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Battery Safety

I was speaking to a narrowboat owner who had his expensive batteriers stolen from his cruiser stern narrowboat whilst it was left unattended for a few days. Do you have any suggestions as to how the deck boards covering the engine hole can be made secure? I have not seen any security arrangements on other cruiser stern boats. Thanks for any help which you can give.

Asked by: Alan Denney  | 9.38pm, Wednesday 20 February

WW says:

There are a number of actions that can be taken to reduce theft- though by their nature, cruiser-stern boats (and all boats to a degree). You can put barriers in the way, but it is almost impossible to make a boat fully secure.
The first obstacle to put in the way depends on the nature of the deck boards. Steel or aluminium plating can be made secure by built-in tumbler locks, which secure the boards against access, by engaging with the hull side.
If the deck has steel around the side, with just one or two access hatches, then they are more easy to secure than boards which cover the entire deck. Here, locks can be challenging to fit, though it might be possible to attach the fixed part of the lock to the steel support bearers.
Locks fitted to deck boards need to be flush, ideally (to avoid a trip hazard) but need to be unlocked when aboard the boat- as usually the battery isolators are in the engine space and access must be provided at all times the boat is occupied.
An alternative is to place steel bars across the deckboards- possibly one per board- then secured by padlocks either side, to hasps bottled of welded to the inner hull side or gunnels.
Once inside the engine compartment, it is quite possible to secure the batteries using a strap and bolt arrangement- or even a bar fixed across the top of the batteries, as long as it is suitably insulated (such as rubber coating).
It might also be possible to build a battery locker (from wood, steel or grp) that is secured by locks- as long as it still meets the requirement of the BSS.
It might be worth marking or engraving the batteries with the boat name and/or index number, to make them less attractive to thieves. Smartwater and other proprietary marking devices can be used to good effect as well.
A simple alarm fitted to the engine compartment might be a good idea to put another barrier in the way of potential thieves. Be aware that covering an aft cockpit with a fixed cover might just give a place for thieves to work away unnoticed.
A very different alternative, which needs careful planning to meet the BSS, would be to relocate the batteries to inside the boat, within a sealed (to the interior) and eternally forced (fan) ventilation. This could be used to good effect under a berth or base of wardrobes- as often done with large battery banks required by electric powered boats.

Mark Langley  | 10.29AM, Thursday 21 February

It is difficult to make the deck panels secure on some cruiser sterns, unless it just has one or two lifting sections. It is often possible to arrange a locking bar under the panels to stop them being lifted, that is only removable from within the boat or by the step.
A better system is as Mark suggests; move the batteries inside the boat. It is a better location for batteries to be inside rather than stuck out in a cold damp engine bay, and not difficult to meet the BSS requirements. They just need to be ventilated into the cabin. It is only the very large battery banks for some electric boats that need to have forced ventilation whilst being charged.

Rupert Smedley  | 12.23PM, Thursday 21 February

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