4 cold weather boating safety tips

Not everyone puts their boats in storage for the winter — some hardy souls either choose to keep pleasure boating through the season, or are required to by their job or circumstances. Either way, following proper safety protocol can mean the difference between a pleasant outdoor adventure and a harrowing tale of survival. Follow these tips to make sure you stay safe onboard this season:

  • Tell someone where you're going. Whenever you head out on the water in the winter, make sure to leave information on your intended route and when you plan to return with a responsible individual. This way, if something happens to you, someone will know immediately. This person can also contact you in case of adverse weather or accidents along your route so that you can avoid these problems.
  • Always carry a communication device. A functioning marine radio is crucial to be able to communicate with other vessels and avoid accidents, and to call for help in case of an emergency. ePal carries several types of marine radios that can be found here.
  • Carry flares or signaling devices. In winter storms, it can be hard for other vessels to find you if your boat is hidden in the snow after an accident. That's why carrying flares or an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is so important in the winter.
  • Wear a life jacket and water-resistant clothing. Falling into icy water causes a shock to the system that leads to cardiac arrest and drowning. Being well-outfitted with a life preserver and appropriate clothing is absolutely necessary for survival in this case. 

If you're preparing to undertake a winter boating expedition, contact ePal for advice on the marine equipment and safety gear you'll need. We strive to provide customers with the right equipment for their needs and will personalize our recommendations to your needs. 

3 essentials for winter camping

If you're the type that gets cabin fever quickly when winter weather keeps you in the house for too long, you may be planning an expedition into the cold for one of the most daring outdoor activities there is — winter camping. But as you probably already know, adventure can turn to disaster in a heartbeat if you're not prepared, especially if the winter temperatures where you're planning to camp are particularly low. Here are a few things to make sure you take care of before you head out:

  • Clothing: Making sure you have all the necessary layers of clothing to take on the elements can be a matter of life and death, or at least a matter of frostbite versus intact extremities. Insulated boots (not normal hiking boots) are a must, and can be reinforced with several layers of socks and high gaiters. Mittens are warmer than gloves because each finger isn't isolated from the others and can build a pocket of heat together. Finally, make sure your outer layer is wind- and waterproof, but make sure to keep down jackets away from the campfire, since they are extremely flammable.
  • Gear: Your sleeping bag should be rated for temperatures colder than what you expect to experience, and a mummy-style bag with a hood is best for keeping warmth in at night. An especially thick sleeping pad will help keep the cold from the snow under the tent from seeping in as you sleep.
  • Information: This is perhaps the most important and the most often ignored step: Make sure you have all the information you may need, in terms of weather conditions, distances and locations, risks and hazards, emergency contacts, etc., before you head out so that if an emergency does arise you'll immediately know what to do.

If you're looking to get suited up and hike the frozen trails, or if you're looking for marine accessories at a good price, contact ePal for advice today!

4 unexpected great cities for boating

You may think that you would have to move to Florida to get the full year-round boating experience, but that simply isn't the case. Great places to live and boat abound all across the country, from the frigid Midwest to the muggy South and back up to the drizzly Northwest. Here's a list of some of our favorite lesser-known boating havens:

  • Seattle, Washington: If you walk for long enough anywhere in this cloudy, tech-savvy metropolis, you're eventually bound to hit water. The city is bounded on one side by Lake Washington and on the other by the Puget Sound, and as a result, boating opportunities abound. There's even a yearly event called Seafair where everyone in the city goes out on boats on Lake Washington to celebrate the integral role these bodies of water play in the city. 
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota: The twin cities are the capital of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and have the boating culture to go along with it. More than three times as many people own a boat in Minnesota as in Florida, and Lake Minnetonka is a popular destination. If you go out fishing in Minnesota, make sure to go after the delicious state fish, the walleye.
  • Providence, Rhode Island: Sailing is all the rage in this salty old New England city, with 12 schools in the area providing sailing courses and boat slips going for a robust rate on the market. In this respect, Rhode Island lives up to its nickname, the Ocean State. 
  • Austin, Texas: This progressive Southern city's year-round warm weather is a boon to all kinds of marine enthusiasts. Check out Lake Austin for a true Texan boating experience.

Let ePal help prepare you for boating in any weather with our wide selection of marine accessories. Check out the sales pages for great deals!

How to avoid the most common boating accidents

A real seaman never goes out on the water unprepared. To lower your chances of a fatal boating accident, it helps to know the most common types of incidents so that you're aware of what you might come up against someday. Use this list as a starting point in your preparations:

  • Collision with another boat: It may seem strange, since boats have lots of room to maneuver out of each other's way, unlike cars on a road. But this is exactly why it's important to remain vigilant — if you assume a collision is unlikely, you're more prone to causing one through lack of attention to steering. Aside from simply paying close attention to your surroundings, it can help to have a marine radio on board to communicate with other vessels in the area. 
  • Falls overboard: This is the number one cause of fatalities in boating accidents and can be avoided by simply requiring everyone onboard to wear a life jacket at all times. Yes, they're a bit awkward, but so is losing a life unnecessarily. ePal has a wide selection of life jackets for very reasonable prices.
  • Flooding or sinking: A sinking boat is every boater's nightmare. To avoid ever coming up against this problem, make sure your boat is regularly maintained, with no cracks or leaks anywhere. You should also take the time to check the weather before you head out and if there are storms in the area, make sure to be safe rather than sorry and stay at home.
  • Grounding: Running aground is incredibly frustrating, as you may need to be towed off whatever you're stuck on. To avoid this, consider investing in a depth indicator.

Here at ePal, we know you're not intimidated by the idea of an accident, you just need the proper marine accessories to help avoid one. Contact us today for advice on outfitting your vessel for the best and worst times.

How to decorate your home in a nautical style

Do you ever find yourself disappointed when you step off your boat to head home, wishing you could stay forever on the high seas? You may want to consider redecorating your house with a nautical theme. As home decorating projects go, this is relatively easy to achieve — you probably have some nautical knick-knacks at home already — and will let you feel like you're out on the water even when you have to stay home. Here are some starter tips:

  • Rope: As a keystone of the nautical experience and one of the most versatile materials there is, rope is a must-have in any marine-themed home. Use it as a banister for the main staircase, as a tieback for curtains, or wrap it around table legs for a subtle nautical accent.
  • Clocks, thermometers and barometers: The presence of these beautiful wood-accented marine weather instruments is not only stylish, but practical as well, as they will tell you when it's a good time to go out on the boat. ePal has a wide selection of thermometer/barometers and clocks in its home and office section
  • Natural decorations: Anything pretty you find out on the water you can use to decorate your house. Shells, driftwood, sea glass, and even well-preserved, clean-smelling seaweed can be used to lend oceanic flair to ordinary household fixtures. Try gluing shells to light switches, or displaying a driftwood collection on the mantle.
  • Stripes, anchors and more stripes: When in doubt, choose fabric accessories — such as throw pillows, bedsheets, dishtowels and napkins — with nautical pattern prints. Red or blue stripes, anchors, and semaphore flags are good bets that are carried by many home retailers.

Whether you're looking for form or function, ePal has something for you. Contact us for advice on purchasing marine accessories.

Night vision: How does it work?

Night vision cameras have numerous uses, from building security, to hunting, to creating a creepy atmosphere on "ghost hunting" TV shows. But have you ever stopped to think about how these cameras actually work? These are the main types of night vision cameras and how they allow us to see in the dark:

  • Thermal imaging: Most of the night vision cameras available at ePal employ thermal imaging technology. While the human eye can only detect a very small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum as visible light, thermal cameras use the heat radiation emitted by objects, especially animals and people, to create images of those objects. Areas of greater heat show up as brighter spots on the image. Since thermal cameras don't use visible light at all to create their images, they are ideal for use in especially dark areas and can take clear images through fog and smoke. 
  • Low-light imaging: This method works by collecting all the available visible light, then amplifying it so that the final image contains details visible to the human eye. Essentially, the electrons that enter through the lens are accelerated by an electric field and bounced off the walls of a specially treated tunnel, ending by hitting a phosphor screen, where the image is created. 
  • Infrared: Cameras that use near-infrared illumination technology combine receptors that are sensitive to infrared radiation with infrared illumination devices. Infrared cameras are particularly useful for accurately capturing images of fast-moving objects, such as cars and wild animals.

For advice on how to get started using night vision cameras in your outdoor activities, contact ePal today, or check out our selection of night vision devices online.

4 tips for releasing fish

Whether you've already caught your fill for dinner, the waters you're fishing are regulated or you simply want to enjoy the sport of fishing in a humane way, there will come a time when you will need to release a fish you've caught. The release process can be surprisingly tricky if you aren't prepared for it, so here are a few tips to help you release fish quickly and without harming them:

  • Use proper equipment. Using a barbless hook will make it much easier to unhook the fish from the line and keep it from excessively injuring itself. It can also be helpful to have some release tools, such as pliers or a lip-gripping instrument, to get a good hold on both the fish and the hook before attempting to pull the hook out.
  • Don't over-handle the fish. Fish can become stressed, injured or even die if they are kept out of the water and handled for long enough. Make sure you wet your hands before handling a fish, so as not to remove its protective slime layer, and hold it horizontally if you want to take a picture with it, to avoid damaging its internal organs. If the fish is agitated, you can use a wet towel to cover its eyes and calm it down.
  • If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line. This will keep from inflicting more serious injuries on the fish while trying to remove the hook. Most hooks will become dislodged and come out naturally after a while.
  • Revive the fish. If it's looking like your fish might not have the energy to swim away immediately, cradle it under the belly in the current while slowly moving it back and forth to stimulate the gills. 

To suit up for your next fishing trip, check out ePal's selection of marine accessories. We have everything you need to make your trip run smoothly.

How to use an ice eater/deicer

An ice eater, or deicer, is a powerful tool that prevents ice from forming on the surface of water where it is submerged. Ice eaters don't actually get rid of ice; rather, they draw warm water to the surface using a propeller, making it impossible for the surface to freeze. This protects your boat, dock or marina from ice damage during the winter, which can prove costly once you're ready to take the boat out again. Here's how to make sure you get the most out of your ice eater:

  • An ice eater can be mounted in several different ways. You can hang your deicer from the dock using two suspension ropes, mount it directly to the dock itself, or hang it from a float or structure separate from the dock.
  • The ice eater should remain at least 3 to 5 feet below the surface of the water and 1 foot above the bottom to allow the propeller to function properly without dragging dirt and debris to the surface.
  • The angle at which the ice eater is mounted determines the shape of the clear space on the surface. To de-ice a circular area, mount the ice eater vertically, or to capture a wider area with an elliptical shape, mount it at an angle.
  • Make sure the ice eater is not left in water shallow enough to freeze entirely; if water freezes within the ice eater itself, it will damage the motor and propeller, not to mention defeating the purpose of installing the device to begin with.

Here at ePal, we currently have all Powerhouse ice eaters on sale for up to 23 percent off. An ice eater is one of the most important marine accessories you can have during the winter, so if you're in the market for one, don't delay!

Lowrance Elite-4 HDI series review

If you're in the market for a small, reasonably-priced chartplotter/fishfinder for use on a small boat or kayak, look no further than the Lowrance Elite-4 HDI series. With nearly all the same features as the larger Elite models, it is ideal for the fisherman who needs a smaller unit that still packs a punch.

HDI stands for Hybrid Dual Imaging, which means that these units employ a two-pronged strategy with two types of sonar for mapping the area and locating fish. The Broadband Sounder sonar is 2D and can reach deeper into the water, which makes it better for fishfinding, while the DownScan sonar creates a more detailed 3D image of the area, showing the structure of the bottom with detail and clarity. These two images are spliced together to give the user a full picture of every fish within range, even those who might be hiding under or within objects near the bottom. 

The Elite-4 models all come with an LED-backlit 4.3-inch screen that is bright and easy to read even in direct sunlight and can be split to show three different images at once. The unit comes pre-loaded with maps of over 3,000 lakes and 1,000 coastal areas — but if you're in an area that hasn't been mapped, the Insight Genesis mapping feature allows you to create your own map using sonar recording. To top it all off, these models were designed to be used with just one hand, making all the features accessible with a tap of a finger — useful for times when you can't put down your oar.

At ePal, we currently have the Lowrance Elite-4 series on sale for up to 23% off. Check out the options by clicking here!

How to use a pocket weather meter

Having an adventurous personality means that sometimes you will find yourself in unpredictable situations. This can be especially true with weather conditions after you've hiked or sailed out of range of cell towers and no longer have access to the most recent weather reports. With high winds, rains and snow storms threatening damage to property or even sickness, staying connected to a weather station's update reports is a valuable too.

However, since smartphones and internet connections are limited in their range, sometimes the best option is to bring a weather station with you. 

A pocket weather meter doesn't tell you precisely what will happen in regard to the weather, but its ability to read atmospheric measurements and provide you real-time data allows you to understand what shifts the weather is taking once you learn how to read the information. Most devices will initially present commonly understood factors like basic temperature, wind speed and your present altitude. Other data points like the wet bulb or density altitude provide the additional information for you to operate as your own weatherman. 

Here are a few measurements of information a pocket weather meter can provide you:

Density altitude: This measurement simply quantifies the density of the air which operates as an important function of temperature, relative humidity and air pressure. 

Dew Point: The dew point is the temperature at which dew would form, assuming all other conditions stay the same. A feature to look for is if the dew point temperature and air temperature are the same. That would mean that the humidity is 100 percent, meaning that you will be sweating a lot. If the dew point is low then you are more likely to have dryer weather.

Wet bulb: This thermometer provides information on how cold you will feel if you get wet and also tracks the atmosphere's dew point and relative humidity. 

The Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Meter is one of the leading marine instruments when you want to stay in front of any weather-related challenges. If you'd like to learn more about pocket weather meters and which one best meets your needs, contact ePal today!