Each year new gadgets, designs, and features drive boaters to trade in, trade up, or just turn their heads and appreciate the coolest new thing.

The well-spring of human ingenuity does not skip the boating fraternity. Each year new gadgets, designs, and features drive boaters to trade in, trade up, or just turn their heads and appreciate the coolest new thing. In 2020 local dealers will be promoting toys for riders and dockers.

On the Water
Two sports similar to waterskiing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing, each work best with specific shaped wakes. Boats capable of custom tailoring the wake for each watersport are now available, according to Ryan Moriearty, retail manager at Wake Effects by Big Thunder Marine.
These watersport boats are all lumped under the general heading of “tow boats” meaning they are not only designed to gain the maximum performance advantage for the person riding the wake, but also to provide the safest environment for those in the water behind the boat. This generally means a V-drive instead of an outboard motor or even an inboard/outboard setup. With a V-drive, the propeller is located under the hull, safely away from lines and legs. Having the prop under the hull means steering is accomplished with a rudder instead of an outdrive unit. More responsive rudder steering means the craft’s handling characteristics are more like a car than a boat.
Tow boats have very specific spots where ballast can be added to keep the bow higher in relation to the stern creating more wake at the speeds required for wakeboarding or wakesurfing. This ballast movement is accomplished by pumping water from one tank to another to create the specific wake desired and is automated from the control station.
In addition, Ryan points out, brands like MasterCraft tow boats handled by Wake Effects are equipped with plates on the transom to shape the wake to a specific profile custom designed for each rider being towed. MasterCraft’s Gen 2 Surf System automates this process with push-button ease and can be changed on the fly without tussle or tools. And to ensure maximum performance, the plate system is specifically designed for each model of MasterCraft boat.
Docking and parking assist, common on larger cruisers, are now available on tow boats, too. Some even include a bow thruster for total joy-stick maneuvering during docking. In addition, cruise control on tow boats allows the captain to focus more on the person in the water and neighboring craft instead of the throttle.
On the electronic side of boating, many of the new model tow boats come with Bluetooth capability to fully integrate the helm station screens with action cameras such as GoPro. Some even have the camera already built into the hull design.
Trista Vossman, of Big Thunder Marine, says one of the coolest comfort features this year is really designed to keep the boater cool through a misting system producing a fine water mist from above for those on board.
Trista also points to the growing use of counter rotating props on many models in order to reduce the effect of torque steer on the boat created by a single prop rotating. New in 2020, Big Thunder offers the Crest tri-toon Continental model equipped with two Suzuki 350 HP outboard motors utilizing twin counter-rotating prop technology.
Chad Neubauer, of Formula Boats, sees more custom colors being offered as the innovators at Formula are pushing the envelope on color choices. In addition, Chad says custom lighting and remote control of convenience features through smart device apps are gaining popularity. In fact, the higher-end Formula boats come with an iPad now for this purpose.
The growing trend to more custom features includes an array of lighting options ranging from custom LED lighting under the tri-toon deck, underwater LED lights, to on-board lighting such as walk-way, cup holder, helm station and mood lighting in a rainbow of color options custom controllable by touch screen.
While a joy to look at and use, it is important to keep in mind that any exterior lighting is illegal while the boat is underway as these beautiful light displays tend to mask the visibility of required navigation lights. Such lights inside the vessel are legal while the boat is moving. All custom lighting options are safe and legal while anchored or docked.
Trevor Gardner, of Premier 54 Boat Sales, the number-one Chaparral dealer world-wide in 2019, points to the new Infinity Power Step on the Chaparral 257, 277, and 297 SSX series boats. Push-button operation deploys a set of steps extending 20 inches below the swim platform.
Also new this year, the Chaparral 280 OSX is designed for rough water. As a hybrid center console, the 280 OSX offers a large open bow, seating, and amenities for a large group of people.
The trend toward center console boats will only continue according to Big Thunder Marine Sales Director Thad Jameson. He explained that as popularity grows, manufacturers are rapidly adapting new and innovative ideas for this boat layout. In what was once the go-to boat for fishermen, equipped with bait stations as well as tackle and rod holders, the center console now sports summer kitchens and luxurious lounge seating. Cabins are also more luxurious, and upholsteries richer. Thad says Chris Craft, Fountain, and Statement have all “raised the bar” on this boat layout because of the rapid growth for this segment of the market.
High-tech innovations continue to grow across other segments of the boating market, including tri-toons. Joy-sticks and rear-facing cameras simplify the difficulties of docking. Touch screens at the helm station not only include GPS plotters but now link to the engine management systems allowing the captain to monitor engine function at the touch of the screen.
Teresa Riley, Marketing and Event Coordinator at MarineMax, says remote monitoring is gaining in popularity. It provides security by notification to a smart device in case of boat movement due to anchor drift or attempted theft. Owners also receive notifications about maintenance issues such as battery condition, bilge pump monitoring, and engine hours tracking. Boat Fix, available at MarineMax, provides (in addition to the above list) mechanical and technical assistance on a live telephone call if needed.
According to Teresa, MarineMax also handles Seakeeper, an anti-roll gyro that can be retro-fitted to almost any boat or ordered as an option on a new boat. Seakeeper is installed on all Azimut yachts sold by MarineMax. Measuring approximately two feet by two feet by two feet and weighing slightly over 400 pounds, the smallest Seakeeper unit is designed for boats from 27 to 35 feet. While not an inexpensive option, the Seakeeper eliminates up to 95 percent of roll, both side-to-side and front-to-back. Any Saturday morning on the lower end of the Lake would demonstrate the advantage to a boater. A busy afternoon coving out will be calmer.
Whether controlled by a cell phone app or a touch screen at the helm, boat decks are virtually awash with technological innovations in boating. It appears most of the new trending innovations in the boating world are electronic in nature.

On the Dock
While amenities abound on the water, life on the dock for both boat and boat owner have some cool stuff trending at the Lake. Safety, convenience, comfort, and fun drive the innovations on docks.
Theresa Fears of Aqua Pest Solutions describes the growing popularity of their chemical-free pest control solution for boat docks. Utilizing a blend of essential oils, this product beats back the spider hoards on Lake without the use of dangerous chemicals.
Shelby Burns at Rough Water Docks says the growing popularity of their custom-built swim-up dock steps prove their value again and again. Giving not only an easier path back on the dock, the steps offer additional seating for those wishing to dip their toes in while sipping a glass of wine and slowly watching the sun set on the Lake. Since a dock sits up high off the water, these steps get you closer allowing you to hang out without having to get all the way into the water — a great way to enhance the lake-life experience.
According to Angie Schuster at Summerset Boat Lifts, docks and lifts have changed to match the growth of boats on the Lake. When smaller boats are on wider lifts, reaching or stepping to the boat can create a hazard. Summerset installs custom walkways providing ease of access for loading, covering, or maintenance. Walkways can be installed at the rear of the boat to access the motor or drive units. Although not a new concept in 2020, this useful option has seen great growth at the Lake.
When the sun hits the water, and the boats come out to play in 2020, there will be plenty of new ideas and new gadgets causing boaters to say, “I gotta get me one of those!”