Boating's Best Gear of All Time

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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Boating editors had to have used these products aboard their own boats. The gear's reliability over time is proven. And, like electricity, these items might be taken for granted - but if we didn't have them, they'd be sorely missed. Splash!
We couldn't track down who invented the buoy-shape, take-apart key float, but we'd shake his hand if we could. Bright and buoyant, it floats dropped keys. Take it apart and store your boat's registration, fishing license or an "emergency 10-spot" in waterproof security. Free at many chandlers and marinas and with new boat purchases.
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Smooth Operator
The Tibor Everglades has the smoothest drag we've ever experienced with a fly reel, whether handling the blistering runs of false albacore or the steady bruising pull of a cow striper. Machined from aluminum bar-stock with a fully sealed cork drag, the Tibor Everglades withstands saltwater abuse. With no maintenance done in 12 years, other than rinsing it with fresh water, it's still as smooth as silk, and that's key in battling serious fish. The price tag is steep, until you factor in the cost per longevity. $640; tiborreel.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Baba Loo
Probably responsible for selling as many boats as the outboard engine, the Porta Potti has been a hit since Thetford debuted the first one in 1961. Needing little description, it provides the comfort many require, and our current one has been going strong since 1987. Now available in taller, sleeker models with battery-powered flush. Whoop-de-do! $69 to $142; jamestowndistributors.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Grip and Grin
The best handling tool we've used for toothy critters. Bluefish or northern pike are a nightmare in a net, but we can slide the BogaGrip onto their lip to keep the fish under control and use a hook remover to steer clear of losing a finger to those choppers. You can get it calibrated and certified by the International Game Fish Association for official weight recordings, though hoisting a fish by its lip could put unnecessary stress on it prior to release. But as an in-water release tool, there's nothing we've found that better keeps a gamefish under control. $125 per 30-pound grip; eastabogatackle.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
View the Water in HD
We've been using these for six years, and without a doubt they have improved our fishing, and general boating, for that matter, because they make it so easy to see beyond the water. Costa Del Mar calls them 580 polarized lenses because they block yellow light, the hardest for the human eye to process, at 580 nanometers. (Visible light ranges from about 390 to 780 nm.) The detail is phenomenal. $239 in Fathom frames; costadelmar.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Boom Town
Star brite's Oil-Absorbent Maxi-Boom costs just a few bucks but can save you thousands in potential fines: Without them the automatic bilge pump would discharge oily water overboard. They'll soak up two quarts of oil and can be wrung out and reused. $13; outerbanksoutfitters.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Stop the Bleeding
We got tired of getting slashed and bloodied by the tag ends of hose clamps whenever we worked in the bilge. So one day we bought two handfuls of these simple little rubber clamp jackets by PYI and put one on every hose clamp on the boat.They are one of the best boating inventions of all time. And they're cheap. 20 cents; pyiinc.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Double-Jointed
Think about the ingenuity of the ubiquitous ratchet antenna mount. The two adjustable joints allow you to mount a marine antenna vertically straight on just about any surface — vertical, horizontal or angled — and quickly lay it down for a low bridge or to trailer your boat. The latest iteration is Shakespeare's sleek, stainless-steel Galaxy style 5157. $62.99; shakespeare-marine.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Twist and Shout
Edson's Power Knob is the most reliable piece of marine equipment we have used. We got one in 1998. We let the electronics and safety gear go as we traded up but kept the Power Knob. Enabling us to spin the wheel lock to lock in a blink makes easy work of docking with hydraulic steering. $94; edsonmarine.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Safe, Dry Smartphones
The Whanguani is the easiest iPhone protector to stick into a pocket. The phone slides right in and seals tight with the Aquaclips — kind of like dogging down a hatch. The touch screen works through the plastic, as does the camera, and it's kept one old 3G phone safe since 2008, a record. $30; aquapac.net
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Keeps On Plugging
Before Marinco's SeaLink hit the scene in 1996, we had to replace 12-volt receptacles on an annual basis due to corrosion. But a current SeaLink has served for eight seasons installed at an exposed helm. Its O-ring seal features a twist-to-lock function, so accessory cords can't pull out, and provides an LED power indicator. $29.99; westmarine.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Hidden Hardware
Sometimes you just can't get under the deck or behind a bulkhead to through-bolt a piece of hardware or equipment. That's where the stainless-steel Garelick Toggler anchor bolt is a lifesaver. Drill a quarter-inch hole, insert the toggle, let it turn sideways, pull tight, slide the nylon collar in place, and then trim the zippered slides. Now you can through-bolt just about anything. $15.49 per pair; garelick.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Getting Behind
There are 10 of these Beckson screw-out deck plates on one of our boats. The black Beckson plates (pictured) are made of High Impact ABS for superior strength. These plates allow access under the deck and inside bulkheads to install items such as cleats and rail stanchions, as well as to service components like sending units for fuel gauges. Available in many colors and sizes. $9.44 to $31.99; beckson.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Flippin' Protection
We learned the hard way that leaving a breaker switch uncovered is an invitation to disaster. On a bumpy trip offshore, someone brushed against the panel, shutting off the livewell pump and killing all of our bait. The next day we installed these toggle guards, which require you to lift up the guard to flip the breaker. $3.89; bluesea.com
Bill Doster
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Boating's Best Gear of All Time
Stand and Deliver
Boat stands, or poppets as we call them around the boatyard, are simply invaluable for proper long-term boat storage. Sure, you could use blocks and shims to prop up your boat, but using stands makes the job easier and safer. Invented by Brownell, one of our sets is pushing 20 years old. $97 to $135 each; boatstands.com
Bill Doster