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webbwebs 06-23-2010 03:04 PM

Storing valuables aboard when cruising
I recently sold my home and I'm in preparation to do some extended cruising in my Westsail 32. I know that a boat is never totally secure, so I'm wondering what might be a good solution for storing valuables, such as laptops, portable electronics, document, passports, cash, etc.

I've looked around and haven't been able to locate anything that is designed specifically for cruising. "Sentry Safe" has a box for around $170 with approx dimensions of 10.6"H x 16.9"W x 14.6"D. My 17" and 15" laptops will fit inside (if passed through the door at an angle), but the box is painted mild steel and I've seen some posts that seriously question the security of the locking system. WeatherGuard makes an aluminum box designed as an under-truck tool box that's somewhat larger (24" in length) that might also work. Being aluminum, it's half the weight and presumably would hold up better to the marine environment. Buyers makes one of similar dimensions (18" x 18" x 24") in aluminum and also make one in stainless in this size.

Has anyone else tackled this concern and found a good solution?



oceanscapt 06-23-2010 03:38 PM

I've never used a safe for what valuables I had on board. When it came to hiding important items, I tended to look for out of the way places to put them (and more important to me, to remember where I put them).

The first thing I'd do is make the boat as secure as possible. A strong set of washboards and a good lock, making sure the hatches are secured well below deck and that any portholes are tight. I'd also suggest getting some folks in the anchorage to keep an eye on the boat. One boat I cruised with took an extended shore side trip and paid one of the kids on a nearby boat a few dollars a day to lounge around, check the basics, and make it look like someone was aboard rather than away.

Broadcasting your intentions will almost guarantee a visit by the two-legged critters you're trying to prevent looking around. You might consider how to store your tender. If it's tied off the back for days at a time, chances are you'll get a visit. If it's never around at night, chances are you'll get a visit or two. If the boat's dark at night then that may be an welcome sign to thieves.

But, if someone looks in through a hatch or port and sees cameras, computers, radios, and other items lying about, chances are no matter what steps you take, your chances of being visited by thieves is going to be higher.

I had an access panel under the pilot berth at the back that was large enough for the laptop. It was neither an obvious spot nor one you could easily get to. Another spot, behind the settee was a good location for my cameras, handhelds, and other "walkable" items. The hidey spot was behind and below a crate of canned food.

I know of folks who stored valuables behind the rudder quadrant, in the engine room, in the chain locker, and in some innovative spots. You might do some looking around for places like that.

My biggest concern is that if thieves find the vault, they'll do far more damage getting the box out (and possibly sinking the boat) than the inconvenience and aggravation of replacing the missing items.

T37Chef 06-23-2010 04:02 PM

yea, I would think a traditional Safe is like having big red letters saying steal me, I'm right here?

Now if that Safe was designed to look like a Holding Tank it could work, especially if the words "Waste" Not for Human Consumption were written on it! LOL

eryka 06-23-2010 04:04 PM

False bottom drawers, a bag on a string in the bilge. Caution: we tried #2 for some cash and got some weird looks when, months later, we showed up at a bank in Florida with some moldy $100 bills!

How about hiding things in plain sight disguised to look not-valuable? I've heard of folks who cut the bottom off a soup can and fitted it out to store things like cash & jewelry and put it back in the locker with other canned goods.

Ultimately, your laptop is worth less than the data on it, so be scrupulous about your backups. We keep 2 external hard drives in different places so that if we lose the computer we still have all our pictures & notes, etc.

eryka 06-23-2010 04:05 PM


Originally Posted by T37Chef (Post 616189)
Now if that Safe was designed to look like a Holding Tank it could work, especially if the words "Waste" Not for Human Consumption were written on it! LOL

I like it!!

huguley3 06-23-2010 04:52 PM

You could try something like this thrown down in with the waste tank they would probably only get a disgusted look. :)

tomwatt 06-23-2010 04:57 PM

Years ago as a fresh-out-of-college kid I managed a small restaurant that had no safe, and no way to store the till's contents overnight. I cut the bottom out of a large black olives tin and tucked the cash bag into it, and then set it in among the other black olives cans on the shelf above head height.
The restaurant was broken in to one night, the place ransacked as the thief looked for the money. But the money was not found and remained safely on the shelf.
A key to the success of the ruse with a hide-in-plain-sight gimmick is making sure it's an obvious low-value item, and it helps if there are more than one real one with the hideout tucked into the group like it belongs.
I don't know how many canned goods you might have on board, but sail bags you likely have in abundance.
I like the false waste holding tank idea too.
What about the plastic fender/bumpers? I think one could be crafted to be a hide-safe, and nested among the real ones... just don't forget and dangle it over the side!

teejayevans 06-23-2010 05:18 PM

If you are storing $, you could store 10% in a obvious place, and
the other 90% less obvious, the idea being after finding the 10%
the thief will leave.

webbwebs 06-23-2010 05:37 PM

Thanks for your suggestions
I appreciate the feedback and the excellent suggestions. I guess my greatest concern is my laptop(s). As a programmer by trade, this is my livelihood. It is also my primary navigation and there is undoubtedly a great deal of security information embedded within the data contents.

(I'm almost starting to wonder if cruising is all I've built it up to be.)

Thanks again.


therapy23 06-23-2010 06:14 PM


Originally Posted by huguley3 (Post 616205)
You could try something like this thrown down in with the waste tank they would probably only get a disgusted look. :)

Best one I have seen to date.

Do they have one in boxer style as a single "whitie" would be out of place?

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