April 18, 2014

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Made in the shade: Lorain native’s invention protects boat gauges

LORAIN — It’s been smoother sailing for boaters everywhere since Lorain native Jeff Murray invented the Gauge Shade.During a fall fishing trip with a friend, Doug Cowart, in the Florida Keys, Murray noticed that the expensive LCD gauges on his friend’s boat were faded and yellowed by the sun.

The expensive instruments also became so foggy when exposed to the heat from direct sunlight that they were impossible to read.

COURTESY JEFF MURRAY
Lorain native Jeff Murray, in shades himself, poses with some gauges decked out in his invention, the Gauge Shade.

While attempting to find something to help his friend at local marinas and on the Internet, he came up empty-handed. No one sold a product that could shade the gauges and remedy the boating dilemma.

So Murray decided to solve the problem himself. Thus, the Gauge Shade was born.

“It was such a simple idea,” he said. “I couldn’t believe no one had thought of it before.”

The Gauge Shade, produced in Vermont and backed by a money-back guarantee, is made of UV- and chemical-resistant plastic that doesn’t chip or fade and requires no drilling or removal of the gauge to install. It simply snaps onto the existing hardware.

Murray did much of the product’s test marketing in Florida, where year-round sunshine has made boating a big business. After giving it a try, local boaters were amazed by how well it worked and how little it cost.

“The feedback was great, and we didn’t have to make any changes to the original design,” Murray said.

The Beaver Park Marina in Lorain currently sells the Gauge Shade, but boating enthusiasts also can find it on the product’s Web site, www.gaugeshade.com, and also on eBay Motors.

The original design fits boat gauges and comes in standard sizes, but Murray said that he has found applications beyond his original focus. Production is under way for a chrome version geared toward motorcycle owners who face similar equipment problems in the sunlight and heat.

Cowart said he was skeptical of the idea at first because of the sheer simplicity of it, but now that he has used the Gauge Shade, he’s convinced, and so are his friends in the Keys.

“People were always asking me how the shade worked and where I got it,” he said. “So I showed them how easily it attached and came off, and now just about everyone who boats with me at the marina has one and loves it.”

An item that wasn’t even in the boating vocabulary a year ago has now become a necessity for Cowart.

“I’m thinking about getting a new boat,” he said. “And I’m bringing my Gauge Shade with me.”

Contact Jill Mahon at 329-7155 or metro@chroniclet.com.