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.

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.

A successful boating season draws to a close

Marinas officials are reporting that they enjoyed a good boating season this year, even though the winter before it was particularly harsh.

"It zoomed on by," said Anne Brown, a co-owner of Channel Grove Marina in Danbury Township. "Even though we had cooler temperatures, we stayed busy. I didn't have a whole lot of open slips, so I can't complain."

Now, as the weather begins to cool again, customers are starting to take their boats out of the water and prepare them for winter. Many of these are families with children, who have just started school, and won't have time to use the boats again regardless of weather. Some enthusiastic boaters, however, will wait until the last possible moment to do so. Local boaters, for instance, tend to stay in the marina longer, removing their boats at some point in October.

As the season comes to an end, area coast guard members gather to debrief on the events of the season and devise ways to improve performance next year.

"We had over 50 search and rescue calls, conducted 2,000 patrol hours, conducted 450 recreational boating safety boardings checking everyone's gear with high compliance, and the biggest number of all — we had zero fatalities on Lake Superior this year," said BMCM Robert Pump, of the U.S. Coast Guard, in an official statement. "It's been a phenomenal year."

Boaters are no doubt disappointed that the season is nearing its end, but it's always nice to look forward to next spring when you can take your first ride of the season. In the meantime, if you are in need any marine accessories, ePal Inc can certainly match you with your ideal product for the best possible water performance.

How to winterize your boat

It's officially fall and time to winterize your boat. Remember that it's important to prepare your boat properly for storage, even though we know you'll be sad to say goodbye to summer. The better care you take with storing it, though, the better condition it will be in come spring. Here are a few tips to help you during the process:

  • Anti-freeze: Run anti-freeze through your boat and also stabilize fuel. It's a good idea to consult a professional about this step, because it's the most important part of making sure your boat makes it through the winter undamaged.
  • Clean: Give the boat a good scrubbing before you place it in storage. This includes wiping out the lockers and rubbing down the wood with oil. When you come back to a fresh, shiny boat next year you'll be glad you did this.
  • Cover: Cover the boat with a tarp for protection and block exhaust pipes to keep animals from nesting in your boat.
  • Take it for one last spin: Take your boat on one last joyride, and appreciate how much fun it's given you and your friends and family over the course of the season. You'll have plenty of good memories to look back on during the harsh winter months. While you're riding, observe how your boat is working and assess whether or not it needs any repairs. Make a list of things you need to fix and parts you need to replace. Over the course of the fall and winter you can work on collecting these new pieces in anticipation of spring.
  • Unpack: Unload all the towels and life jackets and sports equipment that have piled up over the course of the summer.

Lastly, remember that if you're in need of any marine supplies you can find them at ePal Inc, where we strive to give customers the best boating experience possible.

The 2014 Newport For New Products Awards are announced

Last week, the Newport Exhibition Group, the owners and producers of the Newport International Boat Show in Rhode Island, presented the results of the 2014 Newport For New Products (NFNP) Awards. Considered one of the leading honors in the industry, the NFNP Awards take any foreign or domestic product under consideration so long as it had been launched in the United States after April 1, 2014 and had already made their boat debut at Newport. 

Those who attended the show elected the People's Choice Award winner with all other categories being decided by industry professionals who consider the value of the product to the customer, safety, aesthetics and the level of innovation. This marks the ninth year that the award has been in existence. 

Some of the winners were ForwardScan from B&G for the best new navigation product, Wireless LED Lights from Nightwatch Marine won the best new boating operation, maintenance or safety product while Gunboat 55 from Gunboat ran away with the People's Choice award. 

Nancy Piffard told Boating Industry that "We were extremely impressed by the number and quality of entries this year. This is a new record for the Newport for New Products program, and we are pleased to have these boats and products represent all of the new and exciting introductions at the Newport International Boat Show."

Known for being one of the largest in-water boat shows in the country, this year's event displayed more than 750 exhibitors with boats ranging from 15 feet to 110 feet and all revealing diverse collections of boat accessories and boat parts from throughout the world. 

The event's host, the Newport Exhibition group, has been producing trade show for more than 30 years now. The group also holds the annual Newport International Boat Show as well as the annual Newport Charter Yacht Show. 

If you're interested in learning more about the latest innovations and most relevant appliances for your boating and fishing needs, contact ePal today! We have all of the dependable and affordable equipment you need. 

Ex-president George W. Bush gives keynote speech at Tracker Marine Conference

Last week, former United States president and fishing and hunting enthusiast, George W. Bush, arrived as the surprise keynote speaker at the Tracker Marine Conference at Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake. Similarly, the president's father, George H.W. Bush, spoke at the same conference 20 years earlier when it was held in nearby Springfield, Missouri. 

Bush received an invitation from Pro Bass Shops and Tracker Marine Founder/CEO Johnny Morris and came with stories about his and his family's love for fishing and the outdoors that regaled attendees in the room and those watching remotely from throughout the world, including China, Australia, Russia and South Africa. His presidential record of working to protect natural resources and the quality of the nation's resources also came up, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Through cooperative initiatives, the act helped preserve more than 3 million acres of wetlands.

According to a KY3 article, Morris, a longtime friend of the Bush family, expressed gratitude toward "Mr. Bush and his father for their shared love of the sport of fishing and for their leadership and commitment to national conservation efforts. His efforts help ensure recreational fishing opportunities continue to exist for us and future generations. We are very proud that the president fishes out of his own Bass Tracker boat on his ranch in Texas."

Before many of the attendees retired to enjoy a lunch at the Arnie's Barn at the Top of the Rock resort, both the former president and Morris shared fishing stories with fishing luminaries present like Roland Martin, Rick Clunn and Jimmy Houston. The president also answered questions about his presidency and his new book "41—A Portrait of my Father," due Nov. 11, 2014.

If you share a passion for fishing that matches the presidents and are in need of a dependable fishfinder or other boat accessories, ePal has the affordable high-quality equipment that will best serve your interests. Contact us today!