New lake to open in Upper St. Johns Basin

Bass fishers have something to celebrate: A new lake is opening to the public soon in the Upper St. Johns River Basin. The Lawton Recreation Area, named after a famous conservationist who fought for the restoration of the St. Johns River, will cover 14,000 acres and provide two boat launch ramps, along with countless hours of fishing for the area's anglers.

FloridaToday.com reports that the Lawton Recreation Area is part of a massive $250 million project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the St. Johns River Water Management District to restore the Everglades and ensure that the Upper St. Johns Basin continues to be a wildlife refuge.

The project has been in the works for at least 15 years and was delayed in part due to the discovery of a Native American burial ground. It was also delayed as farmland in surrounding areas became available and the waterways had to be rerouted several times. In addition, funding shortages as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had slowed down completion of the project.

One of the goals of the new lake is to stem the flow of freshwater into the Indian River Lagoon. This runoff has been hurting water quality in the lagoon's saltwater estuaries.

If you're a bass fisher and you're thinking about taking your boat out to the Lawton Recreation Area, make sure that it's equipped with the best marine electronics on the market. At ePal, you can find a wide selection of fishfinder systems that will make it easier to find bass. Not only do we have the most affordable prices, we also offer free ground shipping on all orders to the lower 48 states, so check out our online store today!

5 tips for better docking

If you're a new boat owner or it's been a while since you've piloted your watercraft, you may need a refresher course on how to dock a boat. It's a deceptively challenging task, as you have to learn how to master your boat when it's idling, particularly with wind and current affecting its momentum.

Boating Magazine recently outlined 12 tips that will help you dock your boat more quickly and safely. Here are some of their best pointers:

  • Develop a plan before you approach your parking space. Assign roles to each passenger beforehand so that they can prepare for docking
  • Learn how to do a pivot turn, as this makes it much easier to maneuver in a crowded area where other boats have been docked and are looking for a slip
  • Leave some slack in the ropes when you're tying up your boat. If you make them too tight, the boat could end up hanging from the dock if the tide gets too low
  • Reacquaint yourself with driving your boat in reverse and using this function of your engine to slow down. This will minimize the impact on your bow if you strike the dock
  • The first line to toss onto the dock is your spring line. This should be looped through the cleat before you throw any other ropes.

Properly docking your boat will ensure that the hull, as well as all marine instruments and boat accessories that are exposed on the outside of the hull, will remain intact and undamaged.

At ePal we have a number of marine radio and GPS devices that can make it easier to get in touch with harbormasters so that you can find parking spaces. Make sure to check out our inventory today!

Salmon to be trucked closer to the ocean

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has begun an effort to transplant 30 million salmon from five different hatcheries to waterways that are closer to the ocean. The goal of the program is to save salmon populations, which have become stranded as a result of the drought that has afflicted Northern California this past year.

The fish, which are mostly juvenile salmon with lengths between 3 and 4 inches, are being taken to the Sacramento River, near Rio Vista, California. Once they reach their destination, the fish are siphoned into the water through a hundred foot pipe.

The migrations from warmer waters to the cool ocean are part of the Chinook salmon's growth cycle. By not transporting them, wildlife officials ran the risk of leaving them all victims of predation.

To better understand how this program will actually affect fish, the USFWS tagged about 25 percent. The information from the tag will be used to track the fish for three to four years.

Not only is this all good news for salmon, the efforts are also being welcomed by the fishing community.

"For us in the sport and commercial salmon fishery industry, it means that we should see much better returns of adults in 2016, when these fish are fully grown," John McManus, the executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, told NPR. "We'll have something to harvest."

Drought not only affects fish, it also creates problems for boaters and anglers who will be using the waterways for their hobbies. Lower water levels put their water craft at risk of striking objects on the surface. This is why it is essential to have marine electronics on board, such as a transducer and fishfinder, which can be used to give a detailed picture of the water column underneath the boat. If you're looking to replace your depth reading instruments or install new ones, make sure that you shop with ePal, the leading source for marine equipment!

Area around Tappan Zee Bridge to be closed for construction

The Tappan Zee Bridge, which runs over the Hudson River and connects the rest of the state of New York with Manhattan, will be undergoing a major renovation project over the next four years. As a result, the U.S. Coast Guard will be clearing an area around the bridge called a regulated navigation area (RNA), where boater access will be either restricted or even prohibited over the course of the project.

Local news source IOHud.com reports that Coast Guard officials have blocked off an area 200 yards south and 300 yards north of the bridge that has been declared "no wake," so boaters will be restricted to slow speeds when passing through.

One of the main reasons for the restrictions is that there will be several boats moored in the area that are part of the construction project. With these vehicles sitting still overnight, they present a hazard to other boaters, and are more likely to be damaged if the area isn't restricted.

"The devices themselves, with or without work boats moored to them, can pose a hazard to unwary boaters, especially those going too fast," officials told the source. "In periods of reduced visibility — after dark or when there is fog or heavy rain — the potential hazard from speeding is even greater."

Navigating riverways, whether there's an RNA or not, can be dangerous if your boat is not equipped with the right marine instruments to give you accurate depth readings. Having these tools on board lets you enjoy the ride rather than having to worry about whether you're going to strike objects. Make sure to check out ePal's selection of navigation and communication electronics for marine vehicles!

Inventor develops smooth-riding boat with active suspension system

If you're a boater then you've presumably figured out a way to cope with seasickness. It's something that afflicts a lot of people when they hit the high seas, even in relatively calm waters. While most will only address the problem by swallowing a Benadryl or avoiding boats entirely, one inventor has found a solution that may one day change the way boats are manufactured.

David Hall, CEO of acoustics company Velodyne, has developed an active suspension system that allows for ultra-smooth boat rides, even in choppy waters. The boat he built with the system — called the "Martini 1.5" — uses an unconventional piece of marine electronics in order to avoid bumps from rolling waves: airbag actuators.

Hall's boat can anticipate the movement of waves and adjust the deck's position so that passengers don't feel much of anything. He states that writing the software for the system was very difficult, but so far the results have been promising.

Popular Science states that Hall is able to ride through fairly rough waters at a speed of 30 miles per hour — nearly three times as fast as similar vessels could travel without a suspension system. Hall is hoping that the Martini 1.5 will hit the commercial market within the next year.

While you may not be able to get your hands on a Martini 1.5 for quite a while (and it's undoubtedly going to be expensive), there is a wide variety of boat accessories that can help you navigate treacherous waters and find the safest route to your destination. At ePal, we have a large selection of electronic instruments for boats, so make sure to check out our online store today!

Sailboats damaged, unmoored by high-speed winds

Two boats that were moored off the shores of South San Francisco came unattached from their anchors on March 12 and ended up crashing into the rocks on the beach. CBS San Francisco reports that the vessels, both of which were unmanned sailboats, became unmoored due to high-speed winds, which have been bombarding the Bay Area for several days.

It's currently unclear who the boats belong too, as the City of South San Francisco stated they had been keeping an eye on them in case they turned out to be abandoned. However, the boat's owners were occasionally spotted occupying the boats.

The U.S. Coast Guard stated that the boat's owners would need to hire a salvage company to have them removed from the rocks. They also reported that there was no pollution released into nearby waters as a result of the unmoorings.

Boats tend to spend quite a bit of time moored offshore in the winter months, when it's too cold for anyone to consider taking their vessel for a ride. If you own a boat and keep it on the water in winter, it's important to make sure that the sheets you use to keep it tied to the anchor are in good shape. Additionally, you should routinely check on it to make sure it remains anchored, particularly on days with bad weather.

Sometimes accidents like this are unavoidable. If you're concerned that your boat could one day become lost, you may want to consider installing a marine GPS tracking system from ePal onboard that can help you locate it. That way, if it comes unmoored and floats out to sea, you'll still be able to find it fairly easily.

More retirees flocking to boats

While retirement is always associated with a lifestyle of recreation and exploration, some retirees are taking this more literally than others. The Dallas Morning News recently detailed the adventures and lives of baby boomer retirees who have set sail for Mexico, both for the fun of it and because doing so saves them quite a bit in taxes and other expenses.

Living on a boat means not having a mortgage payment, and it also means not having to pay property taxes. This is especially the case in Mexico, where the cost of living is far lower than it is in the United States. For someone on a fixed income, that's an appealing proposition.

Retiring to boats is nothing new, but the source states that it will become a major trend in the next few years, with boating industry observers predicting that ownership will jump from 10 million to 17 million.

Something that boaters should realize, however, is that undertaking a voyage to Mexico — or anywhere more than a few miles from home — requires a wealth of boating knowledge. It's also much easier to accomplish if you have a chartplotter, GPS, radio and other essential marine accessories that can help you navigate unfamiliar waters.

If you're considering retiring and living on your boat, we highly recommend browsing the extensive inventory of marine technology at ePal. We have all the tools you'll need to make sure that your oceanic retirement is both safe and fun. Whether you'll be on a high-powered yacht or a small sailboat, your best resource for equipment and supplies is ePal.

Boating accident in San Dimas, California leaves one dead

The fifth annual Lake Puddingstone Sprint Boat Races in San Dimas, California, ended in tragedy on March 8 when a 64-year-old boater was killed in a speedboat collision. Gregory Belda was racing his boat when it was hit from behind by one of his competitors. The driver of the other boat was taken to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

Local news source The Daily Bulletin reports that the Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division is still investigating the accident. It was the 15th watercraft-related fatality at Lake Puddingstone since 1968. The most recent took place in 2011 when three women were killed riding jet skis.

"They went into a corner," Ted Kolby, a participant in the event, told CBS Los Angeles. "They were three wide, a warm up lap. They weren't going real fast. The middle boat made a 90-degree turn. We don't know if the steering broke off [or] what happened. And the boat that was on the inside, ran over him."

Water sports can be incredibly dangerous, and boaters who take to the water, particularly when they'll be racing high speed vessels, should ensure that their vehicles have the marine equipment they need to keep all passengers safe. This includes life vests and radios that can be used to communicate with other boaters nearby.

If you need to stock your boat with the latest communication and navigational technology available, your best source for these items is ePal. Make sure to browse our enormous selection of high quality, reliable marine supplies. If you have any questions about these products, our customer service representatives will be happy to help you find answers. Give us a call today at (877) 245-8649!

California drought affecting boating industry

California is currently facing one of its worst droughts in recorded history, and the damage has extended from the state's drinking water supply to its boating industry. Many communities are under threat of having their water rationed and several reservoirs, lakes and ponds have seen their shorelines shrink. The latter situation has made things difficult for recreational boaters, some of whom have slips that are resting on dry ground.

A series of storms over the past two weeks failed to rectify the situation completely. Trade Only Today, a boating industry news resource, reports that marine professionals believe the recent rainfall has only "slightly" improved the state's water situation. Folsom Lake, located in Northern California, is at about 36 percent capacity, according to the Sacramento Bee. Overall precipitation for the season is 38 percent of normal.

It doesn't appear that much relief is on the way. The Sacramento area is expecting some rainfall for the next day or two, but after that things will be sunny and warm for the foreseeable future.

Something to keep in mind if you're a freshwater boater is that with water levels so low, there's a greater likelihood that your vessel could strike underwater objects. While most boaters will likely rely on their eyesight to spot such obstructions, there are times when these hazards will be virtually invisible above water.

The best way to avoid any damage to your hull is to make sure your boat is equipped with a transducer. These marine instruments are an invaluable tool for making sure that you don't strike any objects and your boat remains afloat. For the latest in transducer technology, browse ePal's selection of marine electronics today!

Rules for boating with kids off the coast of Florida

No matter how old the crew of your vessel is, you need to make sure safety is a top priority. But this is especially true when you invite your kids aboard. You may think they are capable of taking on many of the responsibilities of a seasoned sailor, but you could not only be putting them in significant harm when you tackle such an endeavor, you may also be breaking the law.

One of the most popular parts of the country for boating is Southwest Florida, where family boating adventures into the Gulf are by far the favorite pastimes for many families. In fact, some parents think that because their kids have been spending summers on board the family boat, these children are equipped to take the wheel. This is not the case, however, as Florida law stipulates that any individual under 26-years-old must have taken a boating safety course certified by the state and carry a picture ID. That means that your son or daughter who doesn't even have a license to operate a vehicle ion the road has no business operating a boat.

There are other important laws one must follow if they are voting in the Sunshine State when hitting the high seas. For instance, no child under the age of six can be on a vessel less than 26 feet in length unless they have a life jacket on. 

Other precautions aren't so much legally binding but instead rules of the sea any responsible boater must apply. For instance, never dive from a boat that is anchored in less than nine feet of water, even if it's a small child jumping ship. It would also be beneficial to equip your boat with a fishfinder, chartplotter and other boat accessories that not only map out your course above the waterline but also beneath your hull.