3 tips for avoiding boat collisions

One of the most disastrous things that can happen to anyone on a boat is a collision, particularly when it occurs many miles offshore. Such an incident can be crippling and result in an emergency situation that threatens the lives of all passengers. This is why it is critical for boat owners and operators to have marine electronics on board that can help them communicate with local marine authorities and request help from emergency personnel.

All boat owners should keep the following tips in mind when preparing for and dealing with boating collisions:

  • If you're on the same tack as another boat, the leeward vessel (the vessel that is downwind) has the right of way. The boat that is on the windward side (upwind) must yield.
  • Generally, the less powerful boat will always have right of way. Powered motorboats must give way to sailboats, and sailing vessels must give way to kayaks and other paddled watercraft.
  • Make sure there is a life vest for every single passenger. It seems like an elementary consideration, but so often boaters are careless about equipping their vessel with life jackets. It's also critical to instruct passengers in using this equipment, as you never know when you'll have someone on your boat who has never worn one before.

If you own a boat you should ensure that it has the communication and navigation equipment necessary to signal to other water craft. This will make your journeys safer so that you can enjoy your trips rather than having to worry about whether you might damage your vessel.

For the latest equipment and boat accessories, check out ePal's online store. We offer free shipping to the lower 48 states, as well as the kind of expertise and customer service that makes shopping easier!

A guide to choosing a boat dealer

Once you've decided that you'd like to purchase a new boat, you're faced with a number of other choices that can feel daunting. One of the most important is finding a boat dealer you can trust to provide you with honest advice, good customer service and timely responses to inquiries. Given that many boat dealers are selling the same models, the choice comes down to which one gives you the best experience.

Trade Only Today, a boating industry magazine, recently provided a guide for readers on how to choose the best boat dealer. Here are some of their best pointers:

  • Do they have a good reputation online? There are tons of sites like Yelp, Angie's List and the Better Business Bureau that you can use to find out if other customers were happy with their service. This is especially the case when it comes to companies that are selling large items like boats and cars.
  • Does the staff of the establishment seem happy to be there? If the salesmen and administrative employees seem content with their jobs and work hard to please you, then you've proba​bly found an establishment you can trust. A company that treats its workers well will almost certainly treat its customers with the same courteousness and respect.
  • How close is the dealer to where you'll be boating? This will be particularly useful given that, if something on the boat breaks, you'll want to bring it to their facility as quickly and easily as possible.
  • Is the facility clean? If the dealer takes care of their premises and makes sure that there are no messes, that everything is uncluttered and there are no physical hazards, then they clearly care about their customers' satisfaction and safety. Ask your dealer if they have received a Marine Five Star Dealer Certification (MFSDC), which indicates they adhere to the highest standards of service and safety.
  • Will the dealer allow you to speak with past customers? Referrals are a great way to find out if the company is a legit​imate dealer, or if they have a history of treating customers poorly. 

It's important to remember that shopping for a boat is like buying a car, house or any other large, valuable possession: It's an experience that will likely take some time, a lot of research, many phone calls and involves disappointment. You'll probably view several different watercraft before you find the right one for your needs. Approach the buying process carefully and ask lots of questions of your salesperson.

If you receive anything less than the best customer service, you owe it to yourself to find another dealer. Depending on the size of the boat you'll be purchasing, you're about to hand them a very large check, so it's important that they recognize that and work to earn your business.

Once you've purchased your boat, you'll want to make sure it is outfitted with the best marine equipment available. If you'd like to see what companies like Garmin, Raymarine and Lowrance have to offer, your best source for this marine equipment is ePal. We carry one of the largest selections of GPS systems, fishfinders, chartplotters, tranducers, radios and other gear that will make your boating trips safer, more relaxing and more fun. On top of having the best prices, we also offer free shipping to the lower 48 states, in addition to flat rate expedited options when you need your equipment more quickly. Browse our site today for the latest deals, and call us at (877) 245-8649 if you have any questions!

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.

Careful research required before purchasing an extended warranty for boats

For most boat owners, their vessel is their most valuable possession outside of the house or car. As a result, it's tempting for these individuals to consider purchasing an extended warranty that will cover engine and hull repairs for several years after they buy the vehicle. If you're in the market for a new boat you may be wondering if these warranty agreements are worth the investment, or are they loaded with caveats that make them almost useless when you need them the most?

The answer is that it depends. The value of your warranty is dictated by a number of factors:

  • Deductibles: Higher deductibles typically mean that you get less coverage, though the premium or cost for your warranty will be lower. It also means that you'll be paying more out-of-pocket expenses for any repairs.
  • Overlap with manufacturer's warranty: There's no point in purchasing an extended warranty that coincides with your manufacturer warranty, unless the former provides coverage for certain fixes that the latter does not.
  • Transferability: If you ever sell your boat, it'll fetch a higher price if it's under warranty.

As BoatUS.com points out, many of the problems that are covered by extended warranties will show up within the time period of the manufacturer's warranty. It may be a bigger gamble than it's worth to put down the money for an extended warranty if you won't end up using it.

It's also important to remember that these warranties typically don't cover your chartplotter and other electronic items that you add to your boat after you buy it. However, you can rest assured that when you purchase these components from ePal, they come with manufacturers warranties, as well as our 30 day return policy.

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

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.

4 tips for hiring a marine surveyor

If you're in the process of shopping for a new boat or replacing the one you have, you'll most likely have to call on the services of a marine surveyor. Just as you would normally take a used vehicle you're purchasing to a mechanic to have it inspected for any engine problems, so should you have boats you might buy looked at by an expert.

But if you've never hired a surveyor before, you may not know where to start. Luckily YachtWorld.com has some tips that can get you started on the right path:

  • Check marine surveyor organizations for names: There are several trade organizations whose members must meet certain standards in order to receive certification as a marine surveyor. These include the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors and the National Association of Marine Surveyors.
  • Don't rush your hiring decision: Check out multiple surveyors and ask for their inspection fees, as well as how much experience they've had in the business. Don't simply hire the first person you call.
  • Go to the inspection appointment: Unless you absolutely can't make it, try to attend the inspection itself and listen to the surveyor's observations.
  • Take the boat for a spin before the test ride: The test ride – when the surveyor actually evaluates the engine and boat performance – shouldn't be the first time you take the vessel out for a ride. You should already be familiar with its power and speed beforehand.

Once you purchase your new boat, you'll want to make sure that it's loaded with the latest marine accessories and instruments. If you're thinking about installing new communication and navigation equipment, ePal is your best option for procuring these items.

Tips for preventing boat theft

Your boat is one of your most prized possessions, which means that you're probably perpetually concerned about it getting stolen. Unfortunately, boats are hot commodities with thieves, but the good news is that you're not powerless to prevent these thefts. By following these tips for securing your boat, you'll make it much less likely that someone will steal it, and if they do you'll have a much easier time tracking them down and getting it back.

  • Install a GPS tracking device in your vessel. There are a number of solutions that allow you to follow the movements of your boat so that you can inform law enforcement of its location, as well as its historical route, speed and the duration of stops.
  • Keep a copy of your boat registration, title, license numbers and any other information that can be used to identify your vessel. Share this information with police in the event that it is stolen.
  • Take many photographs of your vessel and any unique identifying markers.
  • Unhook your fuel lines so that your engine can't be started. You may have done this already anyway, as it's a common way of winterizing boats.

If you're concerned about your boat's safety and security, the best thing you can do is make sure it is equipped with high quality marine GPS and electronic components that can send you messages when the vessel has been operated without authorization. At ePal, we carry a wide selection of security accessories that are easy to operate and effective at preventing theft.