Do you remember the Bearcat 55? Probably not. It was an outboard engine before it’s time, a four-stroke produced from 1966 through 1972, in a market jam-packed with two-strokes. Just like today’s four-stroke outboards, it was smooth, reliable, and fuel-efficient—and it was pulled from the market a mere twelve months before OPEC decided to tighten its stranglehold, sending oil prices through the roof. It was a better mouse-trap that didn’t ever have the chance to catch many mice.
In this day and age, you wouldn’t think such forward-thinking products would go unnoticed. Shocking as it may be, however, there are some real boating gems out there that still haven’t seen the light of day. Ready to expose them?
If you have a boat with a low spot in the bilge or a recessed keel drain, you've surely been frustrated by the common bilge pump. They never get rid of all the water, and any areas lower than the float switch stay perpetually wet. Unless, that is, you’ve installed one of Whale’s Supersub pumps. Which you haven’t, because no one’s ever heard of these things. In fact, when I finally discovered the Supersub (and bought one to install in my 16-footer, which has a keel drain that always held water) and walked into my local West Marine to buy hoses and fittings, the guys working in the store were a bit miffed. Not only hadn’t I bought the pump in their store, but their catalog—which has 1,082 pages, weighs about 30 pounds, and includes practically every marine item known to man—didn't even list the Supersub.
The water pickup on these pumps points down, so it sucks water down to a fraction of an inch. The electric-field sensor automatic switch is integrated, and the entire unit slid neatly into my boat’s two-inch keel drain. And now my boat is bone-dry, every time I walk down the dock.
Stress and “spider” cracks, or “crazing,” make a perfectly good boat look old and dingy. The standard fix? Spend hours grinding and sanding out the cracks, fill them with epoxy or putty, then mix and re-mix gel coat pigments until you’re sure you have the exact color match. The next time you glance at your boat, you’ll be glowing with pride—until you realize the color changed as the gel coat cured, and now the repair sticks out worse than the cracks did. Why hasn’t someone come up with a simple, easier way to fix those cracks?
Well, someone did. You just haven’t heard about it because they’re located in Kunda Park, Australia. I just learned about this stuff a few months ago myself, but after using it to fix the stress cracks around my rail stanchions, leaning post, and T-top fittings, I’m a believer. It's super-easy to use: just open the tube, squeeze it out along the crack, then use the back of the tube to wipe away the excess. It comes in a slew of colors to choose from, and you can blend them if necessary. And the final finish is glossy and rugged—a dozen fishing trips later, it still looks great.
This product’s full name is Bass Kandy Delight, and it’s one of the most under-utilized fishing lures on the market today. It was yesterday, too—BKD’s have been around for years, but since they’re produced by a mom-and-pop outfit and have never been marketed (beyond some free handouts in a few parking lots), most anglers have never heard of them. Yet BKD’s work as well or better than similar soft-plastic lures. (They’re so effective, in fact, that we pitted them against live spot in an upcoming episode of Got Bait?) And they cost a lot less; a pack of 25 goes for $11.75. That’s less than 50 cents a lure, while many competitors sell for twice that.
You can find BKDs in a few tackle shops, but most are bought via the BKD web site. Yup, they have a website, but it's not exactly optimized for SEO. In fact, it looks like it was built in the 80’s. The BKD moniker doesn’t work out well online, either; Google searches will take you to everything from assisted living centers to accounting firms, but fishing lures are nowhere to be found.
4. The Willy Vac
This is such a cool invention we’re sure it’ll make it in the marine marketplace, even though the company is a one-man show that is, yes, run by the inventor, who is not exactly a marketing guy. The Willy Vac is essentially a wet/dry vacuum than you can use on just about anything – bilge water, engine coolant, even a plugged-up head. It will work when completely submerged, so it can function as a back-up bilge pump, and be plumbed to multiple in/outlets via a manifold.
This is a heavy-duty unit and it can do a wide variety of jobs, but as a result it also isn’t cheap. With a list cost of around $5,000, a Willy Vac probably isn’t going to be found on many boats under 40’ or so. That said, if you own a larger boat or yacht, this mega-vacuum/pump is something you should know about.
5. The Box Anchor
Other than its unusual looks, it’s hard to say why this one hasn’t caught on. It’s a square anchor which has eight flukes, that dig in no matter how the anchor lands. It holds with substantially less scope than usual, and works in all different bottom types. Plus, it’s hinged so you can fold it flat for easy stowage.
One of the neatest features of the Box Anchor is that it resets itself when the boat shifts. Changes in wind or current, which can cause a traditional anchor to break free, don’t seem to have any effect on the box design. When I tested one of these I was so impressed I ditched my old Danforth. I’ll bet a lot of other boaters would, too.
Want to hear more about inventions, creations, and developments that can make your life as a boater better? Check out 10 Great Inventions and Innovations in Modern Boating. And if you’ve seen some super-cool boating gadget you think the world deserves to know about, let us know in the Comments section below.