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Making a Splash

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You might, like many Americans, be eager to get out of the house—especially if you’ve been sheltering in place for a while. Unlike many Americans, though, you have the tremendous advantage of having the Gulf in all its glory practically in your backyard. According to Philip Osborne, vice president of operations for Naples Boat Mart, if you’re yearning to get out on the water, you’re not alone. “We’re seeing a lot more of a lifestyle boater,” he says. “Two or three years ago, or even pre-COVID, our customers really sort of broke down into hardcore fish people or people who wanted to cruise some distance, and now we’re seeing a high number of people that are just interested in being on the water for the day, with the family.”

Sounds like a plan—but you shouldn’t go empty-handed. From safety gear to sleek accessories, here are some top-selling products from local vendors that will have you riding the waves in style.

West Marine has locations all over Florida, including Naples and Cape Coral, and is a great source for gear, too. Our recommendations include a Tec 40 waterproof flashlight from Princeton Tec with a halogen bulb that’s surprisingly powerful, especially since it only uses AA batteries, and waterproof binoculars for taking in wildlife and other scenery. Too much power is harder to use on a moving boat; the Coastal 200 7×50 ’nocs are a nice balance of strength and versatility. Plus, a solar smartphone charger is a small gadget that could come in extremely handy.

Brent Pike is parts and accessories administrator for The Boat House of Cape Coral (there’s a Naples location, too). According to Pike, safety sells: “The most common thing [we sell] is safety equipment, everything to make you legal on the water. We have what we call a Coast Guard kit with dock lines, life preservers, anchor, anchor lines, stuff like that.” You’re also going to want something a little more reliable than a cell phone for offshore communication, he said. “We always try to push a VHF radio when anybody buys a boat as a safety-oriented thing.”

And while maintenance products and engine additives (of which they have a good supply) are eminently worthwhile, The Boat House also has you covered if you want something a little more fun. Give your music situation more kick by upgrading to a Fusion sound system featuring AM and FM reception and internal Bluetooth capacity.

Osborne especially recommends having a locator beacon, either an EPIRB or PLB … or both. “Those are standalone, GPS-enabled devices that, in the event of a problem, can transmit a GPS location without any user input beyond pushing a button that says, ‘Hey, I’m in trouble,’” he says. “It’s gonna send help to where you are without having to think about it.”

Technology has also given quite a boost to fishing enthusiasts. “Garmin has got some really neat technology out there, like DownVü and SideVü, or Panop-tix—that’s one of the sonars that can look in front of the boat or 360 degrees around it and tell you where the fish are relative to your boat,” Osborne says.

To set an onboard mood, Osborne advises looking into lighting. “We do a product called Seablaze from Lumitec, which is a multicolor underwater light, almost like a pool light, that changes and goes through different colors while it’s on. Those are really cool. There are companies out there that produce LED lighting that actually ties into your stereo; you can put these lights inside your speakers and a pattern will flash in accordance with the music that’s playing.”

Oh, and one more tip: Don’t forget the cooler. Osborne is a fan of Ingall and Yeti.

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