Anderson: Inventors offer array of gadgets worthy of look

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 20, 2012 - 6:24 AM

The Minneapolis Boat Show features not only the latest in watercraft, but also products designed to enhance the overall boating experience.

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The 34-foot Floe Craft was on display at the Minneapolis Boat Show.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Innovation buffs can be easily entertained at the Minneapolis Boat Show, which continues through Sunday at the Convention Center.

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 rynkel.com.

• Another of Ahmed's gadgets is equally inventive. It's a key fob, or (in appearance) ornament. Attach it to your keys, cellphone, 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, visit floatingflamer.com.

• New this year at the show for do-it-yourselfers is 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 green-lighting 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 Chan- hassen 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 sea-legs.com.

• Looking to have your boat (or vehicle) "wrapped" in a custom design? Check out Crow River Signs at the show (crowriversigns.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.

• Best fishing tip at the show: Dick (Griz) Grzywinski in the Frankie's Marine booth says that while the Mille Lacs ice has been problematic this winter, anglers are catching walleye limits simply by walking out from Terry's Boat Harbor. "Leech has been good for perch, too," Griz said.

• Walking around at the show Thursday was its former owner, Dave Perkins. Also there was Rapala USA president Tom Mackin. Rapala announced Thursday a business alliance with Marcum Technologies, maker of sonar flashers, digital fish finders and underwater cameras. Both Rapala USA and Marcum are Minnesota-based.

• Premier Marine of Wyoming, Minn., is showing off a glitzy array of its pontoon boats at the show, including the 290 Grand Entertainer, with a 250 Mercury Verado hanging on the stern (price: $66,390). "Entertainer" means it has a bar across the rear third or so of the platform, replete with sink, barbecue grill, stools -- the whole shebang. Check it out at the Riverview Sports & Marine booth, or at pontoons.com.

• Finally, Hobie continues to expand its line of fishing (and other) kayaks, including the Mirage Pro Angler, with a 600-pound payload and storage for six rods, a tackle box, downriggers, fish finder, GPS, lights and more. Check it out at the Hi Tempo booth (hitempo.com) or hobiefishing.com.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

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