Monday, June 17, 2013
Boating is in my blood. As I was growing up, I took advantage of any chance I could to spend time on the water with my friends and family. In fact, I represent the fifth generation of my family to spend time at our rustic cabin on the St. Lawrence River. But I got away from boating as a young adult, and I might not have returned if it weren’t for the birth of my two sons.
Here are the reasons I would recommend the boating lifestyle to ANY family, whether boating is in your blood or not.
1. Fun for all. Do you and your kids love sports like swimming, fishing, tubing, waterskiing and wakeboarding? Great! But there are plenty of other ways to have fun on a boat. Just think of the art, science or music projects you can conduct on the water! The important part is that boating gets you out on the water together where there is no schedule, few distractions, just a focus on family time.
2. A chance to unplug. If there’s one thing that thrills me about boating with the kids, it’s that our boat doesn’t have a screen. It’s our opportunity to unplug as a family and focus on having fun outside together in the natural world.
3. Get away without going far. You hear a lot these days about the benefits of the “stay-cation,” especially how easy it is on the wallet. A great way to take a break without going far is to get out on a boat. No matter where you boat, there’s something about being on the water that provides that much needed escape from the day-to-day routine, whether it’s for an hour, an afternoon or an entire week.
4. A healthy choice. As a mom, I’m always looking for family fun that I can feel good about, and boating definitely fits the bill. When we’re looking for a fun day away from it all, we’ll pick a park we can boat to and bring along a picnic lunch, a soccer ball and our bathing suits. It’s a great formula for bringing the family together, having fun, staying active and eating healthy.
5. A boat for every income. There are some people out there that are convinced that boating is a luxury that only rich people can afford. But it’s simply not true. Many entry-level boats can be purchased for a monthly payment of around $200. That’s how much many of us spend per month on things like dinners out, movies and video games. I like those as much as the next person, but in today’s economy, sometimes we have to choose. And as a mom, the choice is clear to me. When I think about the kind of life I want my kids to live and the memories I want them to have, a boat wins out, hands down.
P.S. Does your kids’ world revolve around their friends? Boating is a golden opportunity for any parent to keep their teen or pre-teen close while getting to know their friends. We all want to be the “cool” parents, don’t we? Trust me: A boat will add to your cool factor.
By Liz Walz
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The ABC’s of Cooking Aboard Your Boat
If you’ve been boating for a while, you may find yourself getting bored with the same old sandwiches and chips. And while on-the-water restaurants are convenient, you’re still somewhat limited by access, menu selection and hours of operation. But with a little planning and the following handy tips, your taste buds (and your guests) will be happy and satisfied out on the boat.
No matter how you slice it, the galley on your boat is smaller than your home kitchen. When you’re working with a small microwave, a single-burner stove or even a propane or electric grill, you’re going to need to scale back your production. Small cooking surfaces mean small food. Appetizers, salads and single-pan meals can be pulled together quickly and easily. Let the cozy confines be your inspiration!
Being able to enjoy a long, hot summer day on the water is what boating is all about. However, the rocking motion of the waves combined the afternoon sun, means you want to steer clear of a menu filled with hot and heavy and stick to cool and light. Ditch the recipes that would require your guests to sit down with a knife and fork. A good steak may be your idea of a great boat meal. Can’t argue with that. But why not transform it into a quick-cooking kebab that includes your veggies and can be eaten easily while relaxing on deck.
Your best mealtime friend when cooking aboard your boat might just be a quart or gallon-sized plastic food storage bag. You can use them to store pre-chopped vegetables, marinate meats, and a hundred other time-saving ways. After all, you want to your time on the water entertaining your guests, not hunched over a chopping board. The more you can do ahead of time, the less chance you’ll forget a key ingredient. Prepped food takes up less space in the fridge or cooler, and you can reuse the bags to store any leftovers or use the bags to clean up after the meal.
Whether on land or sea any chef can benefit from the mantra: Clean as you go. But in a galley, things can get out of hand quickly if you leave all the mess until the end. Get in the habit of tidying up while you’re cooking. A little bit here, a little bit there, and you’ll have more room to work, you’ll be more relaxed, and the meal will add to your fun, rather than just adding another chore. One quick thing to remember…resist the temptation to let your guests toss any uneaten food overboard. Always pack out whatever you pack in.
For more information on boating activities, please visit DiscoverBoating.com.
Monday, April 22, 2013
If you’ve enjoyed fishing all your life, you’ve got a great opportunity to say thanks and help preserve that way of life for the next generation. And if you’re just getting started, why not begin the right way, with respect for the water, your catch, and the young anglers who will follow in your wake.
Catch & Release
This should be pretty obvious, but recreational fishing can get out of balance in a hurry if everybody only practices Catch & Take. Not to say that there’s anything at all wrong with catching your supper, but be reasonable and let the rest keep swimming until the next time.
Structure or artificial reefs can have an unbelievable impact on fishing stocks. They provide a habitat for fish, crustaceans and shellfish where none existed before. Most states have reef program, so make sure yours is active and see how you can participate. Check this out: An artificial reef the size of an automobile can produce thousands of pounds of fish over five years.
Champion Water Quality
Remember that everything that goes into the ground has the potential to reach a waterway. To reduce the need for cleaning products, always wash your boat down with fresh water after every use. And when you do need to clean your boat, choose non-toxic options where available. Also, some lawn fertilizers can cause troublesome algae blooms, which can seriously damage fisheries. Always opt for low-phosphorous fertilizers to avoid those problems.
With government agencies and waterfront communities limiting water access for ordinary anglers and boaters, you need to be vigilant about defending your rights and speaking up. Make yourself known at neighborhood, city, county and state meetings. Sometimes a well-informed and persistent of anglers with a simple message of access is all that stands between a new gated community or a non-water-dependent development and the preservation of your local boat ramp.
Inspire Young Anglers
The earlier you teach a child about the joys of fishing, the sooner you’ll instill a lifelong desire to conserve and protect fisheries and become thoughtful stewards of the great outdoors. Just lead by example and you’ll be amazed at how your lessons take hold and inspire the next generation to preserve the future of fishing.
For more Fishing Tips visit Discover Boating..
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Which came first, the angler who liked to ski, or the skier who liked to fish? Whatever the answer, ever since that combination came about, there have been boat builders who have been trying to find the perfect balance of features to satisfy both desires. The result the popular hybrid boat style, appropriately called a Fish & Ski. Available in either fiberglass or aluminum, the key in finding the right boat for you is to decide which will be your primary activity.
If you’re an avid angler, you want to look for wide casting platforms with comfortable pedestal seats that can be stowed away when not in use. At least one good-sized livewell and perhaps even a baitwell, are must-haves, and you’ll get plenty of use out of lockable rod storage. Outboard-powered Fish & Ski models definitely need an elevated ski tow eye to keep the ski rope up off the motor. Also, look for an oversided in-floor locker to store kneeboards, life jackets and other watersports gear.
Most Fish & Ski boats will feature a full, wrap-around windshield so make sure your line of sight is below the windshield header. Flip-up seat bolsters and adjustable seats, along with a tilt steering wheel will also come in handy. Since this is a multi-purpose boat by its very nature, you should be able to do a little entertaining and cruising as well, so look for boats that offer good seating options as well as cupholders and perhaps a built-in cooler.
Styling & Storage
This is a pretty subjective category, but as far as styling goes, you should lean toward the main purpose of the boat — anglers will probably want high-gloss paint and themed graphics, while skiers will be looking for a mono-colored hull with accent colors. Storage should feature easy-to-open hardware on hatches, access doors wide enough for your biggest gear, and dedicated-purpose, built-in areas for tackle or watertight boxes for electronics gear.
If you plan on doing a lot of skiing, think about upgrading the outboard motor to 150-horsepower and up. No one has ever been out on the water with a boat full of kids and gear and thought: “I’ve got too much power.” Look for a well-balanced boat that doesn’t give you too much bowrise when you’re trying to get a skier out of the water. Top speed on these boats will be about 40-50 mph. Although Fish & Ski models may sometimes look like a bass boat, their DNA more closely resembles a bowrider with a deadrise of 18-21 degrees. Look for boats that turn smoothly and track well for the best watersports performance. Although you’ll probably want a boat with a trolling motor on the bow, you want to balance that with extra freeboard toward the front to help you operate safely in rough water.
*photo provided by Polar Kraft boat
Monday, March 25, 2013
When searching for the perfect offshore fishing boat, you need to focus on models that give you plenty of room for fighting your catch, while providing easy access to all of your angling gear and safety equipment. And if you’re going to be heading offshore, sooner or later you’re going to run into rough water — and that’s the time you be glad you made the boat’s seaworthiness a primary factor in your purchase decision. Obviously you’ll see a direct correlation between cost and overall length, so remember that you might be better off making sure you’ve got all the fishing features you will need as opposed to maximizing the size.
Look for an uncluttered cockpit that provides maximum fishing space. You will appreciated padded thigh-high gunwales and toe rails for safety when things get rough. Clever use of space will result in convenient seats for your guests while running that fold out of the way when it’s fishing time. If you will be trolling, you must include “comfortable helm station” on your must-have list since that’s where the skipper will be spending most his time.
If you’ll be fishing for species that go for live bait, it can’t be emphasized strongly enough how much you’ll be depending on your one (if not two) high-capacity, recirculating livewells. There’s no running back to the dock if you’re out in the open water, so make sure you bait lasts as long as you do. A large rigging station will also make your time on the water much easier — look for an oversized cutting board and dedicated, easy-access spaces for all your knives, pliers and lures. If you’ll be trolling, you absolutely must have outriggers and downriggers to maximize your chances for success. If the boat builder you’re considering doesn’t offer downriggers as an option, make sure the boat is pre-drilled to accept them. Dedicated “cradles” for downrigger weights is also a great idea.
Most offshore boats have built-in rod storage in the gunwales, along with several in the stern, and “rocket launchers” above the T-Top. Make sure everything is easy to reach, and the gear will not be in your way when stowed. Never hurts to have a couple of locking panels to secure your rods temporarily if you need to leave the boat at the dock. And when you land your prize catch, make sure you’ve got large, insulated fish boxes with macerators and overboard drains.
If you’re like most offshore anglers, you’ll likely be running as fast as conditions allow when you’re cruising the waters looking for fish. Many fishing boats have no problem cruising at 50 mph. If you’ll be fast-trolling for certain species, you will want a boat that doesn’t slog at pre-planing speeds. And here’s something else you will appreciate on those long, hot days on the water: Find a boat that “tracks” well, meaning it won’t need constant course correction. Since you’ll be running hard most of the time, nimble handling is a must for quickly avoiding random debris you’ll inevitably come across. Remember that you may be in rough conditions more often that you’ll be in flat calm seas. When you conduct sea trials, make sure you try a variety of conditions to make sure you’ll have an acceptably comfortable and stable ride.
For more fishing information, discover our activuty pages.
Image courtesy of Hatteras Yachts
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
If you are an angler living up north, you’ve probably spent the long winter ice fishing with your buddies. Nothing like the experience of cooking up a hearty meals and waiting to feel that tug on your jigging stick that indicates you’ll be pulling up a bass, pickerel, perch or pike.
However, as much fun as this is, we all look forward to ice out. It’s a new season filled with phenomenal fishing on lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers. Life is rejuvenated; a million species are moving, waking up and coming out in the warming landscape.
In addition to seeing all the organisms in the water start doing their thing one of the best things to do while fishing is to watch the migrating waterfowl, eagles, hawks, osprey, cormorants and loons. These birds are not only beautiful to watch, but play a role in locating baitfish. Of course, the electronic savvy angler really doesn’t need the birds, but you should still tune in to them for the information they are relaying. As good as your sonar is, it doesn’t swoop down to the water and fly away with lunch.
Spring turnover happens to be an awesome time for reeling in those fish. The fresh oxygen filled water brings most species of fish up and about like our first cup of coffee gets us moving.
Largemouth bass tend to hang back a little more — enjoying their winter retreat — compared to smallmouth, trout and pan fish. So if you’re only targeting largemouth, remember that they can be located in a number of different areas, making it a bit longer between fish. They could be in staging areas outside flats. Just like the rest of the year, they will always relate to cover — obviously weed lines have died but you can usually find a mound, some weeds that didn’t rot and float away, stumps, rocks, old tires etc.
Sometimes the winter ice has moved things around, changing an underwater stump or log location, which only adds to the fun of locating new spots. You’ll have the best luck with jerk baits (hard and soft) and stick baits. Fish using slow, erratic, pauses, twitches to trigger strikes while retrieving the bait.
A slow-rolling spinnerbait is also a pretty good bet when you’ve got a good assortment of hard structure. It’s not just the slow roll, but the pause and drop when it really starts working. Although you’ve probably read that smallmouth bass are supposed to be a bit lethargic at ice out, but something about a flashy spinner that really gets them going. On warmer days with sun, you should be able to tear it up on the flats. Once you get a few days of good sun, and the water temps edge up closer to 60 degrees, the bass are definitely heading shallow — from there it’s on!
Article and photos courtesy of New England fishing legend Dan Kenney (www.gofishdan.com)
For more fishing articles visit Discover Boating.
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Tips For Boating In Shallow Water
One of the best bits of boating advice I’ve ever heard was from a crusty old fishing guide as we headed out of a marina near Key West, Florida. As we carefully navigated through the notoriously shallow waters, he pointed to a group of birds walking in the water only a few yards away from the tiny channel we were passing through. He said, “Never assume the birds have long legs.”
While you should always be aware of your surroundings when you’re at the helm, you should be on full alert whenever you’re entering an area with shallow or “skinny” water. Whether it’s an area that’s filled with boat-crunching coral like Key West or a muddy tributary to the Mississippi River, a cavalier attitude can get you grounded, stuck or worse. But with a little common sense and the following tips, you can boldly cruise skinny water with confidence.
Although boat electronics were once priced out of the reach of many average boaters, today there are lots of reasonably priced devices out there to help in shallow-water situations. For most folks, it will be a depth finder. But if your conditions are extreme, it makes sense to consult a chart…either electronic or paper. They contain valuable information called “soundings” that show the depths of any particular area you may be traveling. What you’re really looking for are the areas where the water suddenly gets shallower. Steer clear of those areas.
By all means, know your boat’s draft. That’s a number, normally measured in inches, that tells you how much of your boat is underwater, from the lowest part of your boat up to the waterline. The easiest (and most accurate) way to get this information is from your owner’s manual or the boat manufacturer’s website. In a pinch, you can estimate this number by dividing the overall length (measured from bow to stern at the waterline) by two. Keep in mind that unless you’ve got a jet drive, you’ll also have a spinning prop or two at about that depth, so always trim up when things start to get shallow.
This is where those high-tech polarized sunglasses really earn their keep. As you’re underway, you’ll be able to see a variety of different colors under the water. Look for drastic changes in color, and always be aware that darker usually means deeper. Some parts of the country have little jingles to help you remember such as: Brown, brown, run aground. White, white you just might. Green, green, nice and clean. Blue, blue, sail on through.
Even if you got through some skinny water yesterday without incident, you always need to check the tide schedule before trying it again. Many coastal areas deal with a significant tidal change of up to several feet, making low tide extremely treacherous when you’re shoving off. Worse still, you could snake your way to some great flats fishing, then find yourself stranded for hours until the tide comes back in. Don’t let this happen to you!
Unless you’re cruising on a pontoon, more than likely your boat has what’s called a “planing hull.” That means it will sit lower in the water until you reach an “on-plane” speed, which is different for every boat. Once on plane, your boat will lift and rise up out of the water, giving you a little more shallow-water clearance from the bottom. The problem is, if you’re running at planing speed and suddenly come up on a shallow area, your reaction will likely be to pull the throttle back completely. That can run you aground (as the boat drops off plane) or worse. Just run slowly and stay off plane if there’s a chance of shallow water. Better to bump something and be able to back off gently than run aground hard and risk damage to you, your passengers or your boat.
For more boating tips visit DiscoverBoating.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
If you live (and fish) near the coast, you always have to be aware of (and plan around) the ebb and flow of tides. And what can make your fishing expedition even more challenging is that tides don’t just make the water go up and down, they actually change the feeding habits of the fish and, more importantly, the areas where you’ll find them.
So, instead of the “hot spots” or “honey holes” your inland anglers may know like the back of their hand after countless hours of “research,” coastal fisherman have an additional factor to consider — they have to anticipate where the fish will be on a rolling 6-hour schedule of water moving up and down. Not to say one is harder than the other, but that in either case, you’d better know what you’re doing or you will wind up doing more fishing than catching.
GET A TIDE CHART
Back in the day, you would get a tide chart as a placemat under your plate at any early-morning breakfast place anywhere near a coastal launch ramp or marina. Now, you’re likely better served with a smartphone app with an up-to-the-minute calculation of your exact area’s daily tide schedule. The iPhone app Tide Graph is pretty solid, although not recommended as a navigational aid. You could also just go straight to the source and head to the NOAA tidal website. There are, of course, four tides over any given 24-hour period (two highs and two lows), and what you are looking for is a graph-style chart with a wavy line showing highs at the top of the curve and lows at the bottom. Your best shot at the fish will be right in the middle between high tide and low tide.
GET ON THE BAIT
Much like the quote widely (and erroneously) attributed to Willie Sutton — “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” — you need to find the buffet where your fish species likes to dine. That means tracking down the areas where smaller fish and crustaceans will be pushed along with the incoming or outgoing water. Willie knew where the money was, and your predator fish will know where they can get breakfast. Likely spots for this will be creek or river inlets or where the flow of the water is at an angle, hitting a peninsula or sandbar. This is where “flats” fisherman find their happy place, especially as an incoming tide covers up previously exposed areas.
GO WITH THE FLOW
As the tide starts to ebb, the smaller fish that had been washed up into the flats have to head to deeper water or risk getting stranded high and dry on land. That’s when you start looking for a deep channel right next to the flats. It’s usually right where the wettest area is, because that’s where the last water was. As the water continues to drop, you should be able to see where and how the outflow is moving. If you can see it, so can your target species. Make sure you’re securely anchored and start casting upstream, so your bait can enjoy the ride down into the waiting chompers of the predator fish that will be facing the current. Catch fish. Celebrate. Repeat.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
If you’re searching for the perfect family boat, you may have run across a question that lots of folks have asked — what’s the difference between a deck boat and a bowrider? While both are great options for dayboating, each has its own strengths, so the best way to compare is to put them side-by-side and see what’s best for your family’s needs.
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing bowriders and deck boats is that they look a little different. But, other than the shape of the hull and forward deck, you can find similar styling options such as hull graphics and gel coat colors that range from wild to mild, depending on your personal tastes. As you are searching for your new boat, you’ll likely discover that certain manufacturers design boats that seem to match your family’s personality.
Because of the different hull shapes, bowriders and deck boats will tend to handle in a different way. Again, this is a personal preference. While deck boats will have flatter bottom and a little less bowrise (the lifting of the front of the boat when accelerating), bowriders will have some type of V-hull, which comes to a point in the front and generally turns more sharply, particularly at higher speeds.
If you’re shopping for a family boat, chances are at least someone you’ll be bringing along on the water will want to participate in some type of watersport. That can be anything from swimming to wakeboarding to tubing. Most deck boats and bowriders will have some type of “tow eye” at the back of the boat that’s bolted into the deck for you to secure a towrope. Many also give you the option of adding a tower or other type of elevated point of attachment point for the rope. Be sure to check out those features, along with the size and ease-of-use of the rear deck/swim platform.
You will usually have more seating and storage aboard a deck boat, compared to a bowrider of the same size. This is because the beam (width) of a deck boat is carried further forward, rather than tapering off to a point like a typical bowrider. Some people, however, prefer the styling and handling advantages of a bowrider. That’s particularly true if you will usually be hitting the water with a smaller crew and don’t need the extra storage and legroom.
While both deck boats and bowriders are built strong to withstand a wide variety of water conditions, there are inherent differences. On flat calm water or even a light chop, there is very little difference in the feel of the ride. Since this will likely be the type of condition you’ll see most of the time on protected lakes and rivers, it may not be a big issue for you. But the flatter hull of the deck boat won’t be quite as effective as the V-hull of a bowrider at slicing through waves if the wind should kick up or if you’re on bigger water like a bay. On the other hand, the width and stability of a deck boat are points worth considering, particularly if you have young children on board.
Find Your Bowrider here
Find your Deck Boat here
Thursday, January 10, 2013
New Online Tools Help Consumers Navigate Boat Purchase With Confidence.
Whether you’re a newcomer to boating or you’re a veteran on the water, there’s something about boat show season that rekindles your excitement during the chillier months and keeps you hanging on until that spring thaw has you counting down until launch day.
It comes around every year about this time, from January through April or so, and draws you inside for a climate-controlled look at gleaming new gelcoat, sparkling aluminum and an expansive collection of accessories and gadgets you never knew you needed.
For some of us, our visit will be aspirational…a good way to start thinking about our next upgrade. For others, it’s bold new adventure in learning about the different brands, local dealers, and all the latest innovations that have been developed to improve boat handling, passenger safety, and pure enjoyment of the water.
The best place to start your boat show adventure is to visit Discover Boating’s handy online Boat Show Finder here. Using your zip code, this search tool allows you to narrow your search in a 200- to 50-mile radius. When it locates your show (or shows), you’ll get a convenient link to the website where you’ll find all the information you will need. The website includes everything from driving and parking directions to a complete, searchable database of brands and dealerships which will be exhibiting at the show.
Once you track down your local show, the fun can really start, particularly if you’re in the market for a new boat. That’s because it’s time to begin the “research” part of your journey. And the first place to start is the Discover Boating Boat Selector Tool that lets you narrow down the kind of boat that will be perfect for you and your family. You can choose from a range of category filters and adjust each one until you find your “dream boat.” Categories include Activities, Number of Passengers, Boat Length, Price Range, Propulsion, and even whether you’ll be trailering your boat or keeping it in the water or dry storage.
The great thing about the Boat Locator Tool is that your whole family can feel part of the process by contributing their own “wish list.” Maybe you love freshwater fishing, but your family is into watersports. Or maybe you have a need for speed and your wife has always dreamed about a cabin cruiser you can use for overnight trips. By mixing and matching everyone’s wants and needs, you may come across a type of boat you’ve never even heard about.
You can even find out about certified boat dealers, financing and insurance options, and warranty information all before you even walk through the door of the boat show. A little preparation leads to more confidence that you’re making a smart, well-informed decision that works for you and your family. And knowing that you’re armed with the latest information may just help you enjoy the boat show experience even more.