Skip to main content

Hardening Targets

We were savoring a meal of fresh mahi-mahi with new friends and soaking up the quirky backpacker atmosphere of the Caribbean beach town we planned to explore the following morning. Winterlude, our Passport 37, was anchored less than 100 yards away, just out of view. After lingering over one last rum punch, we dinghied back out to our boat in time to catch the last rays of the setting sun
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

We were savoring a meal of fresh mahi-mahi with new friends and soaking up the quirky backpacker atmosphere of the Caribbean beach town we planned to explore the following morning. Winterlude, our Passport 37, was anchored less than 100 yards away, just out of view. After lingering over one last rum punch, we dinghied back out to our boat in time to catch the last rays of the setting sun over the picture-perfect anchorage.

After tying off our dinghy astern, I boarded the boat and started down the companionway hatch. Then I stopped and stared at the empty navigation desk where our laptop had been. The list of missing items grew as we went through the boat. Finally we came upon the screen that was dangling from the hatch over the Pullman berth. We knew immediately that we’d allowed ourselves to become victims of petty thieves.

Fortunately, most thefts from boats, wherever they occur, are perpetrated by random opportunists. You can tilt the odds in your favor by securing access points to your boat’s interior and changing your habits to make it much harder for others to remove gear from your boat.

If you want to keep it, put it away or lock it up. Go over all items on deck, and store below or in a secure locker anything that could be removed quickly by a thief. Those things you should keep on deck, like containers of gas for the dinghy, should be locked to a strong point on the boat.

Get local knowledge. Local VHF or SSB radio nets can provide information about safety issues and places to avoid. Even if there is no formal net, there may be a VHF frequency (other than channel 16) that is being used by cruisers.

Don’t discuss your plans on VHF. Avoid broadcasting information you don’t want to make public, such as when you’ll be going ashore, because it lets any listener know when your boat will be unattanded. Always assume your cruising friends aren’t the only ones listening.

Lock when you leave. Lock all hatches and the companionway. And check the companionway hatch: Is it sturdy enough to resist a hard kick? Could your lock be cut with a pair of common cable cutters? If so, correct the situation.

Hide your valuables. We remove all our electronics from their usual locations before we go ashore. My laptop is hidden in a drybag, and I store our camera, cellphone, camcorder, iPod, and cash out of sight. I store the same gear in the same place every time to make sure I can find it.

Leave a light on. Lights make it appear that the boat is occupied. Leaving a radio on helps, too. In locations where opportunity thefts are likely, the more questions you raise in a prospective thief’s mind, the less chance there is that your boat will become a target.

Leave the anchor light on. Some cruisers I know have installed a motion-detector alarm in the cockpit; others have mounted a flashing red light by the companionway. The light isn’t connected to anything, but a would-be thief won’t know that. We have a Mega Light utility light (davisnet.com) in the cockpit, and we often leave it on. Alarms are available that turn on lights, make a noise, or both.

Related

thumbnail_Jump-1

The Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race Returns

It’s been four years since racers last sailed the cold North Atlantic in the venerable Marblehead-to-Halifax race—and finally, the wait is over. The Boston Yacht Club and the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron have announced the 39th Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race set for this ...read more

Wendy-2048px

Meet Wendy Mitman Clarke, Editor-in-Chief of SAIL magazine

Learn more about how she and the magazine’s team are committed to building on SAIL’s legacy of more than 50 years as an authentic voice about the sport and the sailing life, delivering stories that educate, inspire and inform. ...read more

maintenance-02

Cruising: Old Sailors Never Die

“Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” It may be a hoary old joke, but one of my problems at age 79 is I can no longer get easily in and out of a little dinghy, and neither can my (several years younger than me) wife. For this, and various other reasons I will ...read more

01-LEAD-DSC_0953

The Mighty Compass

Here’s to the humble magnetic compass, without a doubt the sailor’s most reliable instrument onboard. It’s always there for you and with the rarest of exceptions, always operational. Yes, I love my chartplotter, autopilot, radar, and AIS. They help me be a safer and more ...read more

02-En-route-Jost-Van-D

Chartering: Swan Song in the BVI

Joseph Conrad once wrote, “The sea never changes.” And while this may or not be true, something most definitely not open for debate is the fact we sailors, “wrapped in mystery,” as Conrad put it, are continually changing—whether we like it or not. I found myself thinking these ...read more

220307FP51_1JML0332

Boat Review: Fountaine-Pajot Aura 51

If you can sell more than 150 catamarans off-plan before the resin has even hit the fiberglass, you must be doing something right. Despite costing around $1.1 million once fitted out and on the water, Fountaine-Pajot’s new 51 has done just that. The French yard has been at it ...read more

00LEAD-IMG-9035

Ready to Fly a New Sail

It’s a typical humid, southern Chesapeake Bay summer day when I show up on the doorstep of Latell & Ailsworth Sailmakers in the one-stoplight, one-lane-roadway, rural tidewater town of Deltaville, Virginia. I’m late getting here to work on a new jib for my 29-foot, Bill ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Dates for the 2024 America’s Cup Announced

Ever since making the controversial decision to hold the next America’s Cup in Barcelona, Spain, instead of in home waters, Defender Emirates Team New Zealand has been hard at work organizing logistics for the event.  The Racing Area for the Challenger Selection Series and the ...read more