Chandlery July 1, 2005 Issue

Blue Bags

Well-designed and rugged, Blue Performance Bags cost less than custom-built products and offer custom features.

Flanked by winch handle holders that it will eventually replace in a cockpit footwell, this medium sized bulkhead sheet bag ($50) stands ready for duty.

We don't get out of the office often, at least not often enough, so while strolling around the Newport Boat Show last fall, we gleaned as much information as we could from as many exhibitors as possible. One of those was Hamish Matthew, the national sales manager for Gul USA/Blue Performance. He had on display a number of sturdy cockpit storage bags that immediately looked like something PS readers might be interested in. So, we requested some samples.

Based in Holland, Blue Performance Bags is part of Interfield Sports, a watersports specialty company known principally for products used by windsurfers and dinghy sailors. These bags made their debut in 2003 in Europe, and are conceived by an industrial designer who is also a sailor.

Because these products are manufactured specifically for use in a marine environment, the materials used should stand up to the extensive abuse that salt water and UV rays can dish out. We asked Matthew about that, and learned that the bags and the other Blue Performance products are built primarily from a moderate weight ripstop nylon with a UV protective coating applied.

"The characteristics are very similar to Sunbrella," he told us. "When we product tested our material in UV tests vs. Sunbrella, it came out with similar ratings." Matthew said that UV-resistant coatings are also used on the thread used to stitch these products together.

Blue Performance manufactures over 30 products. Apart from the bulkhead-mountable halyard and sheet bags and combo bags (the latter have winch handle pockets and mesh outer pockets for smaller items), there are also sunshades, awnings, hatch covers, elastic sail stops, see-through chart covers, mast-mount halyard bags, lifeline bags, winch covers, outboard motor covers, and other specialty storage bags.

Almost all Blue Performance products come with mounting hardware, which include countersunk stainless steel screws that recess into the bases of hard plastic hooks to affix them to a boat's outer surfaces (or inner surfaces in the case of cabin bags). The designer has cleverly sewn durable line onto the products to fit over the upper hook attachments and elastic bungy cord to slip over the lower hook attachments on most products so that once attached, the bags are kept in tension and can't fall off. This system is more secure and reliable than the simple snap buttons, suction cups, and twist-lock fasteners utilized by most other cockpit bags.

Additionally, the bags are reinforced with stiff plastic inserts so that they don't bunch up and become less usable. And most of Blue Performance's products come packaged with diagrammed instructions for mounting, including easy-to-use templates.

One feature that particularly distinguishes some of the bags from Blue Performance is a light, waterproof hood tucked into a space behind the bag when not in use. If you want to protect the contents of the bag from rain or spray, you simply open an enclosure at the bottom of the bag, pull out the hood and stretch it around the bag. These hoods cinch down tight by of a sewn-in bungy cord and a plastic spring-loaded tension lock. Other Blue Performance bags, like the Cockpit Combi Bag (BP 405) have flapped enclosures sealed with hook-and-loop clasps to protect sensitive items. And the cabin storage bags have tops that cinch closed.

The fabric in Blue Performance Bags has been treated to reduce staining. Matthew told us it cleans up nicely with soap and water.

PS examined five of the products from Blue Performance, a small sunshade, two sizes of bulkhead combi bags, a cabin bag, and a mast-mount halyard bag. They seem well built, and particularly well conceived. Will they hold up over time? We expect they will, but we can't say for sure until we put them in service for a goodly amount of time. We'll weigh in again after that.

Contact - Blue Performance, 888/234-8771, www.blueperformance.com.

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