The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office estimates more than 100 lower units were stolen in 2009.
During the rash of robberies, a burly self-made businessman with tattoos and a handlebar moustache called his neighbor and yelled, “Let’s go fishing!”
On the other end of the phone, an unassuming pilot in glasses responded, “Ok, but isn’t someone working on your lower units?”
At first, Mike Katz thought his buddy was just messing with him, but then…the sickness, like the morning after a pint of rum, sank in “and I knew what happened.”
Two of his Yamaha lower units had been swiped from his 33’ Hydrasport.
He would arrive in the Keys two days later, but he was placed on a waiting list for the lower units. His boat didn’t get wet for over three weeks.
The problem is not limited to Monroe County. Across the country boaters with outboards have suffered the same fate – and law enforcement has little to go on once the units are off the boat.
“We have not been all that successful at recovering stolen units,” said Monroe County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Becky Herrin. “We’ve made several arrests and caught them with stolen motors at the time, but in general, lower units are almost impossible to identify because they don’t have serial numbers on them. And, we believe the thieves are removing them from the county and selling them elsewhere – maybe outside the country all together.”
“I have worked my (expletive deleted) off to get what I got and to have some (expletive deleted…again) steal that really pisses me off,” Katz said. “The (expletives deleted) cut the security lights and the units cost $12,500 to be replaced. That’s when I decided this would never happen to me again.”
So Katz returned to the shop he founded three decades ago, rounded up his engineers and put them to work.
His team at Dial-X developed “The Watchman,” a tamper-resistant bolt and nut system that requires a specific “key” to keep lower units safe and secure.
The engineering/fabrication shop specializes in designing and creating automated equipment for industrial applications. He has created everything from the ball in the end of a Snap-On socket to automated robots built to exact customer specifications.
“An American Company serving America,” explained Katz, whose American Dream began in a Midwest garage. Now his operation takes up 22,000 sq. feet of commercial space in rural Indiana and generates $3 million a year in sales.
Katz and his wife were lured to the Keys’ idyllic weather and fishing 10 years ago and promptly purchased a home behind the gates on Stirrup Key. His vessel is on a lift less than 10 feet from the road, but no one saw the thieves slip into the private marina last October. There are no gates on the canal, but there is now a locking mechanism on his lower units.
The Watchman is simply a bolt that functions like a security lug on a car. The bolt with a unique pin configuration slips into the standard bolt hole.
Only a specifically designed Watchman tool can remove the bolt. The bolt also features a bell washer designed against clamping devices that would deter even the boldest of thieves. The Watchman is also quick and easy to install.
Without The Watchman lock kit, any thief armed with a socket wrench can remove an entire lower unit in less than five minutes – about the same amount of time it takes to install The Watchman.
The entire system is crafted out of Stainless Steel to prevent rust and corrosion. The complete assembly was designed, built and manufactured by Americans.
The kits are available at Shelter Bay Marine in Marathon, or by calling Rick Bisson, Katz’s fishing buddy and National Sales Manager for The Watchman. A single engine kit retails for $139.95 and all parts are available a la carte.
For more information, please visit http://www.lowerunitlock.com.
Forged from high quality, stainless steel, The Watchman lock kit features a unique pin configuration and bell housing to protect lower units from thieves. Designed by American craftsman, The Watchman is manufactured in the U.S.A. by Americans.
Mike Katz conjured the idea for lock system after thieves made off with 2 of his three lower units. Katz lives behind the gates on Stirrup Key, and his vessel is less than 10 feet from the road.
The Watchman is available in kits for single, double, and triple engine configurations. Individual parts are also available for sale at Shelter Bay Marine in Marathon and by contacting Rick Bission at (612) 237-5371.