New boating gear hits the shelves each and every day and we want to keep you up to speed, which is why we’ve published articles like High Tech Boating: 7 Cool Gadgets, and Top 10 New Stereo Systems, AV Accessories, and Electronic Gadgets for Boats. The mother load of boating gear, gadgets, and gizmos, however, is unveiled just prior to spring, much of it at the Miami International Boat Show in February. It’s here that hundreds of manufacturers make their initial pitch to the boating public. We were on the scene and even participated in the NMMA Innovations Award contest judging, to get our hands on the latest and greatest. Here are our top 10 picks (in no particular order) from the show, the contest, and early this spring.
1. Gill FG2 Tournament Jacket – All boaters need foul weather gear, but the hood on virtually every jacket has the same annoying problem: when you’re running a boat at high speeds, it catches the breeze and billows out. Tighten the chord to cinch the hood tight around your head, and your comfort level drops to zero. Gill solves this issue with the FG2 Tournament jacket, thanks to a “Vortex” hood designed by race car drivers. Air flow is streamed around the hood through a channel and mesh-lined collar, to external collar vents. This reduces the pressure variants behind your head, to keep the wind from puffing and sucking at that hood. Good thinking, Gill. Visit Gill North America to learn more.
2. Weems & Plath SOS Distress Light – This LED light, which flashes for 60 hours and is visible for up to 10 miles, shines with vertical and horizontal beams, floats, and is the first light to pass USCG muster as an electronic flare. In and of itself that’s pretty nifty, but not really enough to make our list. The way it’s packaged with a day-time distress signal (a red flag), however, is utterly brilliant—combining this new light’s attributes with the flag satisfies all USCG requirements for both day and night visual signals. In other words, it replaces flares entirely. No more worrying about keeping your flares up to date and dry; the SOS Distress Light takes care of everything. Visit Weems & Plath for more info.
3. Shimano Stradic Fishing Reels – The Stradic was a staple of the Shimano spinning reel line-up, so we were surprised to discover that they retired it and introduced an all-new version. But after handling it, we were quite happy they did so. The new Stradic is so smooth, light, and rugged that it’s as good as or better than 99-percent of the spinning reels on the market. But here’s the shocker: it only costs around $200. At that price-point, most reels are in about the top 80-percentile. Visit Shimano for more info.
4. Ricochet Ladder – Have you ever fired up the engine and driven off with your swim ladder still deployed? Of course you have—everyone makes this mistake once in a while. You may bend the ladder and have to replace it, or you may realize what’s going on quickly and merely soak your crew. Either way, wouldn’t it be nice if someone invented a ladder that retrieved itself automatically if you hit the throttle? Premier has done it with the Ricochet, invented for their pontoon boats, which is designed to use the forward force of water pressure against the ladder to raise itself up. For the moment these are only available on Premier pontoons, but stay tuned—scuttlebutt has it that these may become available as an aftermarket product sooner rather than later. For now, you can find out more at Premier.
5. Cyntur Jumper Pack – The Cyntur jumper pack weighs in at less than a pound, is the size of an average paperback book, costs a hundred bucks, yet holds enough juice to turn over a V-6 outboard engine. It’s a great way to prevent being stuck at the dock or aimlessly drifting with a dead battery, and it’s so small it’s easy to stow aboard any boat. Added bonus: it has a USB charging port, so you can use it to bring your dead cell phone back to life, too. Find out more at Cyntur.
6. Simrad StructureScan 3D – Remember how awful the 3-D in Jaws III was? That’s how 3-D fishfinders have been up until now. But the 3-D in Avatar blew your mind, right? The difference is just as impressive, when using the new Simrad StructureScan 3D. You can see bottom contours, structure, and fish, up to 600’ to the sides and 300’ straight down, in real-time 3-D imaging. The system also allows for virtual point-of-view panning and tilting, so you can look at that wreck or drop-off from 360-degrees. 3-D doesn’t come cheap, though; the module is $1,000, and if you don’t already have current Simrad gear (or Lowrance) at the helm, you’ll be spending thousands. Still, it’ll be hard for an angler to resist—this is cool stuff. For more info, visit Simrad.
7. Spinlock Lume-On – These nifty little water-activated LED lights stick onto your inflatable PFD. If you end up in the water they cause the entire PFD to glow, making you visible from afar in the inky darkness. While most rescue lights cost a bundle and can’t be pre-attached to a packed inflatable, these take up virtually no room (so they can be packed easily into the inflatable’s shell) and only cost a few bucks. Check out Spinlock to learn more.
8. Sailtimer Wind Instrument – the new 2016 version of Sailtimer’s wind instrument not only utilizes Bluetooth to display its data on your phone via app, not only runs off solar power, and not only works on rotating masts, but now has 40-percent thinner tail electronics and solar panels. Two jeweled bearings mean it swings in the lightest breeze, and the electronics are fully encapsulated. Sailors rejoice, by visiting Sailtimer.
9. Hobie Mirage i11S – Whether you’re a cruising sailboater or a trawler-owning explorer, the Hobie i11s will be of interest. This inflatable kayak can be packed into a 36” x 25” x 12” bag and weighs just 35 pounds, so it can be easily stowed aboard just about any boat with a cabin. When you inflate it, the i11s becomes an 11’3” long, 3’3” wide yak that can be peddled with Mirage Drive, has a rudder, and Hobie’s comfy Vantage CTi seating. It’s made of 1000 denier PVC and has three separate air chambers. The down-side? This is a $2K toy. Ouch. To learn more, head over to Hobie.
10. Garmin Nautix In-View – This is a futuristic little heads-up display that attaches to your sunglasses, and shows you streamed NMEA2000 data from compatible Garmin devices. We wish it worked with other manufacturer’s gear, too, but if you have Garmin onboard this thing will make you feel like you’re at the cutting edge of technology. It only weighs an ounce, and at $400, isn’t as expensive as one might guess. Visit Garmin to get more info.
BONUS GOODIE: Metal Rescue isn’t new, but we’d never heard of it when they emailed us to weigh in after watching some of our How-To videos. We gave this stuff a try, and it’s something all boaters should know about. This is a liquid you use as a bath to eat away rust, without damaging metal parts. To try it out we revived an old adjustable crescent wrench that had corroded into an unusable mess. This stuff works—consider it an important weapon to add to your anti-corrosion arsenal. Visit Metal Rescue to get the details.