All boating fans know the feeling of peace and serenity that comes over you out on the water far away from the troubles waiting on land, but some of us need that peace of mind more than others. Fort Lauderdale couple Karen and Andrew Grego, heads of an organization called Blue Water Warriors, have devoted years of their lives to ensuring that disabled veterans have the same access to recreational boating as the rest of us do.
To that end, the couple worked with designers and craftsmen to create what they believe is the first ever vessel constructed specifically for the physically disabled. The couple found that though boat accessories exist for small modifications for the disabled, they really needed to start from scratch in order to make a boat that, as Andrew Grego put it in the Sun Sentinel, you can run all on your own "if you have two fingers". Modifications range from small, such as deck-level boarding ramps and non-skid surfaces, to relatively complex, such as Seakeeper gyro stabilizers that completely prevent the boat from pitching and rocking, making balancing easier for amputees and those in wheelchairs.
Blue Water Warriors also runs trips on the customized boats, offering activities including fishing, snorkeling and, for the less athletically inclined, "restaurant hopping". These trips have a profound effect on veterans' mental health. Sergeant Aaron Causey, a double amputee who served in Afghanistan as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist, told the Sun Sentinel: "It is a program that helps us mentally and spiritually. I'm really excited to be able to get onto the boat and get out onto the water and fish or just go for a relaxing ride."
To find out more about Blue Water Warriors and how you can donate, visit their official website.
Attention amateur anglers: Fishing season is not completely over. It's true that it does become harder to successfully catch fish once the temperature starts to drop, but that doesn't have to keep you from enjoying the pastime of fishing well into the winter. Just keep in mind that there are certain techniques to follow if you don't want to end up frozen out of the sport, so to speak. Here are some of those:
- Know where to look: As the temperature drops, a basic instinct in fish kicks in that keeps them from moving around too much, allowing them to save energy. Therefore, just sitting out anywhere on a body of water is less likely to bring in a catch than targeting certain areas. More specifically, you should be looking for areas near the shore where the root systems of aquatic plants and trees form clusters that fish are likely to take shelter in. Fish can also be found absorbing energy in sunny areas or hiding in nutrient-rich deep waters.
- Keep warm: Your own instincts are as good as a fish's in this respect — the best winter fishing is done on warm, sunny days, when fish are drawn to the surface by the sun's heat. If it's a frigid grey day, fish are likely to stay at home, so to speak, so do the same yourself.
- Choose the right bait: In cold, clear water, fish are prone to feeding more based on sight, so use brightly-colored or live bait to catch their eye. Pre-baiting a particular section of the lake before you even head out on the water can also help prime the fish for your arrival.
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The yearly manatee migration has begun in Florida, with crowds of the gentle, intelligent animals sometimes known as "sea cows" flocking to the state's coasts in search of warm water to hide out in for the winter. Manatees are drawn to human-engineered sources of warm, fresh water, such as canals and outflows from power plants, because they don't have enough blubber to protect them from water temperatures any colder than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, they are often in danger of coming in contact with boats and causing accidents — about 60 manatees have been struck by boats in the state since January, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"It's a fairly common source of injury and death," said biologist Scott Calleson with the FWC. However, there are a few steps you can take to avoid harming these creatures and share the waters equally, while also keeping your own boat's crew safe:
- Wear polarized sunglasses. Manatees only surface to breathe, and even then, "the only part of them that comes up is their little nose," according to marina dock master Skip McPadden. Wearing polarized sunglasses will help you spot them underwater.
- Watch for circular patterns in the water. These can indicate that a manatee is swimming underneath.
- Be careful around seagrass: Manatees are likely to be found grazing on seagrass beds, so give these an extra wide berth for a while.
- Look up your zone on the FWC's website: A map of manatee protection zones can be found here.
Of course, if you're equipped with marine electronics such as a chartplotter or fishfinder, these instruments will point out the presence of large objects such as manatees in the water without any extra effort on your part. Contact ePal today for advice on outfitting your boat for manatee season.
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.
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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 paddleboard 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.
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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.
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 (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:
- A Year-Round Safe Boating Campaign
- An Outreach & Awareness Conference
- Standardizing Statutes and Regulations
- Accident Investigation Seminars
- Life Jacket Wear
- Voluntary Standards Development
- Safety Training for Urban Youth
- 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.
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.
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.