part 2 – Feedback from this article, alarm systems and security tips.
UNDER LOCK & QUAY PART 2
Alarms, CCTV and ‘other expensive equipment’!
As I said, risk assessment is the name of the game.
I note with interest an article in the December edition of Canal Boat magazine (p.92), where security is tagged onto boat fire safety issues. The writer extols the virtues of alarms, and GPS tracking systems, but are such systems commensurate to your crime risk? I can think of a lot of alternative things that I could buy for £1000. (Provided they don’t get stolen that is!)
C.C.T.V. (Closed Circuit Television). I will always remember the response of a Ford Motor worker when a new sophisticated CCTV system was installed at the Dagenham plant. When told how this would protect his car, he replied, “Why would I want a picture of the man who smashed my window and stole my car”? In a way, he is absolutely right. Unless the system is correctly monitored using motion sensors or human surveillance - day & night, and an appropriate response taken to any incident, the system is virtually useless and the greatest risk would be theft of or damage to the CCTV camera itself.
There are miles of good CCTV footage, showing hooded offenders assaulting people and causing damage and theft to property without a hope of ever catching these criminals.
Alarm Systems. These can be divided between ‘Audible Only’ and ‘Key-holder Response’ systems. By the way, when the Canal Boat article suggests a Police Response to your boat alarm, this is incorrect. You are not permitted to install an automatic dialling system using Police telephone numbers. Police will not respond to this type of system and should not be expected to.
As with the CCTV system, at best, you will need a key-holder to respond within minutes and be able to avoid placing themselves at risk from an intruder attack. An alarm will not prevent a broken window and as is commonly found, 90%+ of all alarm activations are false alarms. An alarm sounding on a residential marina is a gross intrusion to other residents’ peace & quiet, whether a false alarm or not.
Notice of an installed alarm may provide some deterrent value but neither CCTV nor Alarm will totally prevent damage or theft by a determined criminal.
In summary, I would refer you back to Part 1.
Decide the best way to minimise any feasible crime risk, adopt sensible measures and then get on and thoroughly enjoy your boating days.
With my very best wishes, and thanks to those who have responded to the article.