Competition offers $10,000 for the best new life jacket design

What may be one of the worst-kept secrets in the world of boating is that, though life preservers are a critical device that have saved countless lives since their inception, many people do not like to wear them. One of the leading complaints is that they're too uncomfortable. This is why with professional engineers and technicians working throughout the decades, implementing new designs meant to make life preservers easier to wear for humans and even our pets, enthusiasm around the devices remains lukewarm. 

But BoatUS Foundation, the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association (PFDMA) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) have all come together to discover the newest life preserver technologies and design ideas with the "Innovation in Life Jacket Design Competition" with the prize of $10,000 going to the winner. 

In a Boating Mag article, BoatUS Foundation President Chris Edmonston provided insight into the thinking behind the contests, saying that "we believe there are some creative folks out there that can help us rethink a 100-year-old design with fresh, out-of-the-box ideas."

Everyone from individuals to groups, like high school science clubs, are encouraged to join in the competition. All entries are due by April 15 next year and can be simple as a hand-drawn theoretical design or as detailed as a working prototype with no limitations being imposed in regard to what materials can be used or what federal regulations must be honored. 

Comfort, reliability, cost and innovation are the four categories on which the submissions will be judged, with the winner being announced on September 15. All ideas can be submitted via the competition website:

Life preservers are some of the most important marine supplies that can be acquired, comfortable or not. If you want to learn more about other boat accessories and discount marine supplies, contact ePal today! We have all of the dependable and affordable equipment you need.

Natural gas may be the future of boating

Fishing was the favorite hobby of engineer Miguel Guerreiro, the founder of Blue Gas Marine, when he had to set it aside for a while and address the reality that powering his boat was now costing him $4 per gallon for gas. It was during his pursuit for an economically viable solution that Guerreiro developed a technology that allows boats of any size to operate on natural gas as its leading or secondary fuel source. 

With Blue Gas One, the leading concept of Blue Gas Marine, no smoke or odor is generated through the operation of a boat, compared to traditional gasoline-powered boats, cutting down significantly on air and water pollution. The green-energy corporation, located in Apex, North Carolina, manufactures a gas hybrid fueling system that is compatible with current gasoline and diesel engines and can be installed on the existing outboards, inboards and generator engines of a vessel. 

The company is the first of its kind, specifically marketing its compressed and liquefied forms of natural gas to charter boats, commercial fishermen, tugs, ferries, large ships, recreational boaters and military departments.

One of the products other major selling point is its startling affordability. Compared to a $50 price tag for filling a 10-gallon gasoline tank, natural gas would only cost $15 for the same amount of fuel, according to what Guerreiro says in a Boating Industry article. 

Meanwhile, Guerreiro is still working on securing more investors to expand the businesses activities. The 2014 Cleantech Open Accelerator competition recently named Blue Gas Marine, Inc. a semifinalist in its national accelerator program, securing an additional $45,000 for the company in terms of visibility, services, training and mentoring. 

While the boating world sees new changes on the horizon, ePal will keep you updated while remaining prepared to meet your needs for the most dependable and affordable boat accessories and boat parts available. Contact us today! 

Leaders in fishing industries pen letter to Congress

Leaders in the recreational fishing and boating industries have comprised a letter with more than 200 signatures for members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives requesting support in regard to crucial policy changes to saltwater recreational fisheries management in the upcoming Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) reauthorization.

Signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 12, 2007, the MSA mandates the utilization of annual catch limits and accountability measures to preclude overfishing, calls for increased international cooperation and advocates market-based fishery management. 

Engine manufacturers, boat builders, fishing tackle manufacturers and retailers all convened under the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and the American Sportsfishing Association (ASA) to convey the message to congress that recreational fishing and boating must become pivotal components of the MSA reauthorization. Part of the collective argument maintains that the MSA, and the federal fishing management process that comes with it, is failing to adequately consider saltwater recreational anglers, a seemingly egregious oversight in light of the broad conservation and economic benefits that come from recreational fishing. 

Earlier in the week, in order to more effectively lay out its case before Congress about the need for the inclusion of recreational fishing and boating into the MSA, the NMMA and ASA conducted a Congressional Boating Caucus dedicated to this matter specifically. Representatives from both organizations along with those from the Coastal Conservation Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership came together to address congress directly about the benefits of government support of recreational fishing and boating. 

We'll keep you aware of any new developments regarding the matter and the final outcome of the MSA reauthorization. And remember, when looking to learn more about the world of boating, including what boat parts or marine accessories may best go with your vessel, contact ePal! We have all of the dependable and affordable products that you'll need.

Statistical Surveys July boat sales report

Due to the cold and wet spring of 2013, the sales of boats in the following July skyrocketed to double-digit gains when the industry recovered. July of 2014 faced the similar circumstance of the previous year's soggy spring, but the rebound wasn't as exuberant, with the gains being present but more modest, according to a report by Statistical Surveys.

Overall, July of 2014 saw growths of 3 percent in main power boat segment sales and an 8 percent increase in industry-wide activity, compared to industry-wide growth being 12 percent and main segment sales showing 18 percent growth in July of 2013. According to Trade Only Today, Ryan Kloppe, Statistical Survey's national marine sales manager, hinted that despite the growth, this July's progress was dwarfed by the activity of 2013. 

Kloppe, who expects upcoming reports to reveal continued growth in August, went on to say that he doesn't "think we'll be seeing a lot of double-digit gains in the categories, but there should continue to be slow, moderate growth."

The boating industry's most popular vessels since the beginning of the recession, aluminum fishing boats and pontoons along with 11- to 40-foot outboard boats, continued their upward trends. Fishing boat sales rose by 3.7 percent. Pontoons saw a 5.3 percent bump in purchases while fiberglass outboard sales climbed by 6.6 percent compared to last July's figures. By state, sales grew by 35 percent in Tennessee, 28 percent in Florida and 25 percent in California. 

The 14 – to 30-foot sterndrive and inboard fiberglass category was the only high-volume group in the main segments that revealed a decline with a 12.8 percent drop.

With the summer winding down and the opportunities to get on the water become fewer, make sure you consider what boat accessories and boat parts will best complement your vessel next year and contact ePal! We have all of the products you need that are both dependable and affordable.

3 tips for avoiding turbulence on the water

Some people are indifferent to bumpy waters while others won't step foot on a boat if there's a hint of turbulence, whether out of anxiety or a fear of motion sickness. What's universally accepted is that sometimes a rocky boating trip simply can't be avoided. However, there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of being overwhelmed by the extreme highs and lows of angry waves and high splashes. 

Here are three tips to remember: 

Lees are a relief: When plotting the course you plan on taking in a boat, out of consideration for any passengers with an acute sensitivity to motion, stay in the lee of an island, the portion of a body of land that works as guard against wind and other weather elements, is a kindness.

Mornings are mellow: A common feature of many coastal areas is that winds are generally calm in the earlier parts of the day. But by the time the afternoon has arrived, you may have to endure full-bodied gusts and waves with broad shoulders. Sometimes ensuring a smooth ride is simply a matter of good scheduling. 

Weather is king: Unless you're a mythical deity from an ancient civilization, you lack the ability to control the weather. But you can fortunately make the most out of the predictions, paying attention not only to what, if any, precipitation has been forecasted, but also to the speed of winds and size of the waves. If you or a boating companion are looking to avoid an uncomfortable trip, these metrics give you the best chance of making a good decision about whether you should stay in and catch a movie instead.

If you have a need to find boat accessories or a high-quality chartplotter to help you navigate choppy waters, contact ePal! We have all of the products you need that are both dependable and affordable. 

Navigating your boat through locks

With regard to boating, a lock is a restricted section of a waterway or canal where the level of water can be altered through the use of gates or sluices, primarily employed for the purpose of raising and lowering vessels between two gates. But what may be more important than knowing what a lock does is knowing how to navigate them when one comes across your path. 

There are usually several factors to consider when approaching a lock, but once one has a grasp on some of the most basic features, traversing a lock is a simple enough process. Specifically, two of the most pressing elements to consider are speed and space. Currents are hardly ever a problem when in a canal with a lock, but the speed of the current before reaching the canal should be monitored to ensure that your approach isn't too fast.

John Wampler, delivery skipper, tells Boating Magazine that "When a lock blocks the canal, current isn't an issue. But check for current before approaching a lock alongside a dam or spillway."

The narrow space in some waterways means that there is a heightened chance of bumping into a wall or damaging your boat due to carelessness. This is why engaging your vessel's propellers as little as possible and entering as close to the center, especially when navigating narrow and shallow locks, is usually cautioned. Other details to be aware of when navigating a lock is that twin-engine inboard boats may pull the stern toward the walls when the propeller nearest the wall is activated, and vice versa when the propeller is reversed. 

If you'd like to learn more about boating, boat parts and the best boat accessories for your vessel, contact ePal. We have all the products you need at affordable prices.

2 tips for boating under a bridge

With the benefits of technology, navigating through narrow channels and maneuvering across a patch of stormy weather isn't nearly as daunting as it once was centuries ago. We also are fortunate to have maps detailing some of the most minute details of the waters we traverse, making for safer and more surefooted journeys. Nevertheless, some man-made challenges, like bridges, remain tricky to pass by at times, sometimes because of a combination of factors like tall waves and inclement weather. Other times, we are caught unaware that a bridge ever existed and have to do the best we can with the sudden obstruction. 

Here are two useful tips to remember when it's time to pass under a bridge:  

Know the height of the boat: Specifically, it's crucial to know what the height of the boat is with all of the antennas retracted. A good method for estimating how much space your boat needs for bridges in general is using a measuring tape or a marked broom or brush handle while passing under a bridge to measure the amount of space needed to safely clear it. Make sure to leave enough room in case you ever have to make a pass when the water is rough.

Learn the language: Contacting a bridge to confirm the accuracy of clearance boards is a great idea. But the intricacies of bridge slang, such as "low steel," can be simple enough for some to discern intuitively. But for others, the Coast Guard has published a glossary of bridge terms that would be helpful to know if you find yourself trying to make a pass during a stormy or emergency situation. 

If you'd like to learn more boating tips or about what boat accessories or boat parts will best complement your vessel, contact ePal. We have all the products you need at affordable prices.

Peer-to-peer boat sharing (Part 2)

In an earlier post, we discussed the growth of peer-to-peer boat sharing initiatives. Some companies who facilitate exchanges between boat owners and consumers have released statistics outlining their managing of thousands of boats stationed throughout hundreds of American cities. Other organizations have boasted figures of overseeing more than 10,000 boats stationed throughout 52 countries. 

It's still too early to determine how successful of an enterprise peer-to-peer boat sharing will become. Nevertheless, the costs of maintaining, stationing and insuring a boat stands out as one of the leading motivators for the industry, according to Trade Only Today. Peer-to-peer sharing allows boat owners to offset some of those costs. This is why, with the boating industry earning $35 billion yearly and serving a market where 75 percent of all boat owners earn less than $100,000 annually, the potential for peer-to-peer boat sharing is evident. 

One of the obvious benefits of partnering with a p2p platform is that many of them supply insurance offerings. Shawn Gardner, co-founder and CEO of, says that peer-to-peer organizations often provide better insurance options on account of typical rental companies not having the inventory to provide coverage on something like hull damage. 

"When you rent from these private rental companies, if you total the boat it's coming out of your paycheck," Gardner says. "We have better rental insurance than most of the companies out there."

Other incentives include no membership fees, simple boat listings, total autonomy over who rents your vessel and when it is rented and access to an entire boating community that has no geographic limitations. 

The future of p2p boat sharing may be uncertain but you can certainly contact ePal about the best boat parts and boat accessories today. We have all of the products you need. 

Peer-to-peer boat sharing (Part 1)

The internet has been a life-changing tool for all humanity, affecting everything from the way we learn and shop to how we do business and entertain ourselves. Perhaps one of the most controversial elements of the World Wide Web is how accessible it's made us to each other. Social media platforms have given us a chance to connect with long lost friends from our youth but they've also been the source of heated debates over privacy issues and concerns about information security. 

New business initiatives like crowdsourcing for information and crowdfunding for financial support have also risen from this new accessibility. We're now able to utilize peer-to-peer initiatives through our smartphones and find a stranger willing to loan their car or use it to taxi us around town. That's why it was only a matter of time before technology caught up with the way we use our boats. 

According to statistics provided by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), a boat owner's vessel can sit unused for roughly 339 days annually, while still incurring insurance, maintenance and storage fees along with other expenses. According to a Trade Only Today article, this is the condition that has led to the rise of a handful of companies who facilitate peer-to-peer boat sharing initiatives. 

Requirements to engage this service often mean completing questionnaires, affidavits and possessing a minimum of two years of boating experience, although the requisites vary among the different organizations. Fraud protection checks are utilized as well as this is a relatively new enterprise that carries uncertainties along with its potential benefits.

Ultimately, whether a boat is used in a peer-to-peer boat sharing service is up to the owner. Nevertheless, if you're an owner looking to improve your vessel with the best boat accessories and boat parts, contact ePal today for all the products you need! 

Tips on how to catch elusive fish (Part 2)

In a previous blog entry, we discussed how some fish will try to make you work a little harder than others when trying to make a catch and what you can do to get through these trouble spots.

Here are a few more tips:

Chase catfish at night: Catfish are warm water fish that, by midsummer, are looking to feed heavily. This makes the optimal fishing time between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. when the fish are moving out of the deeper waters to find food.

Go long: One way of raising your chances of catching more fish is so simple it's easy to overlook. Casting out further away means that you're covering more territory and giving yourself more options. One of the most effective ways to add distance to your cast is to use a lightweight line.

Watch the birds: Saltwater anglers are known for using the birds to find an ideal spot to catch fish but there are intricacies to this art. For example, some inshore birds like terns will favor smaller bait like sandeels and bay anchovies. But watching where the gulls head will lead you to larger bait fish like mackerel and herring. Meanwhile, cormorants will chase anything that's moving in the water. Offshore birds like petrels can lead you to shrimp catches but they also tend to feed on shrimp and plankton.

The best approach to using birds to your advantage is patience. Watch them long enough to see if a pattern unfolds and reveals whether there are fish in the nearby area or if they're as hungry as you are. A flock of birds suddenly changing course to a specific destination is usually a good sign. But if a large group of birds looks like it's resided to fly off and seek out something promising, it may serve you to follow their lead.

Remember, ePal has all of the boat parts and fishing boat accessories you'll need to make the most of your time on the water. Contact us today!