3 tips for keeping your kids safe on your boat

There are few pleasures like sharing a boat ride with your whole family, but before you do it's important to make sure they're safe.

Yachting Magazine has a great safety guide for parents who will be boating with their kids. Here are a few of their most important points:

  • Always set an example: If you want your kids to take safety seriously when they're on your boat, make sure that you set an example by wearing a life vest when necessary. Your children will take these procedures more seriously if they see that you're adhering to them.
  • Make sure your life vests fit: There are tons of manufacturers now, many of which we carry at ePal, that make life jackets in just about every size, and they're typically very comfortable. They're also much less likely to fall off if you or your children fall into the water. A life jacket that is too big could slide off.
  • Turn the engine off when passengers are in the water: Particularly if you have an outboard motor, it's important to make sure the propeller isn't spinning when people are in the water swimming. It also prevents the boat from accidentally running over a swimmer.

If you've recently purchased a boat and need to stock it with safety equipment, or you need to replace the marine supplies that you already have, your best source for these items is ePal. We carry a wide selection of personal flotation devices from many of the best brands, including Mustang, First Watch and Full Throttle, all at the best prices you'll find on the web. 

A brief guide to judging water depth visually

One of the most important marine instruments you can have on board is a depth finder, whether it's an advanced transducer or similar device. Sometimes it's an independent instrument and other times a part of your chartplotter or GPS. In any case, these devices help you figure out the clearance between the end of your keel and the bottom of the body of water where you're boating.

But depth finders and transducers can only help you so much. They can't tell you how deep the water is a quarter mile in front your bow or off to the side. They also don't necessarily give you an accurate reading if the water is too deep. It all depends on the power of the sonar beam they're transmitting.

At Sail Magazine, writer Connie McBride has a good rhyme that is easy to remember and can help you better judge water depths visually:

Brown, brown, run aground
White, white, you just might
Green, green, in between
Blue, blue, sail on through

Simply put, when the water in front of you is a light brown color, it's best to avoid it in the event that you scrape your hull or run aground. White-colored water could mean that there is sand reflecting sunlight back to the surface, though it may be deep enough that you don't have to worry about hitting anything. Green water typically indicates that there is grass on the surface, but it could still be deep enough that you can sail over it safely. Blue water means you're good to go!

With a more powerful marine transducer, you can judge depths more effectively and avoid running aground. Shop at ePal today for our latest deals on tranducers and other equipment!

Make sure your insurance actually covers you

Boat insurance can be more complicated than other types because the range of coverages that are available vary significantly. Insurance for cars and homeowners tend to be more regulated and cover very specific risks, while for boats there are policies that are both extremely limited and comprehensive. So it's a good idea when you're shopping for a new policy to read the fine print and find out when you'll actually be covered.

The Boat Owners Association of the United States (BOATUS) recently published a rundown of which clauses you want to keep an eye out for in your policy. Here are some of the most important points:

  • Consequential Damage: This type of coverage is crucial because it covers damage that results from a failed part. Many policies will exclude any problems that occur because of a component on your vessel that corroded or failed in some way due to neglect. Consequential damage, however, ensures that you'll be covered for the subsequent repairs needed from the failed part, even if your insurer won't replace the part itself.
  • Fuel-spill liability: If your boat sinks and fuel is released into the water, the federal government could hold you liable for the damage. These liabilities can total hundreds of thousands of dollars, so make sure your policy covers fuel spills.
  • Salvage: If your boat sinks because of a hurricane or some other disaster, you'll most likely have to salvage it, which can be a pretty expensive operation. Be careful when you're purchasing a policy to make sure it covers these costs.

Once you've invested in a policy that provides good coverage, you can add in the chartplotter you've been wanting with the assurance that if anything happens to your boat, you'll be reimbursed for the damage! Make sure to check out ePal's extensive inventory of navigational and communications equipment today!

3 tips to help you take care of your wooden boat

Wooden boats are a blessing and a curse. They're often the most beautiful vessels on the water, but they're also a nightmare to take care of if you don't have a lot of experience working with wood. Before you invest in a wooden boat, it's important to know what you're getting into and how you can make the experience a positive one.

We've assembled a list of three tips that will help you keep your wooden boat in tip-top condition so that you can do more actual boating and less maintenance:

  • Keep it ventilated: Airing out the interior of the hull will go a long way toward preventing mold and rot from wreaking havoc on your wooden frame. These problems can cause deterioration that makes your vessel unsafe. If your wooden boat has enclosed areas, make sure you use fans to air them out routinely.
  • Reapply varnish and paint frequently: You should repaint and refinish your wooden boat at least every year or two, as this is your main protection from boat rot.
  • Store properly: If you're keeping your wooden boat outdoors, make sure to cover it and prevent rain water from collecting in pools anywhere on its decks.

In addition to keeping your wooden boat in good condition, you should make sure that any electronic boat parts such as your VHF radio are functional. These products are vital tools if you're ever stranded and in need of assistance from the local Coast Guard or Port Authority. If you're in need of a new radio, make sure you check out the inventory at ePal today.

With snowstorm on the way, boaters beware

A big snowstorm is headed to the northeast, where snowfall is expected to reach one-to-two feet in some areas. For boat owners whose vehicles are located outdoors, whether they're situated on boat stands out of the water or tied to a dock, the threat of a storm can make them nervous about how their prized possession will hold up with all the wind and ice.

To make sure your boat survives the winter weather, make sure you've weatherized it properly. Here are some tips for preventing damage:

  • Cover the decks. The easiest way to prevent snow from accumulating is to simply tie down a solid, resilient cover that won't blow off when the wind kicks up.
  • If your vessel is sitting on stands in a boatyard, make sure they're secure and that they haven't been dislodged in any way by winds or someone accidentally bumping them.
  • Remove your trolling motor if it's still connected to the boat and store it in your home. These aren't typically attached to the boat very strongly, so a good gust of wind could knock them loose.
  • You may want to consider running some antifreeze through your engine if you didn't do so when you winterized your boat a few months ago.

By properly winterizing your boat, you can rest assured that when you go to check up on it after the storm dies down, none of your boat parts will need to be repaired or replaced. If you don't have the accessories, such as a winter cover, that you need to protect your boat from these storms, make sure you check out the latest weatherproof covers we have at ePal.

Boat capsizes off the coast of Tampa

A man is dead after his boat capsized off the coast of Pinellas County in Florida on December 2. Stephen Chadwick and Joseph Citro were taking their boat to meet friends on an island in the Gulf of Mexico when it began taking on water, capsized and sank. Chadwick and Citro decided to swim for shore, but Chadwick died hours after reaching the beach. Citro was taken to hospital but was later released.

It's unclear why the 10 foot aluminum boat sank. The incident occurred only an hour after the boatmen left shore. The passengers had initially tried to hold onto the hull, but later let go and tried to return to land. When they arrived, Citro attempted CPR on Chadwick, but was unable to revive him.

"He looked cold and in shock," Scott Hahn, a resident who with his family witnessed rescue crews trying to save Chadwick, told The Bradenton Herald. "We saw him and then we took the girls and we didn't want to be a part of that. The emergency people were here."

Incidents like this are a reminder that it is an absolute necessity to practice good boat safety, no matter how familiar you may be with your vessel or the waters you are navigating. You should always make sure your boat is equipped with life vests as well as marine instruments and electronics, such as those sold by ePal, that allow you to communicate with the U.S. Coast Guard ashore. Leaving these items behind can put you and your crews' lives at risk.

How do I navigate through ice safely?

If you live in northern areas, you may at some point find yourself in a situation where you'll need to navigate your way through icy water. This can be a particularly dangerous situation if handled incorrectly, even if you're relatively close to shore. However, it's not always avoidable, so it's good to know what to do in these instances, just in case.

That action that you take in these situations depends largely on the thickness of the ice that you're confronting:

  • For thin ice, you can try gently moving towards it and letting the bow of your boat slide up onto the top of the frozen water. If you do it slowly enough, the weight of the boat should break through and clear the way.
  • If the ice is thicker, you can also try using your own wake to break it up. Assuming you have the space to do this, begin piloting the boat in circles, kicking up waves that travel under it. At first the ice will simply rock back and forth, but eventually it could break up, allowing you to gently move your way through.
  • Keep in mind that frozen freshwater is stronger than seawater at the same thickness.

You can better judge when you're approaching ice and when you should be out on the water if your boat is equipped with the best marine instruments available. At ePal we carry the latest boating technology at affordable prices, so stop by our online shop today for the best products available from companies such as Garmin, Humminbird and more!

Finding the right boat insurance policy

Even the most experienced boat owners should have an insurance policy to cover the cost of damage in the event that they are involved in a boating accident. An insurance policy may not sound as sexy as a new Hummin​bird GPS or some other piece of equipment you've been dying to add to your vessel, but it's certainly going to be just as valuable if your boat ever crashes, even if it's not your fault.

This begs the question: How does one find the right insurance policy for their boat? Here are some tips from Boating Magazine:

  • Ask around: If you have friends at the yacht club or simply know a lot of people who own boats, ask them if they have insurance and like working with their particular underwriter and agent. If you don't know a lot of people with their own vessel, ask the agent who supplies you with your car or life insurance policies if they have any experience in this area or can recommend someone.
  • Decide how much coverage you need: If your boat simply isn't worth very much, you may just want to purchase a policy that covers liability in the event that you are involved in an accident and someone is hurt, rather than buying a policy that includes collision.
  • Study the policy before paying your premium: Depending on how you use your boat and how far you travel with it, you should have a policy that is tailored to your needs. For example, if you plan on boating in international waters, make sure your policy will still cover you.

Keep in mind that you can avoid accidents and keep your insurance premium down if you have the right marine instruments to help guide your way when you're out on the water. You can find these items at ePal!

3 tips for safe piloting while towing a water skier

Water skiing is one of the most exciting water sports, but it's also dangerous if those participating do not take proper precautions. Water skiing deaths are all too common, and it's almost always because of human error that these incidents occur.

One of the areas where you need to be particularly diligent about being safe is how you pilot the boat. If you're tasked with driving while another person is skiing, make sure you follow these tips from Waterski Magazine:

  • Don't accelerate too quickly. A gradual increase in speed is not only much safer, but it's also easier for the person you're towing to get out of the water and onto their skis.
  • Keep the boat balanced as you go through the water. You can tell if your boat is balanced if it is producing the same amount of spray and wake on both the starboard and port sides of the vessel. This makes it safer for the skier, but it also makes their job easier, as uneven wake can make balancing and maneuvering difficult.
  • Never turn sharply with someone in tow. If you see an obstacle approaching that you didn't anticipate, throttle back and have the observer alert the skier to a change in direction.

Outfitting your boat with the best marine electronics can make these experiences safer and more fun, as you'll be able to judge depth easier while also getting a more accurate readout of your heading and speed. Make sure to check out the ePal store today, as we've got great deals on the latest products from Garmin, Raymarine and more!

Storing your boat ashore

In many parts of the country, the time has come to begin preparing your boat for storage over the winter. While some areas are warm enough that the boat can simply be left in water all year, most boat owners in cold climes are going to want to keep their boat on land to preserve the hull and marine instruments until the ice thaws.

That being said, there are good ways and bad ways to store you vessel ashore. Here are some tips to consider when prepping your boat:

  • Drain it: Letting water drain from your cockpit and hull will ensure that you don't have any standing water, which can freeze or attract mold and mildew, eventually eroding any wooden components.
  • Support the hull: Boats weigh a lot, and all of that weight can cause damage to the hull if it is not properly supported by whatever storage system you're using. Consult with a marine surveyor to make sure the weight of the boat is evenly distributed over the hull.
  • Tie cover to boat, not the boat stand: If you're using a boat stand, make sure the tarp cover is tied to the boat and not the stand. A strong gale can pick the cover up, knock the stand loose and cause the boat to fall form its position.

With your vessel stored ashore, now is a great time to consider adding new Garmin marine electronics and other accessories to it, as these additions can be easier to accomplish when the boat is on land, rather than at sea. For the latest in marine technology, check out ePal's online store today!