Let’s be honest–Florida has just about two seasons: sweltering summer and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it winter. Even well into October, it’s not out of the question to have days reach the upper 80s (and even beyond), meaning Halloween is often more sweaty than scary. However, that also means beach, pool and, most importantly of all, boating weather is with us nearly all year long.
However, if you will be boating outside of the Sunshine State or if this season surprises us with some unseasonably cool weather (or even if not), you should take the change of seasons to prep for cooler temps and complete general maintenance after a busy summer.
Fall Boating Safety Tips
- Life Jackets are Mandatory: Yes, we all understand that life jackets can save lives, yet so many of us don’t bother wearing them when we hit the water. Whether it’s apathy, ignorance or a desire to look cool, there is no excuse for not having enough life jackets for every passenger and asking that everyone wear said life jackets. Though less a concern most of the year for Floridians, other places can see waters dip into dangerously low temperatures. A life jacket could easily keep someone above water in cold temperatures, saving his or her life.
- Check Your Lights: Even if you plan on getting back in before sunset, make sure all of your boat’s lights are working properly. It’s very easy to forget how quickly the sun begins to set in the fall months, and many get caught off guard. The last thing you want is to be forced to navigate in dark waters without fully operational lights.
- Complete Your Maintenance Checklist: With every season change, it’s a great opportunity to go through your maintenance checklist, checking for damage, doing a deep clean on your vessel and ensuring all safety equipment is tip-top. You do not want to have an emergency and realize your potentially life-saving equipment is out of date or too damaged to use.
- Watch the Weather: Fall weather can be unpredictable. Make sure you check a forecast and continue to keep tabs on the meteorological outlook throughout the day to ensure you’re dressed for the right temperatures and can clear the way for any quickly forming storms.
No matter where you’re hitting the water, make sure your vessel is safe to operate, you and all passengers are wearing life jackets, you keep an eye on the weather and ensure your lights are functional before getting into some quality fall boating. Boat safely and we’ll see you on the water!
Can you believe we’re already knee deep into the third quarter of 2017? That being said, it’s been a fantastic year to be on the water, with little in the way of major action in the tropics to put a damper on our fun. As time passes, boating, like everything, advances at what feels like an ever-quickening rate.
Don’t worry–if you can’t keep up, you’re not alone. But, as people with our ear to the ground (or is it water?), here are a few of 2017’s biggest boat trends (so far).
Top 3 Boat Trends You Should Know About
- Digital Everything: From throttles to dashboards, more and more of our modern boats tend to be going digital. Digital replacements of complicated, traditionally mechanical parts not only provide often far smoother operation but also reduce the amount of moving parts that boat owners have to worry about repairing. On the digital dashboard front, new touchscreen LCDs are not only aesthetically pleasing but allow for more information to be displayed in one place, including GPS and weather reports.
- LEDs: When it comes to lighting, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Not only are traditional bulbs less energy efficient (putting a bigger strain on your battery), but they are far less reliable, especially on the water. Longer lasting and relatively easy to install, LEDs are also highly customizable, allowing boaters to change colors on the fly in some models.
- Convertible Seating: If a minivan can have fold-away seating or a bench that turns into two separate seats, why can’t your boat? Whether taking a romantic trip for two or a full-family excursion, your next boat may be able to accommodate with convertible, highly customizable seating.
Of course, the above three trends are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new boat trends sweeping the scene. The one commonality among all three, though, is the fact that all are new methods of making boating easier, more intuitive and less of a hassle. Like trending tech advancements everywhere, time brings boating innovation that we’re sure to enjoy well into the future. For now, enjoy the digital displays and throttles, LED lighting and convertible seating that help make modern boating a breeze.
As you may have heard, we’re officially living in the future now. Though we may be a ways off from hoverboarding to work, when it comes to self-driving tech, we may only be a decade or two away from seeing a steering-wheel-less world. With this technology already in testing on our roadways today, the question nearly asks itself: are autonomous boats on the horizon as well?
When people conceptualize autonomous boats and cars, they’re usually filled with a complicated swirl of interest and concern; that is completely normal, we promise. Though it may be appealing to imagine waking up for the hour-long commute to work every morning just to turn that into an hour-long nap, how much can we trust that our trusty robot chauffeur isn’t going to steer us directly into Farmer Jim’s cow farm instead of the turnpike?
If the general success of self-driving car testing is any indicator, autonomous boats may be safer than you’d think. Though there have been cases of accidents involving cars in autonomous mode (one of which was fatal), for the most part, this tech has begun showing real promise on real roads, performing such complicated tasks as anticipating sudden stops, avoiding swerving cars and generally flowing with traffic. All of these advancements surely imply that tech would only improve and apply directly to autonomous boats. Oh, and MIT is also developing the tech behind it, so there’s that.
Along with two Dutch universities, MIT is working on a project playfully coined as the Roboat, which will launch in the form of ferries in the near future. On the commercial front, this tech could lead to the automation of cargo ships, which Rolls-Royce is actively researching. Though leisure boating hasn’t been the focus of autonomous boat technology, there is no question that these advancements could leak into the retail market at any moment.
Would you be interested in a self-driving boat or do you think that’s half the fun? Regardless of the future, the control of today’s boats is most certainly in your hands, which means safety is as well. Always be sure to follow posted wake limits, double check your safety equipment before departing and keep an eye out for fellow boaters. That is, until you can leave the navigation to Wall-E or Rosie the Robot.
For more on the future of autonomous boats, check out this excellent article from ComputerWorld.com.
Outboard vs. inboard motors–boaters often have some deep-seated opinions on this debate. Instead of taking a side (and bracing for hate mail), we decided to get the facts together so that you can be better informed before buying your next boat. Let’s break down the benefits to both propeller pushers.
The Outboard vs. Inboard Motors Debate
For the uninitiated, outboard motors hang off of the stern of the boat and provide the following benefits to boaters:
- Safer travel in shallower waters. Outboard motors can be adjusted or lifted completely out of the water to avoid running aground.
- More space on your deck and below deck. Though an outboard will take up some space at the stern, it is often much less than the space needed to house an inboard motor.
- Much easier maintenance. Repairs are extremely easy to conduct since the motor is not in a confined, cramped engine compartment.
Inboard motors are not without merit, however. Sitting in an engine compartment under the deck, they provide boaters:
- A lower center of gravity, which may help keep a boat upright in rough seas.
- Better horsepower and torque, depending on the model. Many inboard motors are larger and more powerful than their outboard counterparts.
- A quieter ride, as the motor is tucked in a compartment onboard instead of our in the open.
Another consideration is how the boat feels to maneuver. Inboard motors require much more power to steer in a particular direction, while outboard motors are a bit more easily handled. It’s definitely a personal preference decision, but one you should keep in mind if you are used to one propulsion method or the other.
The outboard vs. inboard debate is sure to rage on, but as long as you’re on the water, it’s hard to have a bad time. Do your homework, ask a friend and buy the boat that best suits your wants and needs.
Regardless of the boat you choose, when it’s time to dock up, Hi-Tide will be there to give you a lift.
Though many Florida boaters are happy to frequently hit the saltwater seas due to our close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters, many others take advantage of our smattering of fresh, inland waters. Whether pleasure cruising on the St. Johns River or fishing for largemouth bass on Lake Okeechobee, there is no shortage of inland waters to explore in The Sunshine State.
Though, in general, the same laws and best practices apply whether in fresh or saltwater, there may be a few differentiators you should consider before switching from lake to ocean boating.
Factors to Consider Before Switching to Saltwater
- Saltwater is very corrosive, making rinsing your boat with freshwater after trips on the ocean a necessity to avoid damage over time.
- Boats and ships regularly used in saltwater can have reduced life expectancies, due to the corrosive nature of saltwater.
- Engines should be flushed after use in saltwater to avoid damage.
- Drinking and boating laws do not change on inland waters.
- In general, no major modifications need to be made to allow your boat onto both fresh and saltwater bodies of water.
Our main takeaway: Florida is full of both inland waters and open ocean that are ripe for boating, fishing and fun. Be sure to note and respect the corrosive power of saltwater, especially after your trip, when a simple wash and rinse may help you avoid costly repairs down the road. Follow boating laws and best practices and enjoy your time on fresh and salt waters safely while keeping these differentiating factors in mind.