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New Early-warning system for boaters

Rick Curtis saw the new 48-foot Ocean sportfisherman sunk at its slip in a marina directly across from his office.

The owner had been sleeping on the yacht when it started taking on water. “The gentleman lives on the Ocean,” says Curtis, of Tierra Verde, Fla. “He went out to eat at a restaurant and went to bed about midnight. At 3 a.m., he had to swim off the boat. That’s how quickly it went down.”

An alarm system could have given him an early warning that something was amiss, says Curtis, marketing director for Marine Marketing, a U.S.-based marine supplier with offices in five countries.

Marine Marketing is into marine security systems in a big way, in part because many of its customers are in Latin America and the Caribbean, where yacht theft is common and the thieves are very professional. About a year ago, the company introduced its first security system designed specifically for boats. Now it has a family of systems that not only alert boatowners to high water in the bilge, but to thefts and a host of other potential problems.

Its newest product, the GPS Locater & Notification System, alerts owners when their boat moves a specified distance from its slip. It tracks the boat with GPS, and sends the alert and tracking information to an owner-monitored Web site by satellite. The GPS, communications antenna and an internal battery are sealed in a small, sturdy NEMA4X unit that can be hidden on the boat. It transmits through fiberglass, wood and glass, Curtis says. With low ship’s battery sensor, the system costs $699, plus a $24 annual fee for satellite use.

Used with Marine Marketing’s VoiceAlarm, the system also can alert owners to a number of potential problems when they are away from the vessel: water in the bilge, intruders on the boat, and high or low temperatures among others. VoiceAlarm also can activate an infrared camera and VCR to record footage of an intruder.

Used with the GPS locator, Voice-Alarm automatically sends a recorded message to three phone numbers, or sends a fax or e-mail alerting the owner or others when there’s a problem. The VoiceAlarm also can be hooked up to speakers and sound a siren alarm audible up to a mile away. There is also a message recorded in the owner’s voice giving the boat’s name, marina, slip number and nature of the problem, alerting anyone who hears the alarm to call the owner or dockmaster.

The VoiceAlarm can also communicate by a 1.2Ghz radio transmitter with a range of 5 miles or a Cellular Auto-

Dialer that can call up to eight phone numbers and play the alert message. A basic system with a high-water sensor, cabin door magnetic switch to detect intruders and speaker to broadcast alert messages is $599.95.

The Tierra Verde company also offers photoelectric beam sensors, pressure-sensitive mats and infrared-

microwave motion detectors as anti-theft options to Voice-Alarm, and disconnect switches that set off an alarm when burglars try to remove an outboard engine, radar, chartplotter, fishfinder or other equipment. Trailerable-boat owners especially may be interested in Canvas SnapAlarm, a $199.95 system with a canvas snap sensor that triggers the VoiceAlarm when an intruder unsnaps the boat’s canvas. The company also recently released another new sensor for VoiceAlarm called Anchor Drag & Mooring Theft Sensor ($349.95).

Marine Marketing has researched and developed these products with a large security company and geared them specifically to boats, Curtis says. He recommends against using shock, vibration or impact sensors with VoiceAlarm to detect intruders because they produce too many false alarms. He tells of one boater who responded to an intruder alarm and found a six-pound fish lying on the top of his boat. A pelican had dropped it there as it flew over.

“This was his intruder,” Curtis said.;



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