The value of satellite phones

Not only on account of increasingly volatile weather patterns the world has seen during that last few years, but just out of a desire to maximize the pleasure of your deep sea boating adventures with an extra safety measure, keeping a satellite phone on your boat is a great decision. Unlike the smartphone that keeps you connected to the world most of the time, satellite phones aren't subjected to cell towers that can be knocked down during a particularly violent storm.

Sat phone technology operates through a network of satellites that are either positioned above the equator or in what is known as Low Earth Orbit (LEO) which ranges anywhere from 500 to 1,000 miles above the planet. Not only are they hardly every affected by inclement weather, the bulky designs of the past are gone with newer models coming in sleeker sizes and operating from most places in the world where a cell phone is of no use, overall covering roughly 80 percent of the entire planet.

One of our popular marine accessories at ePal is the Inmarsay IsatPhone PRO. This satellite phone isn't only designed to provide a clear reception and voice, but also to do so in the harshest conditions, dust storms, monsoons or freezing temperatures are just a few of the elements it was created to function in. It also has a longer battery life than any other satellite phone on the market which complements the easy interface, so there's no feeling overwhelmed when you need to use it. Its hands free option and Bluetooth accessibility further add to that ease of use. 

If you'd like to learn more about any other marine instruments or boat accessories, contact ePal today. We have all of the products you need at the prices you want!

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show has something for everybody

Spirits in the boating community are high as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show prepares to burst onto the marine scene from October 30th to November 3rd. According to industry experts, this has been the best year for boat sales since the recession hit, with sales of new powerboats and accessories in Florida up 16 percent since 2012. For those who are looking to buy a new boat, there will be no shortage of types and models to choose from at the show — the website lists more than fifty different types of boats that will be on display, from superyachts to simple canoes. 

Despite the heady prospects of sales to be made at the show, the organizers recognize that not everyone is in the market for a superyacht. Enter Roger Moore, CEO of a kayak and paddle​board company in Dania Beach, who will be installing a 15,000-gallon pool that will allow visitors to try out these smaller, easier-to-maintain watergoing options for free. According to Moore, the health benefits of paddling your own vessel combined with the simpler storage needs of a canoe or kayak make this scale of boat popular with city-dwelling, moderate-income marine hobbyists. "It's what I call the new generation of boating," says Moore. "Anybody can do it [...] and it's a good workout." 

Finally, the show will also include a varied selection of educational activities, including a presentation on boating safety from a Coast Guard rescue team and talks on esoteric marine hobbies like paddleboard yoga and underwater photography. General admission ahead of time is $22 for adults and $7 for children. 

Can't make it down to Fort Lauderdale in time for the show? ePal's marine accessories section is the next best thing. Contact us anytime for more information about the marine instruments we offer.

Geocaching is a real-life treasure hunt

Looking for an outdoor activity that gets the whole family involved while teaching orienteering skills? You may want to look into geocaching, the real-life treasure hunt that has been growing steadily more popular since the early 2000's. Essentially, geocaching involves looking for "caches" (a French term for a group of objects hidden together) that have been left by other geocachers, using only a GPS device and the given coordinates. Caches can be anywhere, from the middle of a big city to the bottom of the ocean, and it's up to you to figure out how to get there, with options ranging from hiking to boating and even scuba diving. 

To get started, you will first need to sign up for a website like geocaching.com, where fellow hobbyists post the locations of their caches for other geocachers to find. Use the zip code of your location to find a list of caches hidden in your area, then plug the coordinates of your chosen cache into your GPS device. Navigate to the location, then start looking around for hiding spots. Caches are usually well-camouflaged to keep them from being discovered by non-geocachers, so make sure to comb the area thoroughly.

Once you find a cache, you should first enter your name into the logbook hidden with it — this functions almost like a high-score board in a video game, giving you bragging rights for finding that particular cache. Next, you may take anything left in the cache as long as you leave behind items of equal or greater value (although you should avoid leaving food or scented items, as these can attract animals). You never know what you might find in a cache, so expect surprises!

The key to geocaching is GPS, and ePal has a wide selection of both handheld and marine GPS devices. Contact us for help deciding which device is best suited to your needs.

Marine radio etiquette tips

Of all the marine electronics on the market, the VHF radio is the most vital for your crew's safety. It allows you to receive updates from and communicate with other vessels, and it may be your only means of calling for help in an emergency. The VHF system only functions if everyone works together to keep from abusing it and to make their communications as clear and concise as possible. To that end, make sure to follow this system of etiquette:

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. When contacting another vessel, repeat its name three times, then repeat the name of your own boat three times. This leaves no room for misunderstandings about who you are and who you're trying to contact.
  • Over it. When you're finished speaking, make sure to say "over" so that other vessels know your message is finished.
  • Spell it out. Letter names are notoriously hard to understand over the radio, so when you're spelling something, make sure to use the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.)
  • Keep it short. The airwaves need to be accessible to everyone, so make sure you're not taking up more than your fair share by being overly wordy. Communicate the message you want to convey in as clear and concise a way as possible.
  • Get low. The best radio voice is low-pitched, clear and highly enunciated. Practice speaking in as deep and clear a voice as you can before heading out on the water.
  • Be prepared. Make sure you know the emergency terms and how to use them by heart. "Mayday" calls are only for true emergencies, such as a fire onboard or a sinking ship. "Pan-pan", pronounced "pon pon", is used in less urgent situations, such as breakdowns or minor mechanical problems.

Looking for a VHF radio? ePal has you covered. Click here to browse our selection.

Four top camping spots for fall

Camping may be associated mostly with summer, but the cool weather, beautiful foliage and decreased number of biting insects that fall offers make it an ideal season for outdoor adventures. From leaf-peeping in New England to rock climbing in the Southwest, parks across the US offer all the outdoors experiences you need to take advantage of the season:

  • Pawtuckaway State Park: This New Hampshire park is a prime location for fall foliage (as are most parks in New England at this time of year). Hit the park's mountain hiking trails to take in the leaves, or set out on Pawtuckaway Lake for boating and fishing. The park is also a popular destination for orienteering hobbyists, hosting the New England Orienteering Club and other local orienteering and geocaching organizations.
  • Picacho Peak State Park: Although the name is redundant ("Picacho" means "big peak" in Spanish), the features of this Arizona desert state park certainly aren't. Fall is the season when the desert cools off enough to allow visitors to take on the Hunter Trail, a 1,500-foot climb to the top of the park's eponymous peak. Hiking boots are a necessity, as well as sturdy gloves to grip the steel cables installed to help climbers.
  • First Landing State Park: The most visited state park in Virginia, First Landing offers a wide selection of activities for visitors, including an annual fall festival that's great for children. The park also has an educational center that provides opportunities to learn about the unique ecosystem of the Virginia maritime forest.
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park: The fall is the last chance to camp out under some of the biggest trees in the country at the oldest state park in California. The park also offers waterfalls, canyons, and a flourishing population of birds and wildlife.

Get everything you need to equip yourself for camping this season in our camping section!

Get Out the Grill

With football season in full swing and crisp fall weather ahead of us for a while yet, fall is no time to give up on your grill. Whether you're tailgating at the game, camping with family or just in the mood for some outdoor cooking, these grilling ideas will keep everybody full and happy (although we make no promises about healthiness). Grab the tongs!

  • Juicy Lucys: Invented in Minneapolis, these cheese-stuffed burgers are a mouthwatering treat. When forming the patties, simply fill the middle with cheese, so that the cheese melts inside while the burgers cook. Careful — the first bite can be hot!
  • BLT Burgers: Wrap burger patties in bacon (as much or as little as you want!) before you put them on the grill for an extra-succulent meat experience. Serve with lettuce and tomato.
  • Chicago-style hot dogs: Tired of plain old ketchup and mustard on your dogs? In Chicago, hot dogs are traditionally served with whole slices of tomato and pickle, chopped onions and pickled peppers, adding a lot more crisp vegetable flavor to this old standby. According to many Chicagoans, ketchup is a no-go on this type of hot dog, but we won't tell anyone if you want to add some anyway.
  • Cast-iron skillet cornbread: Cook cornbread in a skillet on the grill next to the meat — that way, it will absorb the smoky grill flavor and be ready around the same time as the main course.
  • Pizza: Yes, grilled pizza is possible! Make the dough first, shape it and slightly char it on the grill, before adding toppings and covering the grill until it's done. It'll have that fire-grilled pizza flavor.
  • Grilled s'mores: If anyone has any room left after these main dishes, you can roast marshmallows over the grill and make s'mores for dessert.

At ePal, we carry everything from full-sized gas grills to small portable stoves. Contact us for help deciding which model is right for you!

Winter is Coming: Ice Fishing Safety Tips

At this time of year, when the cold wind coming off the water starts to sting our cheeks, some of us give up outdoor pursuits and curl up inside for the season, hot cocoa in hand. Others, however, are undaunted by a little freezing wind and take this opportunity to start planning ahead for the sport of the true rugged winter explorer: ice fishing. But before you cut your hole in the ice and cast your line, take some time to brush up on the safety precautions and equipment you'll need to take on the elements:

  • Make sure you are aware of the ice conditions in the location you are planning to fish. The ice should be new, blue and clear. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 4 inches and up is the recommended thickness for ice fishing, 5 inches to park a snowmobile and 8 to 15 inches to park a car or truck, depending on the size. Be sure cars are parked at least 50 feet apart and moved every two hours. 
  • Having the proper gear can mean the difference between sinking and swimming — literally. A life jacket is as critical here as it is in all marine activities. A chisel is needed to check on the thickness of ice as you move across the lake surface, which is recommended every 150 feet. Ice cleats prevent nasty falls, and an ice pick can save your life in case of falling through.
  • Frostbite is a real possibility for ice fishers, so high-quality winter clothing is a must. The right coat and gloves will keep you as toasty warm as if you stayed inside by the fire.

Once you have the basics down, there are of course accessories available to make your fishing experience easier and more fun. Flashers like the Humminbird ICE 45 help you see what's going on below the surface with cutting edge sonar technology. For more information or help choosing equipment, call ePal Inc. at 1-877-245-8649, or use the new chat feature on our website

The United States Coast Guard invites public to comment on its grants

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) wants to know what the public thinks about its present concepts for boating safety grants. Last week, the Guard announced in the Federal Register that it is proposing awarding grants to several "areas of interest" in regard to its Recreational Boating Safety Grants for Nonprofit Organizations. 

All public comments on the grant money and how it should be used will be considered through October 28. They can be expressed at http://www.regulations.gov, faxed to (202) 372-1932, or mailed to Docket Management Facility (CG-BSX-24), USCG, Room 4M24-14, 2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20593-7501. The office is also open for hand delivered comments daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additionally, any other questions can be submitted to Program Manager Cheryl Collins at Docket Operations, (800) 647-5527. Reference docket number USCG-2014-0911 when you call. 

The National Boating Safety Advisory Committee will be discussing all comments at a meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 6. If you are providing your comments in writing, the committee suggests that you do so on letter-sized paper and include contact information so you can be reached with further information. 

Giving out grants is an annual practice for the USCG. However, this is the first time that the public will be welcomed to express its opinions about the matter.The law allows the Guard to do so but it has never been required and there are no guarantees that the practice will happen again any time soon. The following are the eight priorities for which the guard have suggested grant money be supplied:

  1. A Year-Round Safe Boating Campaign
  2. An Outreach & Awareness Conference
  3. Standardizing Statutes and Regulations
  4. Accident Investigation Seminars
  5. Life Jacket Wear
  6. Voluntary Standards Development
  7. Safety Training for Urban Youth
  8. Boating Under the Influence

If you have any comments for the USCG, you should share them. Also, if you have any needs regarding marine accessories or boat parts, contact ePal. We have the affordable but dependable products you can trust. 

United State Coast Guard considers the use of drone

In the interest of expanding and improving upon its first responder capabilities, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is deliberating whether or not it should incorporate drone technology into its operations. While the decision has not yet been made, the Guard's Research and Development Center, in congress with the Homeland Security Department's Science & Technology Directorate, are soliciting white papers from vendors who specialize in Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS). 

The Guard is presently looking to investigate how effective drones would be in various maritime environments, an effort that comprises part of the Robotic Aircraft for Maritime Public Safety (RAMPS) project, which resembles the Department of Homeland Safety's similarly titled Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety project with the significant difference being that the former focuses on coastline activity exclusively. 

Flight tests and the evaluation of airborne sensors are also part of the USCG's plans. They are expected to be conducted at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division's test range but, presently, the white papers from thought leaders stand as a priority. The small UAS that the USCG are considering are known by their wingspans of less than six feet, weight of less than 55 pounds and ability to operate from a wireless ground station. 

When the tests begin, they will require selected vendors who have been invited by the USCG into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to conduct the analyses in "simulated but realistic and relevant real-world maritime operational scenarios, such as law enforcement operations, search and rescue, and marine environmental response," according to Executive Gov.

While the USCG continues to measure how to best keep our waters safe, use ePal to find the best boat parts and marine accessories that will help keep you and your passengers safe. Contact us today to learn more about our dependable and affordable products. 

Allied Marine Brokerage & Charter partners with Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 59 to promote boat safety

In recent weeks, Allied Marine Brokerage & Charter announced that its office in Stuart, Florida, will be partnering with Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 59 and the auxiliary's Recreational Boating Safety Visitation Program in the interest of promoting safety measures in local waters. Coast Guard Auxiliary 56, also based in Stuart, verified the partnership as well as presented an award at a ceremony at Allied Marine's marina on September 29 to both Allied Marine president Jon Burkard and his staff.

The cooperative effort involves keeping the public aware of all relevant boating safety information as well as updated federal, state and local statutes. One of the most pertinent laws was for the state of Florida, which may command extra promotional efforts mandates that operators who were born on or after January 1, 1998 must complete a boating education course and carry their Florida boating safety education identification card when operating a vessel in Florida waters.

Here are a few other boating safety tips to remember:

Create a Float Plan: Always be sure to not only create a float plan but to inform someone who is not going on the water with you of it, whether a family member or somebody on the staff of your local marina. Most importantly, the plan should include information on where you're going and how long you plan to be on the water. 

Know the weather: Making a preliminary check of local weather conditions is a simple procedure that can save you the burden of numerous headaches that could come from unpleasant hours wasted on the water, damage to your vessel or personal injury. 

Along with the other services provide through the partnership, vessel safety checks and local boating safety courses will be offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary as well. 

Safe boating is often the best way to enjoy your vessel and protect yourself, your passengers and any boat accessories you've invested in. If you're looking to add new boat parts to your vessel, shop ePal! We have the expertise and extensive selection of dependable and affordable marine instruments that will meet all of your needs.