Mailport February 15, 2003 Issue

Mailport: 02/15/03

Reader Tips
Thanks for the great reviews. You provide an important service. Even though your magazine is expensive, I recoup its cost each time I purchase marine materials, appliances, and gear. Furthermore, I purchase with confidence without having to rely solely on the often limited or biased knowledge of salespersons.

Here are a few thoughts and ideas that have been building up for some time.

Caulking: I find that most of my marine sealing jobs use minor amounts of caulking compound, and many days or months lapse before I need the tubeagain. For years I have been keeping urethane caulking fresh by tossing itinto the freezer. This greatly reduces curing below the cap. It only takesa few hours to thaw, and I have noticed no loss of flexibility or adhesion.Just this year I  began to put silicone compounds in the freezer. Again, Ihave seen no evidence of reduction in quality.  (I would be curious to knowwhat the manufacturers say about this practice, but I don't imagine that 10°F should damage the product.)

Another practice that saves me from wasting caulking due to premature curing is to buy tubes that have removable spouts. I store them by simply capping the end of the nipple and tossing in the freezer. If they harden down into the cone-shaped spout, the spout can be removed and the hardened plug can be pushed back out the larger end.

One of the sealing compounds I have not seen reviewed is Aqua Seal. This is the urethane glue sold by dive shops and river outfitters to fix wet suits. It is a superior glue in any place where flexibility and permanence arerequired. It is not unlike 5200 in its adhesive qualities, but it is lessviscous and not thixotropic so will run out of any crack that is not level;therefore, it is often necessary to make a dam out of tape. Its abilityto "wick" into porous surfaces makes it useful for fabrics and bare wood.

Aqua Seal takes overnight to cure. It is incredibly long-lasting and tough.It is far superior to "shoe-goo" and can be used to fix both the soles and uppers on shoes. It is a great fabric glue which I have even used to gluesmall patches on sails that have lasted for years.

Portable heads: I was disappointed by your recent review (September, 2002) because it did not cover the growing number of "carry out" toilets that are being used by the river boating community. I find two aspects of the traditional portable heads unacceptable: fecal matter sticks to the bowl, and the holding tanks are so shallow that the waste does not readily move down into the tank without some shaking or pushing.

I find the Eco-Safe Toilet to be far superior. It has a rectangular plastic tank with removable seat. It has a large drop hole and a huge tank. It smells some when it's in use, but so do we. It seals up and is odorless when used with the metal rocket box it is meant to be housed in. It remains sealed even if it falls over. It is emptied in the traditional way (with a 3" hose) and it uses almost no water.

Paint: I've been using System Three epoxies (System Three Resins, Inc.,Seattle, WA) for years with excellent results. I recently started usingtheir water-based epoxy and urethane paints. My experience shows thaturethane paints with hydrocarbon drying and thinning agents seem to flow out and level better than System Three water-based ones (and perhaps they spray better, too) but I feel the ability to clean up with water and avoid the toxic fumes (especially when spraying) more than makes up for their poorer spreading qualities. The finished film seems as tough. I would like to see a review of this and other water-based, less-toxic paints.

-Don Buickerood
Redwood Valley, CA

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Leaky Fishfinders
I enjoyed your review on fishfinders [December 2002] although I was disappointed you didn't test them for water and weather resistance.

I have two commercial dive boats that are used in the seafood harvesting industry. Both have outside steering stations equipped with controls and sounders.We work very close to the shoreline and shoal areas on Canada's west coast.

So far we have gone through several different makes and models. All worked satisfactorily until signs of moisture started to appear, then their days were numbered. They eventually stopped working and ended up being unrepairable.

I suspect that salt spray and repeated temperature changes were responsible for this.

I have heard that a few manufacturers are filling their units with inert gas, and some that have a positive pressure to help keep them weatherproof. If you could test these products for the claimed water resistance, I'm sure many of your readers would find this most useful.

-Tim Joys
Steveston, B.C., Canada

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Updating Electronic Charts
One of the capabilities that electronic charts bring is the support for electronic updates. This raises a number of issues that I haven't seen covered in the reviews of electronic chart formats and charting software:

(1) When product X supports chart format Y, does that imply that product X necessarily supports chart corrections shipped by vendor Y? If not, that compatibility should be tested.

(2) It seems that users are not permitted to make their own corrections. One can understand the liability-related reasons why this might be prohibited. One can also understand the practical reasons why unofficial, personal corrections might be necessary. So:

(2a) If that means we're limited to using the charting software's ability to place "marks" of various kinds, it would be helpful to see a comment on the suitability of those facilities.

(2b) Since some of these chart formats are "open," I wonder whether some open-minded vendor or benevolent hacker has developed a chart editor that would enable us to create our own corrections.

-Larry Shick (KG6CYP)
Via e-mail


These are likely to be some of the more important questions regarding the long-term viability and utility of electronic charting programs in the next few years. We'll try to get a grip on where things stand in an upcoming issue.

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Spade Nut Wrap-Up
I just received my November 15 issue of Practical Sailor at anchor in Las Palmas Harbor (Canary Islands), where I'm preparing my boat for crossing the Atlantic ocean towards Brazil.

I was delighted to read the very positive comments of Bob Stevenson about his Spade Anchor. After the brilliant results achieved by the anchor during the series of Practical Sailor's tests, others tests, including the last one published in UK by Practical Boat Owner magazine confirm completely the PS tests, and we receive a lot of very positive comments from users all over the world.

Concerning the problem of his loosened nylon nut: Out of several thousands anchor sold, this is the first time this problem has been reported to us.

To fix the shank and the fluke, Spade is using a stainless steel non-load- bearing nut of the "Nylstop" type. This type of nut is largely used in marine equipment (there are two of them in the Fortress anchor), and is unlikely to unscrew itself unless it has been mounted and dismounted several times—then it is necessary to change the nut.

An anchor is like any tool—it has to be checked from time to time. We will add a sentence on our instructions for use, saying that the screw has to be checked from time to time and, in case of frequent mounting/dis- mounting,  the nut has to be changed as soon as the nylon ring is no longer efficient.

For users who frequently disassemble the anchor, we are testing a new system to fix the shank and the fluke together to allow an instantaneous dismounting without any tool. We will keep you informed.

-Alain Poiraud, Spade inventor
Via e-mail

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Island Packet Draft
I was disappointed that in your evaluation of the Island Packet 27 [December 2002], in your full-keel versus fin-keel comments, you did not mention that for a given-sized boat, the full keel permits a shallower draft. I live in Miami and sail mostly in the cruising paradise of Biscayne Bay, the Florida Keys, and the Bahamas, where having a relatively shallow draft is very important for those who dislike the complications of a centerboard boat.

Boats with drafts of much more than 4-1/2 feet must be very cautious when they go "inside" in the Keys, and boats over 5-foot draft would be pretty much limited to staying outside in the ocean. One of the many reasons I chose an Island Packet 31—and after that my Island Packet 350, which I own today—was that few, if any, comparable sizes offer such relatively shallow drafts.

-A.T. Kline
Miami, FL

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Plot by Engineer's Scale
It's rewarding to read your reviews on new products, especially when it comes to the difficulty of plotting a GPS position. While Weems & Plath have helped make this task easier [GPS Plotter, Chandlery, December 2002] their device still lacks the ability to plot a position once the chart is folded and the  chart's graduated edge is no longer readily available.

Bill Brogdon, author of Boat Navigation  for the Rest of Us (International Marine/McGraw Hill) addressed this problem and suggested a nifty way to employ an engineer's scale to plot or find positions on a chart. These scales come triangular or flat and are available in various scales. I have even devised a handmade scale that works adequately for most DR on our coastal cruising.

It is nice to see Weems & Plath addressing this issue, but for a fraction of the cost of their instrument you can do it easier and faster with the engineer's scale.

-Bill Solberg
Marina del Rey, CA

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Being There
I very much enjoyed your editorial regarding the differences between powerboaters and sailors [December 2002] A long-time sailor, I also have evolved to powerboating and fishing.  As a Power Squadron member, I have taught several public boating courses and each time I have been asked by powerboating students why anyone would want to sail.

A number of years ago, I read a similar editorial musing in a North Carolina magazine called Coastal Cruising (my recollection may not be right on). I felt then that he had captured the essence when he said (apologies for any misquote): "When a power boater gets on his boat, he has some- place to go. When a sailor gets on his boat, he is where he wants to be."

I have used it a number of times to explain sailing to my power boating friends. Thanks for a great publication.

-Don Bishop
Via e-mail

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Where Credit Is Due...
Two manufacturers have impressed me twice this year. Catalina Yachts, Woodland Hills, CA was informed of excessive weather helm in their early model C-250 sloops and made available, at cost, replacement rudders that took care of the problem. Mine arrived less than a week after I placed the order, and cost less than my fancy tiller extender. Then, after upgrading to a 1996 C-320, I noticed the gasket under the fuel gauge sending unit on the diesel tank was bad.  A phone call to the company got one sent to me free of charge. In addition, I received prompt correspondence (mail, e-mail, or telephone), once from Frank Butler and four times from David Graas (usually on the same day). Note that I was not the original owner of either of these boats.

The second hats off goes to Edson International, New Bedford, MA. When I called to order the small, original-equipment stainless retainingclip that had broken off my 1996 destroyer wheel, they sent me two clipsthat day, free of charge; and then sent me some Loctite the next weekwhen I couldn't get the nut to stay tight on the wheel. Again free ofcharge. For a seven-year-old boat's third owner, this is pretty darngood customer support.

-Ron Acierno and Mia Alessandra
Charleston, SC


To The Hutchins Company, Cleawater, FL:
About a year ago, my wife presented me with a set of custom seat cushions for my Compact 16.  Those cushions sat comfortably under my bed in Houston until I made a trip to the Florida Keys where my boat is located. That trip took place almost a year after the cushions were purchased.  I eagerly pulled out the cushions in anticipation of a comfortable sail when I discovered that the cushions were about 14" too short. I call the Hutchins Company and described my problem, including the fact that the purchase had been made almost a full year earlier. The Hutchins folks diagnosed the problem instantly—the cushions I had were for a later model boat. They then offered to either remake the cushions or send a third cushion to make mine a three-piece set.  I opted for the third cushion. Estimated delivery was about two weeks.  Actual delivery was about four days, at a cost to me of zero. That is what I call exceptional customer service.

-George Tamalis
Islamorada, FL

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