Mailport October 15, 2003 Issue

Mailport: 10/15/03

Meguiar's + Plexus
My Catalina 30 dodger window is plastic and is about 10 years old now. Though the plastic window is kept covered with a canvas cover, it has still yellowed a bit (not uniformly) and has of course acquired scratches.

While out shopping I recalled that Practical Sailor had mentioned Plexus plastic cleaner as a good product. Since I assumed I needed a polishing compound for the window, I purchased both the Plexus (in a spray can, which I just couldn't imagine contained any abrasives) and the Meguiar's Mirror Glaze Clear Plastic Cleaner.

I did half the window with Plexus only, and was surprised at how well it did by itself. On the other half I first rubbed with the Meguiar's, wiped off the excess, then followed with the Plexus. There were scratches that didn't stand out until after that first cleaning, so I went back over them more vigorously with the Meguiar's, then Plexus.

Final results: On the side where I used the Plexus only, the window looked great, but some scratches still showed through. On the side where I used the Meguiar's followed by Plexus, it looked even better due to the scratches having been removed (or at least not showing) and it seemed just a bit clearer overall than the Plexus-only side. The Meguiar's Cleaner + Plexus was a great combo.

-Frank Tansley
Dana Point, CA


Cockpit Cushions
Some random comments on the Chandlery column, on the Passage Pillow in the August 15 issue. Soft nylon cockpit chairs with soft nylon backrests are important, especially if you have varnished coamings that you don't want to ding up and are not high enough to rest a back against. I have used a Crazy Creek Canoe Chair II (model #1018; for at least 10 years. The logo has practically faded away but the chair ($35) lives on, its forest green color still intact.

I have, however, modified/improved this "stadium-type" chair with half-inch closed-cell foam padding by taping wide sail battens to the entire lengths of the adjustable webbing on the sides. When the chair is tossed about during tacks, it remains in an open upright position and does not collapse flat as I search for a comfy landing.

I also have an old forest green Sport-a-Seat, made even greener by accidentally (but luckily) spilling forest green paint on it. But I find it too clunky and cumbersome to use when tacking. On a long reach or run, it's fine. Otherwise, it gets in the way and stays below.

I'm crazy about my Crazy Creek chair.

-Jack Sherwood
Annapolis, MD


Water Stain Removal
Your point about end-grain entry of stains [PS Advisor, August 1] was helpful, but too dire. Many stains occur on the flat surface of teak; most of these are fixable. On my boat, this type of stain occurred on the veneered teak sole due to spillage from the galley sink. Stains tend to occur if the original barrier coat has deteriorated.

Removing the damaged piece for examination, bleaching, and a variety of fixes is optimal. However, if the piece is not removable, the only rock- solid alternative is to physically remove the stain or, as you point out, restore with new wood if the stain goes too deep.

Removing the stain with sandpaper alone is not recommended. Rather, remove the stain with a 1" or bigger hook scraper (Sears, All-Way). Even thin teak veneer can be scraped with due diligence. Prep the scraper by filing, using a new 8" mill file ($6 from Ace Hardware). File against the sharp edge of the blade using a diagonal thrust; this will produce the "hook." At the same time, attempt to form a slight curve to the edge as you look at the face of the blade. Practice scraping on scrap teak.

After all this, removal of the stain itself will only take a few minutes of easy work. Avoid cupping the surface as you scrape. Fair and feather the edges of the stain with a re-sharpened hook scraper. When the scraper exposes smooth clean wood, follow up with an appropriate initial grade of wet-dry sandpaper (180, 220, or 320) in combination with Watco Teak Color oil (this is also a good sealer for teak). As you sand with Watco, a sludge forms and gets sticky. The sludge fills the teak grain. Rub across the grain to remove the excess sludge with gauze or cotton rag. Let the patch dry and cure a day or more. Next, sand with 400, then 600 wet-dry with Watco until the surface smoothness matches existing wood. Last, apply sufficient coats of existing finish product to the whole section or piece. If the resulting finish is too "new" looking, dull the finish down to match the existing sheen with fine bronze wool and Watco. Wipe the surface sparingly with Watco when completed. If the finish needs to be even more satin-like, use descending grades of wet-dry sandpaper (1000-800-600) plus Watco as the final step.

-Bill Solberg, S/V Wind Dancer
Los Angeles, CA

It's also a good idea to file down the sharp corners of the hook scraper to avoid gouging the wood. —Eds.


Engel Portable Freezer
[Re: "Engel Portable Freezer vs. Norcold Tek II," February 15, 2000] I purchased an Engel 35 Portable Fridge/Freezer about a year ago.  So far I have been very impressed with it and although I cannot measure actual amp-hours used, my experience seems to be somewhat different than yours. When we first received the unit we plugged it in and set the dial at the coldest setting. I have no idea how long it took but the next morning our thermometer read 8° degrees below zero (F). Needless to say, that got my attention. On the boat or in our van we use the Engel as a refrigerator regulated to 33°.

We use two T-105s for our house batteries and two 55-watt solar panels. I can see no effect on the batteries. It is as if the Engel was not there. The van was left sitting overnight and most of the day in the hot sun, closed up, in July, in North Carolina with the Engel running inside. The case of the Engel was very hot to the touch, but inside it was 33°.  The beer was cold and the van started without any hesitation. 

Paul Kabalin of Engel explained that the difference between the two freezers you tested and the one I have is the design of the compressors used in the newer units. 

To secure the unit on the boat we installed the Transit Slide Lock in the unused space under the galley table. Currently we are looking into an ice box conversion unit that has the Engel swing motor as the compressor.  The plan is to use the ice box as the refrigerator and the portable as the freezer. If the conversion unit performs as well as the portable and I have calculated correctly, we will use no more than 40-50 amp-hours per day. 

-Matthew Vacher, Jr., S/V Jabam
Via e-mail


Flamestop Brackets
The article on Flamestop [Chandlery, July 1} was an important notice of a new product.  In the case of emergency, it is nice to have a product whoseworkings are as familiar as using any household spray can.  I immediatelybought the last two that the local chandlery had on hand, one for the galley and one for the cockpit (where the barbeque is located).  I plan to getmore, for the V-berth and for each automobile, but will buy them directly from the manufacturer and avoid the $10 price increase that the local marine store adds.

The lack of a mounting bracket is easily overcome. Just go to yourlocal bicycle shop and buy a bicycle water bottle bracket that mounts on the lower frame of the bike.  They are available in plastic and plastic-wrapped wire for about $5, or in stainless for $20+. The modern brackets have a hole through which a wood screw would easily fit to mount inside the cabin. The older, cheaper models, if you can find them, came with an attached clamp which can be shimmed with a strip of rubber to fit around the railing of the grabrail of the cockpit helm or a stanchion. 

I might get a 2.5" or more PVC tube and (non-glued) end caps to form a container if I mounted it on the stern pulpit.  That way it's nearby, at least, in case of an emergency.

-Zel Canter
Solvang, CA


More on Satellite Radio
I read with interest the letter from Bill Wertz [Mailport, August 1] where he tried to debunk satellite radio in favor of the more traditional AM/FM radio. He entirely misses the point of why I bought my XM receiver. I like music, almost any kind, and yet any time I turn on the radio I get stuff I can't stand. Between the obnoxious Toyota commercials and the same old songs I've heard over and over again, it used to drive me to my CD changer.  Bill touts HD-AM/FM as the wave of the future, but it isn't here where I live, nor is it anywhere I've been.

He also misses the point of the many channels. Where I live, and this is pretty typical of most places I've traveled through, there are a couple stations broadcasting light rock, a few country, a bunch playing oldies, and a lot of what I consider obnoxious rock. Almost all of it repeats daily. Even the public radio stations are mostly talk, and since they try to be something for everyone, sooner or later they turn me off.

No, I don't listen to all 100+ stations on my XM radio, but they are there when the mood changes.  I can't do that with AM/FM. Unless you happen to live in a major metropolitan area, you really have little choice of what you listen to.

With my portable XM receiver that moves with me from my house to my car and to my boat I now have five jazz channels, three classical, and many other choices that the local stations don't provide. I hear very little repeats. I hear no obnoxious commercials.  And, best of all, when I travel I don't have to fumble around with the dial and find new stations every time I go through a new town. Also, 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, long after the AM/FM has faded, I still enjoy constant music of my choice.

In round numbers it costs about $10 per month.  I don't know what marine store Bill buys his parts, but at that rate it would take quite a few months to pay off that triple block I’ve been needing.  

-Chuck Minnich
Gulf Breeze, FL


More of Strippers
I agree with your Value Guide in "Strippers and Crimpers" [August 15], in particular giving top honors to Ancor's #702030 (Price: $40). I have bought and tried almost all of the lot listed there myself.

With regard to the Ancor 702030, however, you may be interested to kow that this tool is produced in Germany, generically, and widely in use there. Ancor apparently just imports it and puts its name on it—not, however, without increasing its price to about 250% of the retail price in Germany! I have in front of me the current catalogue of A.W.Niemeier in Hamburg (a German West Marine equivalent), which lists and shows on page 156 the identical tool for Euro 15.95 (Art.# 211 480), equivalent to US $17.95 at today's exchange rate. This price includes 16% VAT (sales tax), which is not payable on deliveries outside the European Union. As a mail-order house, A.W.Niemeier delivers worldwide including to the US. See

-Dr. Manfred P. Beutgen
Annapolis, MD


Your article on wire cutters and crimpers suggested several good options.You might also want to consider these professional tools used by electricians: Gardner Bender tools ( and Ideal Industries ( Heavy duty crimper knock-offs similar to the Klein 1005 are available in many auto parts stores.

-Steven Krenz
Via e-mail


I read your "Strippers and Crimpers" article and immediately went to West Marine looking for a stripper — and, of course, a lap dance. I was asked to leave and not come back.

I had already held the Ancor 701030 ($86) and done the Tim Allen "ooooh!"thing. I figured "nice" but too much money for my limited use. So I wentto Radio Shack and they pulled out their "commercial" catalog. I found a ratcheting crimper for the three common sizes of lugs for $19.99. I thought that was too cheap to be quality—barely more than the Ancor 701007. Man, was I wrong.  I've been using it almost daily for two years now without a problem, and I like it so much I find reasons just to crimp connectors everywhere. 

Radio Shack doesn't carry this tool any more, but I found the exact same tool at Starke Electronics in Worcester, MA.  Phone 508/756-7136. Part number 300-002, for $29.99 — still a great tool at a bargain price.

-Dick Booth
Treasure Island, FL


... Where Credit Is Due
To Edson, New Bedford, MA: "It was becoming increasingly difficult to shift the transmission on my Catalina 36, so I decided to install a new shift cable. Part of the job necessitated disassembling the top part of the steering pedestal. In doing so I managed to lose one of the bolts securing the wheel brake, as well as bend one of the four bolts securing the top of thepedestal. (I suggest a routine loosening of all stainless steel to aluminum screws and bolts and recoating with an anti-seize material to avoid my problem.)

"I telephoned Edson for advice on the procedure and talked with their customer service department. I was talked through the procedure, and the gentleman suggested changing the bushing where the shift lever passes through the pedestal. At no charge, Edson sent me the bushing as well as new bolts for the top part of the pedestal. The transmission now shifts easily.

"I want to complement Edson and their technical department. It is easy to see why Edson has lasted as the top name in its field for so long."

-Robert Salkeld, via e-mail

To Caframo, Wiarton, Ontario: "Our Lagoon 410 came with several Caframo fans a little over a year ago.  One of the blades failed recently, with the hub rounding out for no apparent reason. I contacted Caframo through their website and a young lady named Judy responded, sincerely interested in my problem. I sent her a digital picture of the blade, and she assured me that they have units that have been running two years straight in their facility without problems. After the engineer looked at the picture, she asked how many fans we had. I answered her—and she delivered a new blade for each of the six units. It is sometimes hard to find companies that stand behind their products.  It is nice to deal with a company like Caframo (and Judy) who go that one extra step to insure a satisfied customer."

-Paul Marcuzzo, Charlotte Harbor, FL

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