Mailport December 2000 Issue

Mailport 12/00

Dear Readers:
Below you’ll find observations from fellow Practical Sailor subscribers commenting on the introduction of First, we wish to thank those readers who have contributed valuable views and advice as we continue to improve what we consider to be an important and innovative reader resource. Our objective from the outset was not to create the fanciest web site available today, but to reflect the utility and integrity of Practical Sailor itself in placing at the disposal of our subscribers information that adds safety and value to their time on the water. Readers with electronic access can now receive their issues sooner from anywhere, and can download their copies for storage and retrieval on their own home computers. We believe this added benefit for no additional cost is a significant plus.

Creating has not been without its challenges and concerns, however. First, we believe the interaction between our subscription fulfillment bureau and our web site is flexible yet robust. If you’re having difficulty logging on, contact us at, and we’ll help you navigate through the process. Secondly, our category search feature yields recently published articles in a wide variety of categories—from anchoring to ventilation–with issue date and year so you can easily look up articles in your own archives. Likewise, the keyword search function also yields volume, number and issue date to speed and simplify article retrieval from your stockpile of back issues. As we have for many years through the PS fax service, we charge for electronic retrieval of boat reviews (many of which do not carry issue dates, a feature we’re attempting to fix) and equipment comparisons (which, again, all carry issue dates for easy look-up at home).

Many subscribers have asked us to consider making all our previously published content available online. We’re exploring ways to make this service economically feasible; of note, Consumer Reports charges for online access over and above the price of a subscription to its print version.

As matures, we’d like to improve our survey and links areas, and to add how-to content that complements the specific product recommendations that have become our hallmark. As ever, we appreciate — and are governed by — the knowledge, experience and good will of the readers whom we serve.

Timothy H. Cole
Executive Vice President
Belvoir Publications

LOVE the web site. Good job.

Kenneth A Collins
Via email

Congratulations on a well-laid out site that’s very informative and easy to navigate.

Mike Bleyle
ECnet, Inc.
Via email

Congratulations on a very well-designed web site. I find the searchable set of back issues online to be a very useful asset.

Bill Leue
Via email

I love your magazine! I eagerly look forward to your articles, boat reviews, and particularly your reviews on equipment and ideas about maintenance and repair. I also think your web site is fantastic.

I’ve subscribed to magazines like SAIL, Good Old Boat, etc., but your articles and analysis mean more to me and probably many other “economy class” sailors who love to work on their boats and keep them ship shape. Keep up the great work!

Travis Martin
Overland Park, Kansas

I think your web site is a tremendous step in the right direction. Good work!But now, a disappointment: Your subscribers have spent a lot of money on your invaluable publication — I personally have archived every one. It’s been worth the trouble as I am constantly researching old articles. The cost in obtaining these would be prohibitive. The web site offers no real improvement for your loyal subscribers – except that one can find out very easily the issue that contains a desired article (good for those of us with complete archives!).

Phil Otis
Via email

I am a subscriber and I just accessed your website for the first time. Found it rather disappointing actually. As a subscriber I’d like access online to articles and reviews or at least a useful search engine to tell me which of my paper issues contain the information I want. For example, I wanted to see a review of the Alerion Express. You have at least two articles on it but your review page doesn’t even tell me which year and number contains the article. $14.95 is, frankly, pretty ridiculous as a repeat charge for a subscriber to look up an old review. $7.50 for an old article is even worse given that most articles discuss equipment that may or may not even still be currently available and the fact that electronic articles (I assume) fail to note any equipment or price changes since the article was first published.

I am disappointed for another reason, too. You have not exactly been first out of the block with electronic publishing and have had plenty of time to consider how to make a website useful to subscribers. Too bad because you could have followed Consumer Reports lead and made the site another reason why boaters should subscribe in the first place.

Ed O’Rourke
Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Thank you for the new way to access Practical Sailor. As a long time subscriber the four or five big notebooks can be a bit daunting to look up an item. The site is simple to use and well laid out. Thanks for making a good product better.

Jay Knight
Via email

Fujinon Responds
Your April 1, 2000 article on image stabilizing (IS) binoculars from Canon, Zeiss and Fujinon has both puzzled and troubled us. It attempts to compare not only three different brands, but three different stabilizing systems, each with divergent design objectives. As pointed out, anyone who has ever had to use binoculars with 10X, 12X or higher magnification experiences jittery images because of simple muscle tremors in the hands. A tripod solves that problem. And so do all of the relatively new IS binoculars, except on a sailboat where image stabilization has to deal with a lot more than hand tremors.

Before proceeding, we want to be clear about our own product, the 14X40 Techno-Stabi. It is 100% waterproof. It utilizes a Fujinon stabilization system now proven over 20 years that is based on a dual, gimbaled optical assembly that compensates not only for minor hand tremors, but even sudden massive as well as frequent cyclical movements of the observer’s optical platform, whether that’s a sailboat, space shuttle or helicopter.

Both Canon and Zeiss, based on their own descriptions and literature, had as their design objective the elimination of the effects of hand tremors, resulting in jittery images common with high-powered, handheld binoculars. Canon steadies images by continuously adjusting the shape of its Vari-Angle prism, the same technology that is used in camcorders. In their own words, Canon says that their system will “automatically adjust and compensate for minor vibrations and shaking.” Zeiss describes its mechanical system as ensuring “light rays always fall on the same image plane–even those that are not parallel–due to unsteadiness of the user’s hands.” Clearly, neither the Canon nor the Zeiss IS system is built with sailboats in mind. As your article confirmed, Canon’s IS models are not waterproof. And the Zeiss model is almost 1 foot long and weighs nearly 4 pounds.

Despite all this, Canon’s “water-resistant” 10X30 model was named your “favorite” while Zeiss was ranked second despite its greater size, weight and cost (500% higher than the Fujinon Techno-Stabi!) Seemingly disregarding the fact that, as you yourself say, “When used from a moving platform—a boat or automobile—the Fujinon, as claimed, seem to have a slight advantage in eliminating blur.” With a degree of stabilization of +/- 5 compared with Canon’s +/- .72 this is not at all surprising.

As a publication that caters exclusively to sailboat owners we feel that you have done a disservice to not only us, but your readers as well. On a sailboat you have more movement than just hand tremors to deal with and certainly more moisture problems than just humidity. A 100% waterproof binocular is not only more desirable, but necessary.

Beyond all this, it seems someone very uncharacteristically of Practical Sailor went out of his way to make remarks about Fujinon that were both erroneous and irrelevant. Early in the article the writer refers to the precursor of the Techno-Stabi, Fujinon’s Stabiscope (the Stabiscope, introduced in 1980, is the world’s first internally gyro-stabilized binocular; it was and is waterproof and high-powered; the current models start at $5,600) as “big, heavy gyro-based,” while they actually weigh only 7 ounces more than the Zeiss 20X60 and are only slightly larger than the Techno-Stabi.

The Stabiscope was also described as being “fine on warships, but seemed delicate and not very desirable aboard yachts.” Well, the delicate (an unusual term to describe a Mil Spec binocular which, as you know, are much higher than Standard Spec) Stabiscope has a record, 20 years and growing, of service in every branch of the U.S. military, the DEA, Border Patrol, FBI, countless police departments and has been standard equipment aboard the space shuttle missions where its prime mission has been to permit acquisition of satellites. It has also been used on racing sailboats around the world to help spot competitive tactics at distances only radar could match.

Summing up, we believe your article “Image-Stabilized Binoculars” was way off the mark. And about 180 degrees off your previous binocular reviews where you scored Fujinon first or tied for first in 7X50s with and without compasses. And that was twice in the same decade.

Charles Nemoto
Vice President, Fujinon
Wayne, New Jersey

Sea Anchors and Drogues
Congratulations on your fine sea anchor and drogue article in the August l, 2000 issue. It would be nice if all marine editors produced such articles more often. Here are a couple of added thoughts.

It’s not too important, but the “Shewmon sea anchor” used in a photo actually is a Shewmon drogue. And Walter Greene’s quote about how a 4' Shewmon sea anchor allowed his 50' catamaran to yaw? Both the incident and the quote are more than 20 years old. That was when I was just entering into very serious study of sea anchors and drogues.

One other point: The prime difference between a parachute-type sea anchor and a Shewmon sea anchor results from the limitations of the industrial sewing machine to handle the material between the needle and the arm. Sewed like parachutes, with overlapping seams, the material must be very light—usually 2-oz nylon—so that half of it can be stuffed through that limited throat. With my patented seam design, which keeps all material on the outside of the needle, I can use whatever material is most appropriate, select whatever shape proves best, use porous material to eliminate yaw and design out any weak points.

Lots of small points can be made about sea anchors and drogues. Perhaps the details are not individually impressive. But when the chips are down and vessels and lives hang in the balance, the accumulated small points usually decide the issue.

Dan Shewmon
Safety Harbor, Florida

Shewmon is the author of the 176-page, well-illustrated book called The Sea Anchor and Drogue Handbook, which is available for $20 ($21.40 in Florida) from Shewmon, Inc.,1000 Harbor Lake Dr., Safety Harbor, FL 34695-2310, 727/447-0091, fax 727/797-5708, Shewmon has done extraordinary testing of drag devices, covered in the book.

The recent survey of drag devices in Practical Sailor was a fine survey as far as it went. However, PS readers should be aware that some of the systems discussed have major drawbacks when being used in breaking seas, in particular parachute anchors.During research for our most recent book, Surviving the Storm—Coastal and Offshore Tactics, we debriefed a number of sailors who had used para anchors in severe weather. We did not find one successful story. In every case there was some type of major failure which lead to other difficulties, or to the adoption of other tactics.

Consider the loads on boat, rode, and para anchor for a moment. If you talk to mooring field operators you will find that in storm strength winds for a boat in the 40-foot range they recommend dual 1" or 1-1/4" pendants between mooring buoy and boat. This is in protected waters, where breaking seas are not an issue. Now, consider how the loads increase when you are faced with the same wind and breaking seas.

Compare these rode specifications with what would be considered normal for a para anchor—typically a single 3/4" rode, with a fraction of the structural capability and you can see where the problem arises. Even if you had the storage space for the dual rodes, to what would they be attached? There’s nothing on a majority of boats which has the structural capability to take the loads of these huge rodes.

I do not mean to disparage the use of para anchors; they have a place in moderate gales. But for severe storms, with breaking seas, we think that other tactics and/or hardware offers a much safer choice.

Steve Dashew
Tuscon, Arizona

Homemade Lazy Jack System
Click here to view the illustrations and information.

David Bell
Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

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