Tips for buying a satellite phone

Although many boaters can leave shore with a basic marine radio onboard, others require more serious communication equipment for those occasions when they'll be heading farther out into the ocean, away from ports and cell phone towers. For such situations, it may be necessary to purchase a satellite phone.

If you're unfamiliar with this equipment and how it works, here are some tips to keep in mind as you decided whether you want to buy one:

  • Although they're known for their ability to provide service anywhere this isn't always the case. There are some networks, such as Iridium, which work globally, but others are restricted to certain regions. This may not be a problem if you typically boat in the same body of water.
  • Consider whether you're existing marine equipment already provides some of the functions that are available with satellite phones. For example, if you already have a GPS system that delivers weather information, there's not much need to also have this function in your satellite phone, unless you're afraid of the GPS losing reception.
  • Think about what you want to use the phone for. Is it for emergencies, or will you be consistently relying on it to send messages back to shore? Do you plan to use it for phone calls only, or email and internet as well?

At ePal, we offer satellite phones and accessories from Globalstar, Inmarsat, Iridium and other companies, so you should be able to find a phone that fits your needs specifically. If you have any questions about this topic, we invite you to give us a call today at (877) 245-8649 to find answers!

When is it time to abandon ship?

Although it's clearly the last resort, there may come a time when you're faced with the decision of whether or not you and your crew should abandon ship. No matter how valuable your boat is or how much it means to you, if it comes down to a choice between the safety of your passengers and staying with your vessel a little bit longer, you need to choose safety.

But knowing when to jump ship isn't always easy to determine. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • It's not a good idea to wait around to see what happens. If you've decided that it's too dangerous to stay onboard, then you need to get on your life raft and get away from the boat, as it could damage the raft in choppy seas.
  • Not all captains wait until their boat is sinking to abandon it. Yachting Magazine recently reported on the story of Ian Hubbard, who was with his wife and children on a 60-foot ketch in the Atlantic when he had to call for search and rescue. The boat was fine, but he and his crew were completely fatigued and seasick. Had they waited any longer, Hubbard would have had to pilot through an approaching hurricane.

Hopefully you'll never have to make the decision about whether or not you should abandon your vessel. You can make such instances less likely by investing in the best marine GPS products and electronics at ePal. These instruments will deliver weather information so that you can always stay ahead of the next storm.

Working with a broker when purchasing a boat

So you've decided to purchase a boat. Much like buying a house or a new car, it can sometimes be a long and complicated process, depending on how big the vessel is. If you're buying anything bigger than a skiff or small motorboat, you're probably going to have to deal with a broker. Most sellers will contract with someone who handles the sales process and takes a commission from the sales price.

If you're entering the market, make sure to keep these tips in mind when working with a broker:

  • Consider hiring your own broker: If you want a more unbiased expert to help you navigate listings, having your own broker can be a valuable resource. They'll take your personal needs into consideration to make sure you get a vehicle that is in good condition and will leave you a happy sailor.
  • Get everything in writing: When you hand over a deposit, make sure that the broker is storing your money in a separate account and that you have the account number and bank where it is being held. You should also make sure the conditions of the deposit are clearly stated, such as when you can get it back if you decide to pull out of the deal.
  • Have a surveyor inspect every aspect of the boat you're buying: This is critical for making sure that the hull, engine and marine instruments on the boat you are purchasing are in good condition.

Once you've bought your new boat, make sure you head over to the ePal online store and check out our inventory of the latest technology in marine equipment

Boating accident in South Carolina leaves one dead, one injured

One duck hunter was killed and another injured when their boat capsized near the jetties in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, on January 27. The two boaters were making their way back to the dock when their vessel tipped over, causing both to fall into the water. 

CarolinaAlive.com reports that three University of South Carolina students and three other duck hunters who happened to be in the area contacted authorities for assistance in helping the passengers of the capsized boat. 

The incident is a reminder that fisherman and hunters who will be using watercraft should make sure that they are equipped with the marine electronics and communications tools necessary to stay safe. In addition, it's important to follow these safety tips from Ducks.org the next time you go duck hunting:

  • Always wear a personal flotation device. Even when you're on a relatively calm stream of water that presents little hazard and you're an experienced swimmer, it's difficult to know whether there is an undercurrent that can pull you under the surface.
  • Have both the engine and hull of your boat inspected at the start of hunting season to ensure that they're in good working order.
  • Let someone onshore know when you're going to be hunting, where you'll be stationed and when you plan to return, so that they can alert the authorities in the event of an emergency.

At ePal, we carry an enormous selection of boating accessories that will come in handy any time you're on the water. If you're in need of any supplies that will make your voyages safer, you can count on us to have it in stock.

Providence Boat Show begins January 31

The Providence Boat Show, a tradition that goes back 20 years, will be taking place starting January 31 in Providence, Rhode Island, and continuing until February 2. The show will feature the usual assortment of sailboats, power boating vessels and equipment, outboard engines and other items. But as BoatingIndustry.com notes, visitors have a bundle of other attractions to look forward to.

In addition to the above, attendees will get to schmooze with marine professionals and even a few boating celebrities. These include America's Cup winner Rome Kirby, a native of Newport and the guardian of the Kirby family legacy (Rome's father Jerry also competed several times in the Americas Cup).

Visitors will also be able to learn how to surf using a new dry land system that will be demonstrated at the show. Event planners are hoping to attract a more diverse crowd with guests of all ages.

"When RIMTA purchased this show we knew it was a perfect way to showcase our marine industry – but we set out to do something more, to create an indoor expo that showcases our shoreline and all the ways it can be enjoyed from the water side," Wendy Mackie, CEO of show organizers Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA), said in a news release.

If you'll be attending the show, keep an eye out for any boating accessories that you may want to add to your own vessel. Once you have an idea of the equipment you want to purchase, head on over to ePal's online store to see our wide selection of marine navigation and communications equipment.

Boating industry looks ahead to growth in 2014

The boating industry was hit hard by the recession, and many outfits are still struggling to readjust to what many refer to as "the new normal." However, many marine professionals are reporting slow but steady growth in the marine electronics and boating fields, signaling good times are ahead for those who have survived the economic downturn.

In a recent piece written for TradeOnlyToday.com, an industry news source, several top boating professionals contribute their thoughts on what the future holds for not just those who work with boats, but those who own them as a hobby as well. What many are seeing is that boating enthusiasts are starting to age. However, John Adey, the President of the American Boat & Yacht Council, stated that he has hopes more young people will be attracted to the field.

"Recently I had the opportunity to address about 140 boatbuilders during a marine engineering conference and was pleasantly surprised as I looked out across the audience," Adey writes. "Within this group was the typical long-term employee, but in addition I noticed a new group of faces sprinkled throughout. These folks were young and seemed energetic as my co-presenters and I discussed the nuances of a boat's electrical system."

One reason young people may not be quite as interested in boating is that they have a perception of it as being something that only high net-worth individuals can enjoy. But the good news is that it doesn't have to be this way. By purchasing used vessels and shopping for discount boat parts and accessories at ePal, young people can have the opportunity to enjoy this hobby without breaking the bank.

Housing market rebound triggers increase in boat sales

Rising home equity levels in Florida are being credited with an increase in boat sales in December of 2013. According to TradeOnlyToday.com, an industry news source, there were 140,000 boats sold nationwide in December 2013, an increase of 20,000 over the same period in 2012. 

There are two reasons that these numbers are being linked to Florida real estate. The first is that Florida, along with Texas, are typically the only states where boat buying remains strong in the winter months. December usually only accounts for 2.5 percent of annual sales. The second is that the housing market in Florida has been rebounding as the economy improves. This in turn means that homeowners have more equity, leading to more boat purchases through credit.

"One of the things we've seen over the years is a fairly strong correlation between home sales and boat sales," Jack Ellis, managing director at Info-Link Technologies, told the source. "Most people have much of their equity and net worth tied up in their home. When you see the value of your home get cut by 30 percent, which happened in certain parts of Florida… [people are less likely to spend.]"

If you're the owner of a new boat and you're wondering what to do next (besides, you know, ride it), we invite you to check out ePal's wide inventory of high quality, discount marine supplies. You'll be amazed what can be done with the latest marine technology. We carry navigation and communication equipment from the best brands, including Garmin, Lowrance and Raymarine‚Äč, at prices you won't find anywhere else. 

New Jersey passes bill increasing penalties for fleeing boating accidents

New Jersey has passed new legislation that establishes stiff penalties for leaving the scene of a boating accident. The law was passed unanimously by the New Jersey State Senate.

Under the terms of the new law, anyone who flees an accident that results in serious bodily injury to another person without notifying authorities can receive a fine of up to $150,000 as well as three to five years in prison. If the accident results in death, the fine goes up to $250,000 and the prison sentence could be as high as ten years.

"Safety is always our first concern with more boaters on our waterways each year," Senator Jim Holzapfel said in a statement. "This legislation will give law enforcement the authority needed to persecute those reckless enough to leave the scene of an accident without assisting the passengers of the other vessel."

The legislation was created in response to an accident that took place in 2008. Anthony DiGilio of Brick, New Jersey, was piloting his boat on the Metedeconk River when he drove over another vessel, killing one of the occupants. DGilio fled the scene and did not alert authorities to the incident. He was later charged with vehicular homicide, though he was acquitted in April 2013 according to NJ.com.

It's important to avoid these situations by making sure that your boat is equipped with the highest quality communications equipment, including a VHF marine radio that can send out automatic emergency signals to the Coast Guard or law enforcement. You can find the best navigation and communication instruments by shopping at ePal.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Cautionary Tale For Yacht Owners?

Leonardo DiCaprio's newest film, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a frontrunner to win several Academy Awards and many critics are praising the movie as one of the actor's best. But in addition to being a highly-acclaimed motion picture, it can also serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who owns a marine vehicle, especially a luxury yacht.

In the story, DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a real-life, Wall Street banker who owns "Naomi," a 134-foot boat that features a helicopter, jet skis and just about every other amenity that Belfort could pack in. On a voyage to Europe, Belfort orders his captain to set sale for Monaco, despite the captain's warnings that there were "choppy" waters that would make it a bumpy ride. The choppy waters turned out to be gigantic waves that eventually led to the sinking of "Naomi," with Belfort and his crew needing to be rescued by the Italian coast guard.

The story did in fact happen in much the same way that it is depicted in the film. The real Belfort owned "Nadine", a yacht that originally belonged to fashion designer Coco Chanel, and he did manage to sink it off the coast of Sardinia in the mid-1990's.

Although the film is mainly about Belfort's illegal stock trading practices and debauchery, it's also a warning against ignoring the expert advice of an experienced mariner and putting your crew and passengers at risk. At ePal, we always recommend following the captain's advice when it comes to getting repairs, purchasing needed Garmin marine GPS equipment or avoiding hazardous conditions when underway.

The four types of marine surveys

As we noted recently on this blog, hiring a marine surveyor is essential if you're going to be purchasing a new or used boat soon. These surveys make sure that the vessel you're buying is in operable condition and that all of the various structural components, accessories and marine GPS electronics you have on board are working as advertised.

But having a marine survey performed on the watercraft you're purchasing is only one type of survey you may need to order throughout your ownership of the boat. There are actually four main types that you may need to have done on your vessel at some point during its lifetime. These include:

  • Appraisal inspection: You may need to order one of these to determine the fair market value of the boat for the purposes of selling it, having it financed or if it needs to be auctioned during an estate sale
  • Damage survey: If you're ever involved in an accident, your insurer will hire a surveyor to determine the extent of the damage in order to figure out how much will need to be paid for the claim.
  • Insurance survey: Whenever you're trying to get an insurance policy on your boat, the insurer will most likely ask to have a survey performed that checks out the structural integrity of the vehicle to make sure it is a low risk
  • Pre-purchase inspection: As described above, this is when you hire a surveyor to make sure the vehicle you're buying is in good shape.

Once you've purchased your new boat, you should make sure it has all the communication and navigation equipment it needs to make your trips safer and easier, such as a chartplotter. You can find this equipment at ePal.