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Excitement usually surrounds the new networked systems, but most people have a secret love for new gadgets and the small things that you use and touch often on the boat.

I scoured boat shows, the Internet, and tackle shops for new and unusual electronic inventions to fascinate and make your time on your boat better. I found a range of things for practical safety and communications plus some stuff that isn't even electronic—but you have to have it.

How far did I look? I went into Bed Bath & Beyond, which I usually leave to my wife, and found a durable digital thermometer by Taylor that measures to the tenth of a degree. It's handy on a boat for checking the conditions in your baitwell as well as verifying the surface temp reading on your fishfinder.

How bizarre did it get? A few tackle shops are showing a new item that lights up your cooler so that you can find your favorite brand down at the bottom of the ice. The AutoLight shuts off by itself a couple minutes after you close the lid to save its battery. The fact that it's waterproof and self-contained makes it handy in other lockers on a boat, too.

SAFETY

Seriously folks, there's a growing trend to using Personal Locator Beacons rather (or instead of) a full-fledged EPIRB. Since SKA boats stay fairly close to the coast anyway, I think they are a good idea. Having more than one PLB on board is a better idea.

If your first comment is that you will never use a PLB, you may want to consider a Globalstar SPOT or SPOT Connect. SPOT sends messages that say "I'm OK" or whatever short message you want to send from a remote area where texting from your smartphone is not working. In that rare emergency, of course, SPOT will send a message that describes the situation, too.

SPOT Connect hooks the system to your mobile phone.

COMMUNICATIONS

Recently, the Coast Guard is acknowledging that mobile phone distress calls are too frequent to ignore the trend. However, they (and the SKA and me, too) still believe in marine VHF for the simple fact of monitoring channel 16 and for the ability to triangulate a VHF call to get location. That is critical as a rescue vessel or helicopter is approaching the people in distress.

The accessory that goes with this story is the handheld VHF. They are inexpensive and there are now a lot of them that are waterproof. They are also available in a model that floats. The Standard HX290 is an example. I don't know how they get those heavy batteries to float, but don't argue. Get a handheld VHF and learn the channels and the etiquette.

The VHF is handy for speaking with other boats, marina dockmasters, and even other crew members when you're scattered around the marina or at the boat ramp. Once you're in the habit, a walkie-talkie conversation becomes very quick and easy and the common misunderstandings of texting will not happen.

Weather receivers to add to your network display are a great accessory. Optional services are being increased this year, although the services over the Internet are seeing even more growth into water temperatures, surface plankton, and other valuable fishing data.

WATERPROOF CAMERAS

A few years ago, waterproof cameras were bulky, expensive, and made for scuba diving. Now there are a few popular models in the range of $200 to $300. Even the scuba versions, like SeaLife-Cameras, are very reasonable to use on a boat.

GoPro sells the waterproof HD Hero2 camera through fishing tackle shops along with some cool options for sport fishing. There's an optional headband mount, tubing mounts, and a long pole to hold it over the side so you can watch your catch being reeled in.

I saw a suction cup device to hold a depth transducer to the side or transom and I have a vision in my mind that would adapt it to a waterproof camera.

Check out SeaSucker for everything that you could imagine sticking to a shiny surface. Besides drink holders, including one for stemmed wine glasses (if you allow wine and high heels on your boat) SeaSucker has brackets for phones and iPads, fish scaling tables, suction cup rod holders, and they'll do custom work, too. You will enjoy the website.

Speaking of waterproofing, Pelican Cases are adding more sizes of waterproof boxes that float even when open because of the foam inserts that are primarily there to cushion the contents of the box. These boxes, if they float, make sense for a ditch bag requirement. They're also great for electronic things, chart cards, food, tools, cameras, and anything that you used to carry to the boat in a supermarket plastic bag because the boxes look cool, too.

SECURITY

Both Garmin and Raymarine have added domed cameras that interface with their networks. Your boat can look like a bank lobby, but actually you should be aware that crime goes up as the economy goes down. Consider security cameras for your dock areas as well as for your boat. They can be watched from a mobile phone or tied to your home or work cameras. As for all electronic devices, prices are dropping as sales volume goes up.

Vessel tracking for stolen boats is also growing into a legitimate business now. These systems used to run a strong risk of becoming useless when the manufacturer or service provider went bankrupt, but there are big names in it now. GOST is a good company to start with if you're looking into it. Your insurance will be discounted if you put an alarm system and tracking on your boat.

SCALES

Rapala now offers an electronic scale for weighing your prize catch. Use your new waterproof camera to record the weighing ceremony, of course. I was surprised to see that many digital fishing scales only weigh up to 50 pounds. That's not high enough for SKA winners, so check the range before you buy a scale.

LED LIGHTS

I'm still waiting for prices to come down on LED light bulbs that replace the bulbs on a boat, but the savings on battery drain are hard to ignore. I'm sure you have noticed that an LED flashlight just won't die, and that long life of an LED bulb is pushing me to make the purchase very soon.

Every time I see an LED flashlight next to a cash register I want to buy one, but that's just the kind of gadget guy that I am. I am sure you will enjoy the electronic devices that you have on your boat, too.





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