3 tips for staying safe on the water

The start of summer has many boat owners out on the water with friends and family. While boating is a wonderful recreational summertime activity, if skippers or passengers are not taking all precautions, it can end badly.

In Chicago over the weekend, for example, a 33-foot-long motor boat capsized on Lake Michigan, casting four passengers into the chilly waters. One man was found 12 hours after the time of the accident, floating on life jackets. He is the only known survivor at this time, and the cause for the accident remains a mystery according to the report from the Chicago Tribune.

While the case in Chicago is still under investigation, it is important to keep in mind that preventative measures on and off land can ensure the safety of all aboard your boat.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) offers some memorable tips for safe boating this summer:

Don't drink and drive- Boating under the influence is both dangerous and illegal. The USCG says that "alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker's impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator's coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol."

Undergo a vessel check- A free and beneficial service, a vessel check is done by a certified examiner at a time that is good for both parties. With no charge and no consequence if your boat is missing a key element, or has something fundamentally wrong, having your boat checked out before it goes in the water is a great way to ensure safe travels this summer.

Wear a life jacket! According to statistics presented by the USCG, the chance of drowning while wearing a life jacket are 1 in 66, whereas the chances without a life jacket are 1 in 11. In fact, it is unlawful to not have an equal person to life jacket ratio aboard your vessel.

As always, for all your boat accessories, look to ePal Inc. Our array of products, and knowledgeable customer service, are sure to get you everything you need to have a safe and fun time on the water this summer.

The best bass fishing sites to check out this summer

Now that Memorial Day has passed, we're right at the beginning of the best season for fishing. Let's face it: there are other fish out there, but if you're a serious angler, then you're probably on the hunt for bass. These fish are fun to catch, taste delicious and can be found in just about any part of the country.

Recently, Field And Stream Magazine listed the best places to check out around the U.S. if you're a bass fishing enthusiast. Some of the locations they wrote about include:

  • Falcon Lake, Zapata, Texas: You'll want to bring your sunscreen if you take a trip to Falcon Lake, as it's right near the U.S.-Mexico border and temperatures routinely top 100 degrees. But you'll also want to bring plenty of bait. You can expect to catch quite a few largemouth bass over 10 pounds on this pond.
  • Lake Erie (especially near ­Sandusky, Ohio): You'll be hard-pressed to find a better place to catch smallmouth bass, and this time of year Sandusky has lovely weather.
  • Lake Guntersville, Guntersville, Alabama: This was the site of the Bassmaster Classic in February 2014. You can typically find 8- to 10-pound bass on this lake, particularly in the summer, which Field And Stream describes as "grass-fishing time on Guntersville."

Of course, you'll have an easier time catching fish at these destinations if you have a boat with all the latest marine electronics and navigation equipment. If you'd like to have more success locating fish, make sure you purchase a new fishfinder from ePal. We have the best prices, and you'll find that our free ground shipping can't be beat!

Raymarine introduces new boating displays

One of the most important tools you can have on board your vessel is a multifunction display that connects your chartplotter, fishfinder and other instruments together so that they can be monitored in one place. If you haven't had one of these gadgets installed on your boat, now may be the time, as Raymarine has announced three new models that are almost certainly going to show up on your wishlist.

Here are the three models that were unveiled by Raymarine, along with some of their most notable features:

  • A9 & a12 Multifunction Touch Display: Available in 9-inch and 12-inch models, as well as the already-available 5 and 7.5-inch displays, these multifunction screens can serve as your central command center when you're on your boat. They feature a beautiful touch-screen that can be manipulated with pinch-to-zoom functionality. They feature a super bright, high resolution LED display that will look great even with a daylight glare.
  • GS195 Glass Bridge Multifunction Display: Owners of premium yachts will be hardpressed to find a better screen for their control panel. The 19.5-inch multi-touch display provides captains with unparalleled flexibility in terms of configuration, and built-in WiFi means you don't have to worry about cables running in and out of your cabin.

You can find all the latest marine instruments and technology at great prices by shopping with ePal. We carry the largest selection of gear and devices you'll find anywhere, and our free shipping policy to the lower 48 states means that the price you see on our site is the one you pay. Browse our store today for our latest deals!

Boat sales rise in April

New data shows that boat sales are recovering from their winter slump, which could mean that the summer season will be a profitable one for builders and dealers. Trade Only Today reports that preliminary numbers from marketing and research Info-Link indicate that unit sales of outboard and powerboats were also higher year-over-year.

"We're on a continued upswing," Jack Ellis, Info-Link managing director, told the source. "April has essentially demonstrated what we as an industry had been predicting or hoping. We're going to come out the other end of this brutal winter and people will start buying boats again, even though it's a little later than last year."

Ski boats had a particularly good month, with sales rising 15 percent. Outboard sales were also higher, at about 10 percent above last year's levels. As Ellis notes, this has a lot to do with weather. In the winter months, the only part of the country with an active boating community is Florida. However, it's also clear that an improving economic outlook is having an effect on customers' willingness to invest in new watercraft. 

Boating typically takes the biggest hit when the economy slows down, as customers find they either have less disposable income or they are worried that their jobs may be in jeopardy.

However, it seems pretty clear that the boating industry has a bright future ahead. If you've recently purchased a new or used boat and you'd like to outfit it with the latest marine accessories and technology, your best bet is to shop with ePal. We carry the top brands, and our free shipping policy can't be beat! Browse our website today for our latest deals!

South Dakota fisherman catches 128 lb. paddlefish

Paddlefish are a popular target in the Midwest and Northern United States, as they typically live a long time and grow to extremely large sizes. As a result, you'll occasionally hear about anglers reeling in big catches. Recently, however, an angler in South Dakota caught a paddlefish that represents a whole new ball game for the species.

The Star Tribune reports that Bill Harmon caught a 127-pound, 9-ounce paddle fish in Lake Francisc Case on May 7, which beat a record that had stood for 35 years when another angler caught a 120-pound specimen. Harmon's catch is seen as a victory not just for the angler, but for the species, which had in recent years seen its numbers dwindle. A stocking program was instituted in the early 90's, which led to the replenishment of paddlefish populations at Lake Francis Case.

"One of the original goals of the paddlefish stocking program was to initiate a sport fishery for this species," Jason Sorensen, a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks' fisheries biologist, told the source. "Paddlefish are a long-lived species and the Lake Francis Case population has some very old fish. There is potential for anglers to harvest large paddlefish and Bills' recent catch is proof of that."

If you want to catch large paddlefish like the one Harmon pulled in, you're going to need heavy gauge fishing line, as well as a large capacity reel for deeper parts of the lake. We'd also recommend investing in a good fishfinder from Garmin, Raymarine or Furuno, which will help locate the biggest groupings and schools. You can find the latest fishfinder technology at ePal, along with other fishing and navigation equipment that will make you a more successful angler!

How can I contact the U.S. Coast Guard if I’m in trouble while out on the water?

Hopefully, there won't be a time when you'll need to contact the United States Coast Guard (USCG) due to an emergency aboard your vessel. However, it's always good to know how to get in touch with the USCG in the event of an emergency, such as a boat collision or a medical issue for one of your crew members that requires speedy transportation to the shore.

There are three principle ways that you can contact the USCG, although only two of them are recommended if you are in distress:

  • By Phone: You can call them on your cell phone, if you have service, simply by dialing 911. Once you tell the dispatcher that you are at sea or on a lake, they will immediately forward your call to UCSG (or the lake policing authority, if they have immediate jurisdiction). Of course, cell phones don't always have service when you are far away from shore, so this will only work if you are within a few miles of the coast.
  • Using your VHF radio: Channel 16 on VHF frequencies is reserved for USCG communications. If you're in distress, hold your transmit button and say "Mayday" three times. Then provide all necessary information about your status and location, including the vessel name, your position, the nature of your emergency and the number of people who are on board. Once you make the call, wait 10 seconds. If you don't receive a response, keep repeating the call.

Of course, you'll have a much easier time contact the USCG if you have a marine radio on board that is reliable. If you're in need of new communication equipment for your boat, make sure to browse ePal's online store today for the latest deals.

What are the best saltwater fish to catch?

Experienced anglers always seem to know which fish are located nearby and are the easiest to catch. But if you're new to fishing then you probably don't know what species to look for and which ones you'll have the best chances of reeling in. To help you get started, we've put together a brief list of some of the most frequently encountered saltwater fish and how you should go about trying to catch them.

Here are a few species you'll definitely want to try catching on your next saltwater fishing expedition:

  • Flounder: Bleacher Report notes that flounder typically hang out around docks, pylons, reefs and other structures, and they usually stay close to the bottom. Make sure to be patient when going after them, as they aren't very aggressive about biting on bait. If you feel a tug on your line, wait just a few seconds before trying to reel one in.
  • Mahi Mahi: Tired of paying a lot of money for a mahi mahi steak at your favorite restaurant? You can catch your own as long as you have a good boat that you trust to take you out away form shore, as this is a deepwater fish. Look for flocks of birds diving into the water, as this is a sign that they have found a school of fish.
  • Red Drum: These are pretty common fish along the East Coast, and they're a favorite of experienced anglers. Experienced fisherman Joey Sweet recommends not fishing directly over them in the water, but off to the side at some distance in order not to disturb them.

You'll have a much easier time of making a big catch if you have the right equipment. Make sure your boat has all the marine instruments and gear you need by shopping at ePal!

Follow these tips when sleeping on your boat!

There may come a time that you'll need to sleep on your boat, most likely because you're in the midst of a long voyage. While sleeping on a boat in calm seas can be a pleasant experience, it's also very easy for it to turn into a dangerous situation if you're not careful, especially if you're sailing alone.

If you find yourself in a position where you'll need to sleep onboard your boat, make sure that you follow these tips:

  • If you're near shore, try to find a small protected cove: There's no point in anchoring in choppy waters if your within range of a cove that is protected from wind. This will also allow you to anchor to the shore.
  • Keep some lights on for other boaters: Make sure that your boat is plainly visible so that you aren't hit by other boaters. No matter how unlikely it is to happen, such a collision could be fatal and should be anticipated.
  • Use an anchor that is at least one size bigger than what is recommended for your vessel: Discover Boating recommends buying an anchor that weighs one pound for every two feet of boat length for most uses. But for overnight anchoring, they recommend one and a half pounds for every two feet of length.

For boaters who are looking for navigational and communication equipment for their vessel, there's no better resource for this gear than ePal. We have the best selection, prices and customer service of any supplier. Furthermore, you can't beat our shipping policy. We offer free ground shipping on all orders to the lower 48 states, in addition to flat rate expedited options when you need your gear more quickly.

Is Colombia the next hot boating destination?

Colombia hasn't had the best reputation in the last few decades, with drug cartels and violence typically dominating the news that makes its way to the United States. But much of that is history, and some are predicting that Colombia will become the next big boating destination for fishermen and yachters.

It makes sense that the country would be a prime spot for boaters. It has long coastlines on both its Pacific and Atlantic sides, and many large ports where vacationers can anchor and explore. In addition, there's plenty of fishing to be had in these areas.

To attract more boating tourism, the country has been hosting boat shows, including the Cartagena International Boat Show, which was held recently in the Pacific city of Cartagena. The show drew over 3,000 attendees, representing an increase of 165 percent over last year, according to Trade Only Today. Held in late March, the show's vendors were especially happy about the turnout.

"In Colombia now, we see tourism as one of the main sources of employment," Santiago Rojas, Colombia's minister of tourism, told the source. "In Colombia, of course, we have two seas on our borders. Nautical tourism and all of the industry around it is very important. We are out of the hurricane zone."

If you plan to take your boat down to Colombia at some point, you should recognize that it's not an easy journey, and having the latest navigational technology on board will be a big help. Boaters who are in the market for a chartplotter that will help them find their way through international waters should invest in new unit from ePal. We carry the best brands at even better prices, so you can rest assured you're getting a great deal!

The search for the perfect bass bedding

Bass anglers are obsessed with finding the best bedding, or nest, whenever they head out to catch some fish. The bedding is the place you're most likely to catch bass, as they tend to hover around this area in order to protect their eggs. Finding bedding isn't a particularly exact science, but there are steps you can take to improve the odds of locating one of these pockets.

The first thing to note is that, like many other animals, bass like to keep their eggs in a sheltered nest that is less susceptible to predators. This means they'll usually dig a hole beneath an underwater log, a rocky ledge, or plants that are growing above the surface of the water.

Experienced bass anglers will usually turn on their trolling motors and move slowly along the shore of the river or lake where they're fishing and try to visually spot one of these beds. As The Sportsman's Guide notes, the best lures for bass fishing are soft plastic creatures that resemble crawfish and salamanders — which are more likely to attack the nest. This means they're also more likely to grab the attention of a protective new parent.

However, it's also important not to become too obsessed with searching for bedding. As recently noted by Field and Stream, sometimes it's better just to cast your line in the middle of a lake and wait for something to bite. After all, isn't fishing supposed to be a relaxing pastime?

If you want to increase your chances of catching bass and other fish, make sure your boat is equipped with a fishfinder from ePal. We carry the latest technology from the best brands, so you can rest assured your device will help you increase your catches!