Best Boating Accessory Finds
Published: Thursday, November 28, 2019
By: Dan Armitage
Several favorite accessories have earned a place aboard our boat. Some, like the Island Hopper platform and the PowerKnob, are newbies, earning their spot after just this past season of use. Others have been added over the years and continue to withstand the test of time, use, and value to us as we cruise the waters of the Great Lakes. Here are a few that have passed the water test.
By far the most popular accessory we added this season actually beckoned guests off the boat and added a new dimension – not to mention lounging, swimming, and launching space – when it was time to anchor-up and play. After pinning the boat in place with the Talon Shallow Water Anchor (see my fishing gear article about that one), we’d break out the Island Buddy, inflating the water platform in minutes using a 12 volt inflator, and toss it over the side. With that, we’d have an 8x12-foot waterfront patio that supports 1000 lbs and was perfect for launching kayaks and SUPs, swimming around, and sunning topside. We even had guests fish from the Buddy, and more than one dog has launched itself into Sandusky Bay from the portable dock that feels and performs more like a rigid structure than an inflatable. But that’s the key – while boaters around us flopped around on floating mats that supported little weight and then struggled to stow the bulky foam for the ride back to the dock, we just deflated our Island Buddy and rolled it into a compact, 12x36-inch package when we were done.
A perfect complement to the Island Buddy is a remarkable beverage holder we discovered mid-season. The Non-Tipping Can Holder from Toadfish Outfitters uses a suction cup at the base that allows you to stick the sturdy holder on any non-porous surface – such as the Island Buddy, boat console, or SUP deck – where it remains secure and accessible while keeping its contents cool. Check out the website to see it perform – and to learn about Toadfish’s support of the marine environment.
Speaking of SUPs, in our experience Magma offers the best racks on the market for boaters who want to ferry their boards and kayaks to distant waters. Built of stainless steel, the racks compression-clamp into flush mounted rod holders, where the gimbal-mounted racks can be adjusted and locked into any position to secure a single ‘yak or a pair of SUPs. Yes, you do need a pair of flush-mounted rod holders atop the gunwale to employ the Magmas, but if you don’t, it might be worthwhile to install them just so that you can use these handy, rugged racks to secure your paddle craft out of the way while underway.
One of the handiest accessories we installed and tested this season will remain a mainstay on any wheel-steered boat I ever own. Edson Marine’s PowerKnob has practically kept my hands off the wheel ever since we installed the steering knob that makes low-speed, close-quarters maneuvering a breeze – especially when these situations require quick adjustments of the wheel. At cruising speed, I find the knob-in-hand more secure on our stainless steel wheel, especially if my hands are wet. The PowerKnob is one of those after-market accessories that, once installed and used, will have you asking “how’d I manage without this?!”
Since testing the portable jump starters several years ago, we are a four-Weego household. We have Weegos aboard the boat, my motorcycle, and both vehicles, where the small-but-mighty lithium-polymer-powered jump-starters have come in handy – and impressed onlookers with jumper cables – several times. While we have been pleased with our smaller, less powerful 22 and 22S models, Weego’s new 66.1 Jump Starter may be a good choice for boaters with bigger engines, as it has enough power to jump practically any gas or diesel marine engine up to five liters and offers 12V accessory power, 19V laptop charging, and up to 30 hours of light from a 600-lumen flashlight.
My wife’s second-favorite boating accessory find of the season – behind the Island Hopper, atop which she was found all summer – was also the least expensive. After I endured a four hour round-trip ride across rough Gulf of Mexico waters to fish some oil platforms, I found first-hand why bean bag-type chairs are getting popular among offshore boaters to offer comfort to passengers on bouncy runs. Back on shore, I discovered how pricey the marine grade chairs are. When I stumbled across a selection of bean bag chairs at Walmart for one-fifth the price of the marine models, I took the bait. Actually filled with foam pellets encased in quick drying vinyl skins, we now own “his and her” Walmart bags, which float, are lightweight, and conform to any shape and position required to comfortably read, catch some rays, watch a rod tip, or endure a rough ride home.
About the Author
Dan Armitage is a popular Great Lakes-based outdoor writer and host of the Buckeye Sportsman show (buckeyesportsman.net), syndicated weekly on 30 radio stations across Ohio. Dan is a certified Passport to Fishing instructor and leads kids fishing programs at Midwest boat and sport shows, and is a licensed Captain with a Master rating from the US Coast Guard.