After having a look at your most recent issue (November 1), we at SailNet would like to register our disappointment at not being included in your "Practical Websites" article in that issue. Although we didn’t expect that you'd name our website among some of your categories, we were surprised not to see www.sailnet.com among the list of sites offered under the heading of "Community." We suspect that you're unaware of the fact that SailNet hosts nearly 150 e-mail discussion lists that offer a diverse range of sailors the opportunity to congregate and share issues, questions, and answers. We also support message boards where sailors interact on a multitude of topics. All of these opportunities are offered at no charge.
Our recent disappointment falls on the heels of not seeing SailNet's online store listed among those you reviewed in your October 15 issue. Of all the e-tailers in the game, SailNet is the sole website that caters only to sailors, offering over 40,000 products from anchors to radar units. And we don't simply sell sailing products, we manufacture them as well, with complete custom shops specializing in canvas, cushions, spars, and rigging.
We also have an entire website devoted to buyers and sellers of boats: www.boatsearch.com, which wasn't included in the "Boats and Gear" category in the November 1 issue. Add to that all of the editorial material we offer (over 1,000 feature articles, more than 500 Ask the Experts responses, and nearly 1,500 news items), with new articles being posted daily, and you can see that there's quite a lot of substance to SailNet.
We're sorry to have been left out of those two previous issues because we're certain that a fair chunk of your readership would want to be aware of some of the ways in which they can enhance their enjoyment of sailboats and sailing by being aware of SailNet and its many offerings.
Dan, we were certainly aware of your e-mail discussion groups—we often get good feedback and questions from readers involved in those groups, and they do play a big role in the sailors' online community. Our apologies for not mentioning them.
I read your article on website shopping with great interest as I have just completed outfitting my new 32' Seaward Eagle via the Internet. Given the scope of my order, I was looking for the best prices along with good old-fashioned service and advice. To accomplish this goal, I employed a composite approach: Internet access to find the product and the telephone to ask questions of the store’s representative.
As a long-time Practical Sailor reader, I had a very good idea of how I wanted to outfit my boat. I made a list of the items I wanted by manufacturer and model number and e-mailed it to the outfitting departments at West Marine, SailNet, BoatUS, and Defender Industries. I chose to bypass Boater's World as I consider them to be more powerboat-oriented in their inventory.
Within a week, I received a response from all four stores. Unfortunately, West Marine refused to quote any item until I provided them with the West Marine catalog number for each item. Evidently they are unable or unwilling to cross-reference their own inventory. After searching their catalog, I e-mailed their catalog numbers to them for my outfitting list.
During that first week, I also received a telephone call from the outfitting specialist at SailNet asking for some clarification and if another brand could be substituted for the item requested. SailNet showed an interest in my business as well as some initiative on the part of their outfitting specialist.
BoatUS e-mailed their prices without comment.
I also received an e-mail response followed by a telephone call from Jim Wallis, the outfitting specialist at Defender. His approach was: if we do not have it, we will get it for you. We discussed where and how I planned on using the boat and any special requirements I might have. I was also reminded of Defender's Lowest Price Guarantee.
By the end of the second week, I had my price lists for comparison. West Marine had the highest price on almost every item, especially electronics. SailNet and Defender each had the lowest prices on approximately 40% of the items, while BoatUS had the lowest prices on the remaining 20% of the items on my list.
Defender matched all of their competitors' lowest prices. Advantage Defender Industries.
Once I had the basic price of each item, I had to factor in taxes and shipping. Since West Marine, SailNet and BoatUS all have stores in Florida, they must charge sales tax in Florida. Defender, located only in Connecticut, does not charge sales tax outside of Connecticut. Advantage Defender Industries.
I wanted to take advantage of my employer's reduced-cost shipping benefits, so I asked Defender if I could bypass their shipping charges and have all items shipped on my account with my employer. Since my employer was already one of their regular shippers, they said yes. Advantage Defender Industries.
Even though I have owned a couple sailboats in the past and regularly read Practical Sailor, I needed knowledgeable advice on outfitting my new boat. I did not find satisfactory advice at West Marine or BoatUS. SailNet is helpful. Their website is full of informative articles on almost any sailing- related subject. However, if you want personal attention combined with sound, knowledgeable advice and good old-fashioned service, call Jim Wallis at Defender.
Some examples of the great service I received are as follows: They honored the Lowest Price Guarantee, even when an item was placed on sale and further reduced. When one of their suppliers could not provide matching components, they worked directly with the manufacturer to produce the matching component. When we were unsure of which item would work best on my boat, they consulted the manufacturer. When I made a mistake and ordered the wrong item, they politely issued a refund. When they made a mistake and shipped a box via the competition, they politely refunded the shipping charges.
I worked hard to properly outfit my boat; Jim Wallis at Defender Industries worked even harder. Defender does not have the flashiest website, but they make up for it in service and value where it counts.
Test Was Too Easy
Your article on Personal Flotation Device (PFD) comparisons in the October 1 issue was most interesting and informative. However, your demonstrator was wearing no more than a swimming suit while trying out the various PFDs being reviewed.
Let us try the test again with fullboating gear (long pants, shirt, shoes, etc.). Better yet, let us do the testing with the tester wearing full winter clothing! You'd better have some stalwart people ready to pull the tester back out of the pool because Idoubt if he/she would be able to climb out of the pool on their own. In fact, I wonder if the PFDs tested would keep the person's head above water after about five minutes.
-C. Henry Depew
We would have liked to try the PFDs in real conditions with clothes and foul-weather gear, but the local water at the time we did the article was about 45° F, which is hell on the ears when you put your head under. And the motel pool owner didn't want us swimming in boots. Your point is certainly correct, though—the more encumbered and sodden the MOB, the harder things get for everyone.
Honey Teak Defense
I feel I must share a different and much more laudatory experience with the teak finish sold as Honey Teak, compared to those mentioned by Mr. Bill Henderson, in your November 15 issue, Mailport section.
In my experience, your ratings and comments about this product are right on target. Perhaps I'm not a "varnish purist," but Honey Teak looks sensational on my boat. It never fails to get extremely positive comment from others in my marina (most of whom use either oil, Cetol, or nothing on their teak). If varnish, applied with the skill and diligence of an expert like Lin Pardey, rates a 10 on a 1-to-10 scale, Honey Teak would rate a 9, in my opinion. Even the best Cetol applications I've seen would rate only a 6.
Honey Teak has a beautiful, deep, high-gloss finish, and the color, although admittedly "pigmented," looks about as close to varnished teak as it's possible to get. The pigmentation closely matches the color of traditional varnished teak and is in no way "painted" looking, as Cetol is. The finish is completely transparent, and the grain of the wood shows clearly and naturally through.
As to longevity, I applied Honey Teak to my O'Day 23 in spring 1998. As of today, November 2001, it still looks terrific. Yes, it is beginning to show the first signs of wearing thin on one or two hard edges, but it continues to get admiring comments from passers-by. And this is without the annual couple of top coats that the company suggests.
This is the best darned teak product on the market today, and is light years better than its competition.
Handheld GPS Notes
Finally, some one has noticed the flaw in the emperor's new clothes ("Five GPS Handheld Receivers" and "Bloatware in a Small Package," December 2001). A very few years ago I came to own a boat equipped with a state-of- the-art GPS chartplotter. I tried my best to understand the menu system, but that's another story. I found that the vector-style chart on the index card-sized display was nearly useless. If you zoomed in on a location to pick up details such as breakwaters and rocks, you could have thrown a stone across the area covered by the display. Zoom out to a scale that might be useful going down the Connecticut River from Essex to Long Island Sound, and the only thing that shows are the banks of the river. Channels, buoys, breakwaters and shoals magically disappear.
My Yeoman plotter with input from the GPS, together with ChartKits' paper charts, has been an excellent alternative. It's point-and-click easy and you get all the info quickly. No magic, smoke or mirrors. For a demo follow this link: www.yeomanuk.co.uk/prodmar/strt_frm.htm.
I can see how people accidentally run into objects like the Old Saybrook breakwater if they're looking at a "simplified" vector chart. Anyone who uses vector charts with an index card size display is not being a prudent navigator and is likely to get into trouble once out of home waters.
The emperor needs some real clothes.
Old Saybrook, CT
Your remarks re: handheld GPSs are right on. Even the best of them aretoo small and too crammed full of extraneous features and data. The "map" features are truly unusable on a boat.
The case design is truly hand- held—and who has the extra hand to hold the GPS while sailing, navigating, piloting, steering and trying to identify distant lights? It doesn't appear that any amount of fiddling with specs or features can fix that.
I am presently using an old Garmin III with that ridiculous triangular case that won't sit comfortably anywhere. I hope that you folks will investigate fixed-mount units and report before next spring when I'll probably buy one.
I read with interest the October 15 article on using an ozone generator to combat odor and mold. Your test results sounded great. Then on the Web I came upon a disturbing caution from the EPA entitled An Assessment of Effectiveness and Health Consequences: "Some vendors suggest that these devices have been approved by the federal government for use in occupied spaces. NO agency of the federal government has approved these devices for use in occupied spaces. Because of these claims, and because ozone can cause health problems at high concentrations, several federal government agencies have worked in consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to produce this public information document."
That article lead me to a February 5, 1999 Health Canada advisorywith a similar warning. From this I surmise that one had better ventilate the boat well before entry after an ozone treatment.
Jim Oursler, Rob Guest, and several others referred us to an EPA warning at the following URL: www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/ozonegen.html. It is indeed a condemnation of ozone generators, or at least of their manufacturers' claims. We're not going to try to butt heads with the government on this issue, and said in our article that neither we nor (as far as we knew) Quantum made any claims as to ozone's health benefits. It seems clear that ozone, at various levels of concentration, can cause respiratory difficulties, and can damage some materials like plastics and elastics. It also seems (to us and many others) to do a good job of eliminating odors. So—caveat emptor, and keep the boat ventilated.
Harbor Freight tools sells a hydraulic cable cutter that operates on thesame principle as the Huskie. The tool sells for around $60 which includes the cylinder but not the pump. It must be pumped with their separate universal pump (which can be used with the other tools they sell). I'd be curious to know how such a bargain-priced tool measures up to the tools for millionaires you tested.
I read your article with interest. However, I kept thinking,"Do I really need such an expensive tool?" To find out, I took my fence tool, the kind used for stringing barbed wire (listed as Crescent Brand Heavy Duty Solid Joint Fence Plier on the Home Depot web site for $18) out to the garage to see how it would handle cutting one of the upper stays I recently replaced. It took about one second. Granted, the stay from a Catalina 22 is not large; however, many readers may also have smaller boats for which such a tool is all they need.
Having been on a boat that dismasted, I read your article on emergencyrigging cutters with dread. As the female half of the sailing team, ina dismasting, I worried I would again be helpful only in gatheringrigging out of the water. I have poor hand strength and know that Icouldn't use cable cutters without putting one end on deck. Even then,do I have the upper body strength and body weight required? I havetrouble sawing down a softwood tree with a 3-inch trunk; I'll never beable to hack saw away the mast or rigging.
My husband told me he has used diagonal cutters to cut wire rigging. He separates the strands and nibbles away. He demonstrated how quickly he could get through the cable, a strand or two at a time. It worked forhim; however, I only managed to get through three strands in a minute. He then suggested I try a pipe cutter, and it worked well for me. The needfor hand strength is minimal—you just tighten the cutter moderately,then twist, tighten, twist...
I was able to get through the cable reasonably quickly—it's not lightning speed like the "Shootit" would be, but it is within our cruising budget. Plus, since the pipe cutter will grab onto the rigging, it should not be unduly affected by operation on a pitching deck.
They are small, and won't take up significant room in the tool box. I don't know how well they will work on rod rigging.
The Streakless drip lip you show on page 15 of the October 15 issue seems like a good idea, but will be tough to install in some cases, since removal of through-hulls can be a major project, even with the Anti-Bond you mention on the same page.
One alternative solution is to drive a short (say 3/4") piece of thin-walled tube or pipe into the through-hull, projecting about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Normally you cannot find the exact size for a drive fit, so we get them machined out of bronze, brass, or stainless in a local shop. Brass is the easiest to find, and is quite adequate, since even if it corrodes after several years, it will not sink the ship.
Keep up the good work. We are building a 47-footer, and can benefit from your ongoing testing in many ways.
Foster, Quebec, Canada
As Robert Bradshaw of Owings, MD, noticed in the Value Guide chart for "Five Handheld GPS Receivers" (December 2001), the price listed for the Garmin GPSmap76 is wrong. We printed the price for the lower-end GPS76. The correct price for the map version is about $350. We also shortchanged the GPSmap76 by one point in our addition in the Value Guide Chart. No change in results—it won.