The recent Minneapolis Boat Show offered plenty to keep innovation buffs easily entertained. Some examples:
-- Tucked into a booth against the show's back wall is Raihan Ahmed, whose business card describes him as "director" of Rynkel Marine of Huntley, Ill., near Chicago. Translated, he's the owner, and one of a handful of cool products he's peddling at the show is the "Fastfender," which allows boat owners to easily attach and adjust fenders to rails or cleats. Difficult to describe but easy to use, the Fastfender stays permanently attached to a fender line (and fender), and adjusts to allow the fender to hang at any distance from it. Quickly and easily, the Fastfender can be attached to a rail or cleat, allowing for boat protection regardless of dock height. "If a marine product doesn't make customers go, 'Wow,' I won't carry it, and the Fastfender is a 'wow' product," Ahmed said. Price (depending on size): $34 to $45. More at www.rynkel.com.
-- Another of Ahmed's gadgets is equally inventive. It's a key fob, or (in appearance) ornament. Attach it to your keys, cell phone, camera or anything of value, and if the item falls overboard, water reacts with a chemical in the fob, inflating a balloon, allowing for recovery. The fob also emits a flashing orange beacon that can be seen at more than 800 feet. Price: $12.
-- Whether Kurt Scepaniak's invention will sink or swim is yet to be determined, but it's innovative. Called the Floating Flamer, it's a floating ... barbecue grill. How'd he think it up? "Sitting on a sandbar with a couple of drinks in me," he said. The model Scepaniak showed me was charcoal ready. He's open to custom orders. For more, visitwww.floatingflamer.com.
-- New this year at the show for do-it-yourselfers was Fred's Shed, a thoughtful attempt to help boat owners maintain and otherwise take care of their craft. Mechanic Larry Jenc, 63, of Zimmerman, Minn., is the Shed's star. "I've been in the marine business for 40 years, the last 15 as a mobile mechanic for Marine Max," he said. The National Marine Manufacturers Association, which owns boat and sports shows nationwide, tested the maintenance idea at four shows last year before greenlighting it this season. "I did the Atlanta show this winter and it was well-received," Jenc said. Fuel system maintenance is perhaps the most popular topic with boat owners, Jenc said, as is proper propping and -- in a nutshell -- "How do I take care of what I've got?"
-- Sea-Legs -- the Chanhassen, Minn., company that manufacturers onboard pontoon lifts ($4,995) -- is now marketing a fully self-contained LED dock lighting system, powered by a solar panel. The panel powers up to 70 lights and can be turned on by hand or set to automatically trigger at dusk. Price: $995. More at www.sea-legs.com.
-- Looking to have your boat (or vehicle) "wrapped" in a custom design? Check out Crow River Signs (wwwcrowriversigns.com). Expect to fork out between $1,500 and $5,000 to wrap either a boat or truck, depending on extent and type of graphics desired.
-- Walking around at the show was its former owner, Dave Perkins. Also there was Rapala USA president Tom Mackin. Rapala announced a business alliance with Marcum Technologies, maker of sonar flashers, digital fish finders and underwater cameras. Both Rapala USA and Marcum are Minnesota-based.
Read more at http://www.goerie.com/article/20120131/NWPAOUT12/301319901/A-gadget-for-every-boat-owner