Mailport May 1, 2003 Issue

Mailport: 05/01/03

Compact Binoculars
[Re: "Compact Binoculars," March 2003.] Recently I discovered that my favorite mid-size binoculars had "walked-away" from their nest, and I decided to replace them. Experience revealed the following requirements: 1. lightweight and small enough to fit in a BDU pocket (I am probably going back overseas very soon); 2. water-resistant (I don't plan to drop them into the ocean, but trying to locate a landfall in the rain with fogged binocs isn't something I wish to repeat); 3. shockproof (I banged my 7-15 x 35 set against Diamond Head and now they make a poor paperweight); 4. inexpensive enough to be broken without causing tears, and 5. dustproof (not only is desert dust miserable, but ever see a sandstorm 20 kilometers from shore?)

I learned the value of these when the Lt. got us lost on a recon one year. We spent hours slogging up one desert hill and down another looking for our bearings until I realized that we were lost.  I then asked, "Why do we have to keep climbing when we can scan the hills with binoculars?"

"Because," the Lt. said, "we don't have any." I opened my BDU thigh pocket, pulled out a nice set of compact birding binocs, and handed them to him without a smirk (even I'm not that stupid).

Shortly after, we were on the way back to base camp. Since then I've never gone out anywhere, water, desert, afternoon hike, or day on the lake, without an extra canteen and a set of binocs.

Now I am faced with another tour and my occcasional forays onto water may be a thing of the past... So, I have been looking for a replacement set for my future needs.  But nothing at the stores met my needs, too expensive, too much power, too weak, not water-resistant...until I received the March issue of PS. The compact binoculars article helped a lot, but I would have two additional concerns—dust resistance and portability.

I do carry a small set of 7x21s in a pocket of my PFD next to my whistle, signal mirror, and emergency knife (I'm a bit too old to think I'm immortal any more) but want a more powerful set to fit in a pocket or on a belt, and thanks to your recent article, you have made my task a lot easier.

-Rick Johnson
Tucson, AZ


Your comparison of compact binoculars is helpful within the category, however, the real problem is that 8x magnification is too high for use in unstable conditions.  I have Carl Zeiss 8x30 (vintage 1955) and Swift 4x30 (vintage 1960s).  Even ashore with a strong wind, the quality of the Zeiss is unrealizable.  I carry the Swift in my pocket on the boat and they are great for the usual applications—except that the field of view is inadequate.

In 1962 I sailed on the Solent with a colleague who had a most useful binocular.  As I recall, it was manufactured in Germany for use on E-Boats with fixed-focus, 5x magnification and was completely sealed in rubber.  Fixed focus is fine for general boat use by sailors with 20/20 vision (lacking this you would not be on-deck on an E-Boat ).  Anyway, 5x was comfortable underway in choppy conditions and my colleague, who was managing director of an optical manufacturing company, voyaged from Gibraltar to Denmark with these glasses. I have not seen anything like them since.

-Ivan Hills
Rockland, ME


Cal 35 Review
Bravo on the Cal 35 Review [March 2003]!  When I went looking for a boat in 1997, I purchased your Practical Boat Buying books, and of the boats reviewed, I liked the Cal line.  I found a Cal 35 lying in Chula Vista (San Diego), and ending up purchasing it in July of 1998.

I am glad to see you have finally done a review on the 35.  I have hull #84, a 1984 Mark II layout, and lovethe boat. It is strong, the engine access is superb (except for the starter access), and sails well.  The boat has had no deck leaks; however, water does come in from the inside of the mast when it rains, as the mast is keel- stepped. I do have some leaks in the opening port lights, as the gaskets have worn out over the years. My foredeck hatch does not leak, except when I open it when there is standing water on the deck and hatch.

I have a question about the PHRF rating your article suggests.  Southern California PHRF has rated me at132, with a non-spinnaker offset of 21. It seems that few races use the non-spinnaker offset, and we are not allowed to use a spinnaker inside Newport Harbor. Thus, I am "stuck" with a 132 rating. How did you come by that average rating? 

-Doug Gardner
Via e-mail

That average is closer to those of the original Cal 35 model, where 2001 ratings ranged from 192 in Southern California to 144 in Southeast Florida. The ratings for the Mark II are more tightly grouped, right around where you are at 132. See the next letter.


I enjoyed your Cal 35 used boat survey. The article was well written. I have owned hull #11, manufactured in 1980, for four years and sail in the San Francisco Bay. Some comments: 1. The boat is not tender, as the wide beam (11' 3" on my model) stiffens the boat considerably. 2. I have had my boat out of the water twice and have yet to find a blister. 3. There were apparently three different models manufactured, the Mark I (15,000 lbs. displacement, 4.7' keel), the Mark II (13, 000 lbs, 5' keel), and the Mark II DK (deep keel) 13,000 dspl., 6' keel). I own the Mark II DK, which has a PHRF rating of 138. 4. I generally reef around 20 plus knots. 5. The article is correct that the boat does not like light winds with lumpy seas. On the other hand, the boat sails well in heavy wind. I have driven the boat many times to hull speed under the main or 100% jib alone in 30-35 knots of wind. 6. The Universal diesel with 32 hp will easily power the boat to hull speed, if the bottom is clean. However, there is one downside to the Universal, as it has an overheating problem.

You have a good article for a good boat. I enjoy the magazine very much; keep up the good work.

-Garry Hubert
Lafayette, CA


Great review as always.  I've owned a Cal 39 forever. The boat pictured in the small sailplan illustration, however, was a Cal 31.  Gotcha!  Keep up the great publication. I've been a loyal reader and fan of PS since the Great Flood.

-David McCowen
Gig Harbor, WA

Thanks, David. We scanned the wrong file out of the Cal folder. Apologies.


In the used boat survey of the Cal 35 you write that offshore racers didn't get to steer with spade rudders until Bill Lapworth designed the Cal 40 in 1966.  Let's give some credit to the Dutch designer E.G. "Ricus" van de Stadt.  In 1949 he designed and built the 42-foot plywood ocean racer Zeevalk for Cees Bruynzeel.  With this boat Bruynzeel won his class in the 1951 Fastnet Race and 2nd overall.

Rod Stephens, who was aboard the much larger Circe in that same race, dismissed Zeevalk's success as that of bunch of tough guys sailing a rule cheater.

In 1959 Van de Stadt designed Pioneer, a 30-foot fiberglass sloop, and the next year Stormvogel, a 75-foot ketch, also for Cees Bruynzeel. Both designs featured spade rudders and were very successful offshore racers. Numerous other Van de Stadt designs had fin keels and spade rudders.  He died in 1999. 

-Thierry Danz
Philadelphia, PA


Ferris Wind/Water Generator
Thanks for your recent article (February 15, 2003) on the Ferris Wind/Water Generator.

We are using a Ferris rigging-suspended generator while cruising the Eastern Caribbean. We've been happy with it and have some field data and thoughts to share.

We use the rigging-suspended unit in combination with two Unisolar USF 32 solar panels to meet our needs, which average about 120 AH/day at anchor. The solar panels provide about 20 AH/day, and the wind generator provides the rest, most times. 

In exposed anchorages we secure the wind generator periodically due to lack of load. (We hit on the same solution as you did, tying the generator off 90 degrees to the wind.) In anchorages well sheltered from the wind we have to run the engine every few days.

Informal checks of our unit's performance at installation suggestedperformance below the curve shown in the Ferris catalog. Your article prompted a more careful check.

We recorded data when windspeed and generator output were reasonably constant. Windspeed was measured by the masthead anemometer and generator output was measured by the Ferris-supplied monitor.  The batteries were at 12.4V. Compared with curves from the Ferris catalog, my data agree more closely with those of Practical Sailor.

A couple of possible explanations have occurred to me. First, the windspeed at the generator should be less than that at the masthead due to the vertical wind gradient and the rigging shadow.  (Your unit was in the fore-triangle behind the furled headsail; our unit was between the main and mizzen masts of our ketch rig, about one third of the way to the anemometer.

A generator windspeed about 75% of that at the masthead puts the measurements on the Ferris curve. However, I suspect the actual difference in windspeed is less than25%, more like 10-15%, so this is only part of the story.

A second effect is wake turbulence generated by structure in front ofthe wind generator. Airfoils need a uniform approaching air flow forbest efficiency.  (Consider the effect on sail performance of being in the air wake of an upwind boat.) 

The turbulent wake behind thefurled headsail in your installation and the main mast in mine areprobably degrading the performance of the generator compared withone in a clean air stream.

The usefulness of a rigging-suspended unit depends on boat configuration, cruising location, and cruising style. A permanent pole-mounted unit is probably best if you can fit one.  However, a pole mount is not always practical (for example, our mizzen boom projects well aft of the pushpit) making a mast mount or a rigging-suspended unit the choices.  The tradeoffs are weight aloft, interference with sails, maintenance access, and the bother of rigging and stowing a suspended unit. 

For boats frequently on the move in areas with light or highly variable winds, a suspended unit might not make sense.  For boats in areas with relatively steady winds that frequently remain at anchor for a week or more, a suspended unit probably does make sense. For our boat, location, and style, the suspended unit seems the best choice and we would make the same choice again.

I don't have hard data on noise levels, but having been aboard anumber of boats with various wind generators, I'd say it is substantially quieter than the Air Marine unit, not much different than the Kiss or Wind Bugger units, and probably not as quiet as the Four Winds unit.  We do not really notice the unit's noise until it is making something like 10 amps, and then it's not bad.

I recently replaced the blade on my unit after operator error led to breakage of the original blade.  Ferris warned me that the noise level was sensitive to the tracking alignment (blade perpendicular to the rotating axis) and that I would need to be careful to get it right.  I made a special effort to get the blade tracking well within Ferris's suggested tolerance, and found the unit noise level indeed does drop off as tracking alignment improves.

The other thing I noticed on the original blade and the replacementblade is that the noise level seems to drop off over the first couple of days of operation.  I do not know why, but perhaps the air flow polishes off roughness in the paint or something.

-Tom Greene
Via e-mail 


After reading the article detailing the experience with the towed generator, I am left thinking that there must be a simpler way.  An ideal solution would be to have a submersible generator that looks exactly like an electric trolling motor, but with a slightly different propeller design.  I have not seen any on the Web. The closest design I have found is the Aquair Water Powered Generator. See Perhaps mounting the Aquair in place of the lower unit on a trolling motor's vertical shaft warrants experimentation.  Trolling motors are very easy to tilt or lift in and out of the water.

-Mike Stockstill
Raleigh, NC


Cleaning Clear Vinyl
[re: "Clear Plastic Cleaners," PS February 1] I have been a charteryacht captain for over 20 years. Maintaining boats is a daily job for me. I have tried just about everything to keep clear vinyl clear so I can see clearly. Currently, I am a captain of a boat which is surrounded by acres of isinglass and I have come up with the ultimate formula for maintaining a clear view.

Once or twice a week, I apply Meguiars Wax Cleaner (which costs about $4 at any chain department store's automotive section). The boat I skipper is used daily, so I would guess that a boat used once a week wouldn't need waxing as often.

At the end of each day, I hose off with fresh water any salt spray and immediately dry using a silicone squeegee (e.g. "California Blade" found in the automotive section of discount department stores for about $20). This will minimize spotting. 

I swear by these silicone squeegees. They are as soft as a chamois and do a thorough job with 90% less smearing, and they are way faster. They are very flexible, making them perfect for isinglass that also may have curves.

The next time I use the boat, I buff the isinglass clear with  Meguiars Quick Detailer,  which can be found for about $4. Using just a light misting of this product and a clean dry cloth, any residual spotting or film is easily removed and the isinglass is buffed clear quicky with little effort.

If  I get salt spray on the isinglass during its use, I simply rinse with fresh water and squeegee with the silicone squeegee and in no time I'm on my way again, seeing perfectly clearly.

It is critical to use perfectly clean dry cloths when buffing out the wax or the Quick Detailer. Otherwise, there will be a slight film.

If you are ambitious and have the time, Meguiars golden liquid wax works exceptionally well and lasts longer. It just takes a little longer to apply and costs twice as much ($9).

After a year of following this simple routine, the isinglass looks as good as new. I get daily comments from boaters who ride with me on how great it looks—they've never seen anything like it. I strongly believe that the coat of wax creates a barrier coat to prevent fine scratching from the daily dousing of salt spray, and provides much-needed UV protection. We all know the price for replacing isinglass, so an ounce of prevention goes a long way. 

-Allan Glick
Via e-mail


Bottom Paint
I have always used hard copper-based paint rather than ablative paint because I want at least two years between bottom painting. Over the years, I have found that paint performance depends far more on surface prep than other factors. When I have had a yard do the job, the paint is either too thin or peels from an improperly prepped surface, and I get less than a year from it before fouling starts.  When I do it myself, I thoroughly sand the surface and lightly sand between coats, using at least three coats. Last time I used four coats and my boat was in the water for four years with almost no use. (Starting a business allows no sailing.) When she was hauled, I expected a real oyster farm, as I knew the area I was in was bad for fouling. Instead, there was no hard growth and just some thin slime.  This was astonishing for this part of northern Florida—but looking back over past re-paintings, I realized the pattern. Allowing a yard to do it is an invitation to barnacles. Doing it myself allows multiple years between paintings.

I think the only real difference is preparation and number of coats. I also scrub the bottom with a long- handled brush once a year, but have never had a diver clean the bottom.

Prop fouling is another area in which I have done some intentional and accidental experimentation. When I first got my boat, she had a bronze prop but no zinc on the stainless shaft.  The bronze did not seem to foul much at all.  After I put on a shaft zinc, the prop fouled badly.  Later, when the zinc once corroded off in a week due to a bad ground nearby during a cruise, I returned to my home port sans zinc and had no fouling. 

I then experimented with an old prop, with and without zinc, and found that the presence of the zinc about 6" away on a stainless shaft really does allow fouling that otherwise wouldn't occur. I theorize that the more cathodic zinc suppresses the copper in the bronze prop from putting a tiny amount of copper into the water around the prop which suppresses fouling. For this reason, I think that copper-coated props with a zinc are probably not very effective at antifouling. It might be effective to put a very thin insulating layer on the prop blade surfaces and then coat this layer with a thin layer of copper. This would de-couple the Cu layer from the zinc.  Each year, you might simply replace the thin Cu coat.

-David O'Hara
Carrabelle, FL

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