Spring Dreaming with Boating Innovations

| June 8, 2011

Spring is upon us, giving us spring fever. Most people are thawing out and starting their yearly regimen of spring cleaning, opening up their homes to the fresh air and catching up on the landscaping. While everyone else is getting excited about those chores, boaters see them as hurdles to their spring fever. They want to get to their prize possession and open it up to the fresh air. Every boat owner knows the saying: The two best days of owning a boat are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. But I believe the day you uncover your boat for the new season ranks right up there.

This is when a boater’s spring fever kicks in. You get the boat washed and waxed, the batteries charged, the motors and cabins dewinterized. This is when the fever really starts to rise. You crawl behind the wheel and sit there while the boat is still on the trailer, the lift or in a slip. Then you drift into a spring dream of your best boating days and how you can make them better.

We all start wondering what new products are out there. And which ones will make your boating days less stressful and more relaxing. I have found three fairly new innovations in the marine market that I found intriguing.

The Waterbuoy
We all have floaties on our boat keys. I’ve had them for as long as I can remember. I also have them on my dock keys, but that’s where it stops. The size of the soft floaties makes them something I would not attach to my car keys and carry in my pocket. The Waterbuoy, however, is something I will buy. It’s a keychain that self-inflates when dropped into the water. It has a patented trigger mechanism that has been tested repeatedly, so it doesn’t go off in your pocket or in the rain. The Waterbuoy is advertised as the world’s strongest miniature floating device. Once inflated, it will support 2.2 pounds, which opens up the possibility of floating more than just keys.

Even though the company that makes the Waterbuoy suggests cameras as an item to float, my first thought was that a camera would be ruined anyway. My beliefs were based on the many cell phones that I’ve dropped into the Lake and around the country, including Key West. I even got booted off my insurance policy for having too many water claims. But I saw something last year that changed my mind.

My wife had one of her “girl party” weekends on the dock. One of the girls dropped her phone into the Lake after dark, and since they couldn’t see it, it slept with the fishes. The next morning they found the phone in about two feet of water. In my mind I knew this phone was done. But another gal suggested pulling it apart, removing the battery and SIM card, then putting everything into a Ziploc bag full of rice for about a week.

What? Boy, did I think this was a waste of time! But a week later she put it back together and it worked. She still had her daughter’s newborn pictures.

With that personal experience in mind, I would attach a Waterbuoy to my cell phone or camera. If the item you want to protect weighs more than two pounds, you could attach another Waterbuoy. Another neat feature about this product is that when it inflates, it also activates a high-intensity LED. The light shines inside the balloon while it floats on the water. It can be seen as a flashing beacon up to 820 feet away at night. The Waterbuoy will stay afloat for 24 hours with the light flashing the entire time. www.water-buoy.com

Smartphone Marine Navigation Application
Last year was a big step for me in the cell phone department. I had to let my Motorola RAZR retire. Actually, it quit on me and I couldn’t get a new one. Even though I had been teased for carrying an antique phone, I had been content.

My new phone is a smartphone. This is one of the best buys I’ve ever made. The apps that are available on these phones amaze me. New apps come out every day—talk about not keeping up with technology! It reminds me of the ’80s, testing race boats on the Mississippi. I owned a radar gun that was about two feet long with eight feet of wiring connected to a car battery. We had to put it in another boat while I made high-speed passes just feet away from it, to get accurate speeds. Now I own this little phone that reads the speed of any boat I crawl into. I wish I’d had this back then; I would have hurt a lot of bass boaters’ feelings. They were telling everybody they had a 80- to 100-mph boat, when in reality it was a 50- to 60-mph boat.

One of the newer marine apps is called Navionics. It’s a chart plotter and a navigation system for the oceans, rivers and the bigger lakes. With this app you should never get lost or have to stop and ask for directions. It also tells you wind speed and direction, tides, currents and depths, sunrise and sunset times, and plot the course of your destination. It can search for marinas and restaurants, and with a tap of a button call either one. The marine app also will take your speed and distance and calculate your arrival time. Marine innovations such as this one help make boaters more confident when setting out on a daily or weekly boating trip. www.navionics.com

First Mate by Flir
The First Mate is a handheld night-vision scope, which could be of great benefit to many night boaters at Lake of the Ozarks. I have been out on the Lake at night several times over the years, and could have used this innovation every time. I have been caught up in the aftermath of a fireworks display, with hundreds of boats going in every direction in the middle of the night—that’s an experience that’s hard to describe. It can keep you shaking the rest of the night. I also have been cruising down the middle of the Lake, seemingly the only boat around for miles. On two occasions I have come upon white boats sitting in the middle of the Lake in the darkness, with no lights on at all. For a responsible boater, it can be very stressful cruising down the Lake at night, trying to stay alert and aware of your surroundings. It really rattles you when that dark boat you didn’t see turns its lights on when you’re only 30 to 50 yards away.

On these occasions, having a First Mate on board would have made for a more relaxing night of cruising. The First Mate is a thermal-imaging scope that picks up heat differences and creates a view that will show even debris floating in the water. By locating different temperatures, it makes black-and-white pictures that can be seen through the scope as plain as day. When it’s pointed at a bright light, it does not wash out the screen like some other night-vision scopes. Bonus: If you drop it, First Mate will float, so you don’t have to attach your new Waterbuoy to it. www.Flir.com

With so many boating innovations coming out each year for the marine world, I thought these three were the most interesting, as well as being very affordable. I also feel that ownership of the Waterbuoy, the Navionics app and the First Mate would help complete your day or weekend of boating relaxation. Any one of these may not get a LOT of use, but that one time you need it, I guarantee it just paid for itself.

Enjoy your season on the water!

Courtesy of L•O PROFILE Magazine

Category: Current News