As reviewed by Boating Ameirca Webmaster Mark Cameron

Here are reviews of items that are fairly new (in most cases less than a year old), that you may find  handy on your next boating trip.

Receiver Devices

Not towing for a while?

There are many ways of covering up that square hole on your receiver. An extra brake light is one way to go, but how about something new!. One item is a pair of backup lights. It mounts on each side of the receiver and gives you increased visibility while backing as well as approaching your trailer via boat. One other newer device is a propeller itself! Called a "Prop-R-Hitch" this prop spins with the wind hitting it letting all the other drivers know you are a serious boating buff, OK well maybe a little too serious, makes a great Father's Day gift! For class III and II Receivers.

Marker Minder

A Must have for River Boating.

We receive e-mail daily about river boating. From Pittsburgh to  New Orleans, Chattanooga to Paducah, San Francisco to Sacramento you can eliminate guess work in navigating waterways with this device. Costing less than $ 10.00 it mounts right on your dash and reminds you that Red is Right going upstream, as well as returning to a marina. Made of plastic and has suction cups for easy mounting.


Solar Powered Marker

You are out late at night looking for that Bullhead that got away.  You head back and before you know it you are right up on the dock with no time to slow down. This device is solar powered and is a must for you dock. It emits a pulsing led flash 24 hours a day and never needs recharged, just add sunlight!. Makes navigation around and or too your dock easier!.

Electronic Barometer

Keep an Eye on the Weather

Excellent for those long crossings on the great lakes. Also monitors temperature and humidity. If the barometer falls you know you may have bad weather coming. Likewise if it rises it ususally means fair weather.

Aqua View

Underwater Fishing Camera

Target the fish species before you cast. Basically an underwater black and white camera. Some call it a sport, and some say the camera is not for the sport. Interesting views of the fish just below your boat. The benefits are the ability to fish watch, like bird watch, to see what the fish see, see how cloudy the water is, but most of all see the kind and size of fish and where they are. I can also think of it as being useful to find last items laying on the bottom of the lake unless there is too much seaweed of course. The drawback is juggling the device while holding the fishing rod and not being able to see far in murky water, a must for a family of kids holding fishing rods. Now hitting the shelves at marinas over the U.S..

FRS Radio

Family Radio Service Radios

If you have the urge to keep in contact with your family on the shore or campgrounds this is the device for you. Normal walkie talkies use very little power with about 100 yard range or use CB bands with more wattage, but with sunpots causing a skip interference the range is limited to a mile or two. Marine Radios can reach out about eight miles on five watts but it is illegal to transmit from shore. FRS like marine radios require no license and can be legally transmitted ship to shore or shore to ship!. They work on UHF split frequencies and provide a 2-4 mile range and have 14 channels. More may be added by the FCC depending on air traffic. I could imagine a time this summer where I will be out fishing or running, while the kids will want to socialize at the beach or marina. Currently they call me on the boat by cellular phone. This device could save a lot of money on airtime calls. Great communication tool, starts at about $100 and is about the size of a small walkie talkie. Available from different brands sold by various popular eletronics stores. Currently is not monitored by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Micro Radar

Just a little larger than a depth finder

If you absolutely have to go out in fog you have to have one of these. Furuno and Si-Tex have come out with models that have a small LCD screen and offer heavy detail on the environment around your boat. Helps you track shoreline, other craft, even dock lines. They can read up to 16 nautical miles and offer the small boater the chance to go out in the dark of night and in a dead fog. The screens are around 7" X 7" and weight less than 3 pounds. The radar domes weigh in less than 8 pounds. If you are a gadget buff with $ 1800 burning a hole in your pocket then be sure to check these out. As of Fall 1998 some models have just been introduced, one starting now at $ 899.


Thunderstorm Detector

This device is the ultimate thunderstorm detector. It detects storms up to 40 miles away and then determines if the storm is parallel your position, coming, or going! It has four range selections of 20-40, 8-20, 3-8, 0-3 to set off audible warnings. Also there is a severe storm warning alert. No its not a weather radio! It requires two nine-volt batteries or can run off your cigaratte lighter or 110 adapter. It amazed me that you don't have to rely on an often delayed weather radio warning system, especially since the National Weather Service offices have been reduced in number after recent budget cuts. It also is great for the golf courses as well as other outdoor sports. As long as a storm doesn't fire up on top of you it sounds like a must have device for the inland lake boater. Its a lot cheaper than a weather radar! Retails around $ 200. Check your catalogs.

Night Ranger

Night Vision Technology

If you must go out at night this may be the gadget for you. It features ITT's Generation II Technology for night viewing, which sees much better than the human eye. If you have a tendancy (like I do) to run into stumps or hit the dock a little hard, be sure to check into this. There are two versions I have run acrossed. One for one eye, and the other for both eyes. The version I checked out was floatable and easy to handle. They both weigh about a pound (slightly above for the dual). Retails at $ 1000 for the single viewer to around $2000 for the dual. They run in two AA for the single and six lithium batteries for the dual.

Stereo 3" & 5" CD Players

Now jamming on a boat near you!

Car CD players have been around a while, but boat CD players have been hard to find in some areas. There are a few models now available for marine including one from Maxxima. This AM / FM unit features a vibration absorption system which should help as you slap the wakes and waves, three beam sensor and plays the new 3" CDs. If you enjoy music while your crusing your favorite lake you may want to check this out. 50 watts max. output. Retails around $350.

Engine Mounted Trolling Motors

No more awkward parts to handle.

I like to run shallow when I fish, and I like to head into areas around tree stumps. Great for a trolling motor right! However I have a regular 18' ski boat which is not great with a standard stern drive. This device has been on the market for a little over a year now and mounts right on the stern drive. The blades are above the anti-cavitation plates and the motor is completely out of the water during planing. There are models available for boats from 17 to 28 feet. Also a wireless remote control accessory is available. The standard kit hooks right up by your steering wheel. Now I won't have to worry about busting a blade on my Mercruiser Aplha One engine! It retails from $400 to $800 (depending on the size). Manufactured by Minn Kota.

Inexpensive GPS Technology

You might consider one for inland lake boating !

Like all technology this item has become inexpensive very quickly (like most computers do). There are models now under $100 which feature Position in Latitude / Longitude, time, speed, compass course, distance to time and destination and course error. Many of them feature a number of saved landmarks and legs. This item should help you in navigating when you venture out into a large lake like Michigan or Superior. You can also use this for positioning your favorite fishing spot!  However I have found that on winding inland lakes with coves, you can't rely on it to give you direction or you may pin point yourself right onto a secluded shoreline, but if you play with them a little (create plenty of legs) you can find your way to a cove from a large open area of water and line yourself up with a favorite landmark! Various manufacturers produce these models. Magellan has a GPS now  for around $99. Its also fun to play with in the car. Under tests it will keep you within 49 ft and 300ft of a specific spot (as I have tested using a buoy). The defense department throws the signal off a little for what they consider to be National Security. There is talk about that being abolished which will keep them within 49ft without additional add-ons. The latest advanced devices are now including detailed maps of many large inland lakes to aid in navigation.

Composite Props

An inexpensive replacement.

I have recently read about and tested one of these props. They look favorable and some have four blades! They corner well but may cost you a little in speed. I have broken a few props in my time, and this would make an excellent item for areas where you run shallow. It takes the stress off the drive train during a high speed prop strike. The main thing I like is the lower cost. I have seen it as much as 50 % off standard aluminum props. The model I experimented with is from Comprop. Prices in the low $70 range to just under $100.

Safety Horn

This one you blow into!

Its a lot cheaper than most eletric horns. It puts out 120 decibles and can be heard to about a mile in calm wind conditions. Available in three colors. You can find them for about $12.

Portable Remote Controlled Spotlight

You just push a button for the direction you want it to beam.

This device is now available for smaller boats as well as RVs and Cars delivering pizza! It has a sucton cup for surface to surface mounting and some models feature an amber lens to keep the bugs in check. Great for night docking, trailering and crime stopping. Most retail around $120. There are also a slew of rechargable spot lights, now with some up to 1,000,000 candle power. You can expect to spend around $75.

Landing Lights

Just like approaching the runway!

You've heard of guide-lights and guide-ons for trailers. I have found one that makes you feel like your coming in for a landing. A series of three lights per bunk on your trailer are mounted just to the outside of the support. When your approaching your trailer on a boat you just look for the lights. It works great submerged in nearly all water types including murky river water. It hooks up right to your existing trailer connector. Retails around $30.

E-Z Slide

In case you find yourself on a narrow ramp!

Although this product has been out a while, I thought I might review it. The kit consits of 8 to14 pads and you mount them at various positions right onto your bunk (on a non-roller trailer). When you have the situation of a non paved shallow ramp, and I have been stuck at a few, you simply splash some water onto the underside of the boat while its on the trailer and push it off. Kits are available for bunks from 5 to 14 feet long (about an 18 foot boat). It retails from $60 to around $170. The other option for easy slide off is a roller kit.

Where do you find these ?
Nearly all of them can be found at West Marine!
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Have you found any new gadgets? Let us know! Just E-Mail Mark Cameron for any handy new items you would like to share with your fellow boaters / Captains!
Copyright ©: Mark K. Cameron
Revised May 7th, 2001