Boats: New technology enhancing boat ownership

Carolyn Sperry%%GateHouse News Service
Rides: 348420 Rides_Boat2.jpg

Ever dreamed of owning a boat? 

If you’re ready to make it happen this summer, you’re not alone — boat sales were up about 10 percent in 2012 and are projected to increase another 5 to 10 percent this year, which many see as a sign that the economy is recovering. 

“Early numbers from boat shows are strong,” says Thom Dammrich of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, with many customers shopping for smaller crafts that make boating accessible for middle-class families. 

“There’s a boat for every budget and every experience,” he says.  

Pontoon boats are very big sellers because they are so versatile — they’re great for fishing, and many come with plenty of power for waterskiing and tubing. 

Pontoons also have a nice design that accommodates a crowd. Also popular are aluminum fishing boats, says Dammrich. 

If you’re ready to start boating but have no idea what kind of boat is right for you, check out This unbiased industry site has tools to help you find the best boat for your needs, as well as a boat loan calculator and a “spousal conversion kit” that just might help convince a skeptical spouse that the time to buy a boat is right now.

Fish finders

For anglers looking to take their expeditions to the next level, fish finders have come a long way. The newest high-end models use the latest digital technology and boast great-looking screens. The Furuno FCV-627 shows you whether the lake bottom is composed primarily of rocks, sand, gravel or mud, as the actual size of individual fish on the screen. It retails for around $713 to $780. 

The ultra-cool Raymarine Dragonfly, available in March 2013, will let you view the area under your boat with “photo-like clarity” using high-resolution imaging sonar.

Joystick docking

Joystick docking is all the rage — for good reason. 

“It takes all the fear of docking away,” says Dammrich. 

Joystick docking allows the driver to move the boat in any direction and  is appearing in more and more boats. Some manufacturers have even introduced joystick controls in outboard motors.

Apps for your phone

If you haven’t looked up apps for boating, you may be overwhelmed with all the choices — many of which are free or cheap and can really enhance your boating experience. Just for starters:

- The free WindGuru app for iPhone allows you to access wind, wave and weather data instantly for locations around the world.

- Speedometer apps help you easily keep tabs on how fast you’re going. 

- Float Plan is a safety measure that allows you to easily send information about your boat trip to your loved ones onshore; if a problem does occur, it will help rescuers find you. 

- Flashlight is simply a powerful flashlight that comes with a compass.

- IKnots teaches serious sailors to tie knots.

Furuno FCV-627