Mailport September 2006 Issue

Mailport: 09/06

Cooking fuels
I am writing to inform you that for the evaluation of cooking stoves and fuels in the July 2006 issue of Practical Sailor, you did not get the alcohol fuel at anywhere near the lowest price. Alcohol fuel can be purchased at Home Depot and other home improvement and hardware stores at a much lower price. I priced it at Home Depot at $5.56/quart or $12.77/gallon. They call it "Shellac Thinner." In fine print on the can, it says, "Suitable fuel for all alcohol appliances."

I live aboard a Cal 25, and I use the original Homestrand range that came with the boat in 1967. Both burners work. I have never had troubles with slow cooking; it boils water readily.

Anyone who uses the range for both cooking and heat like I do will appreciate the availability of fuel in gallon containers.


Joseph "Sailor Joe" Kozak Jr.
Portsmouth, Va.

The protocol for that test required using fuel recommended by the manufacturer, which in this case, was the Soot-Free variety. We’ll try the cheaper stuff and see what differences in cooking time, odor, and soot we can detect. Thanks
for the tip.


Lexan sealant
Regarding your recent PS Advisor on sealing hatches (June 2006), I have found the following: On Lexan, I have used Lexel, a product made by Sashco of Brighton, Colo. ( It is better than silicone as it is tougher, very adhesive, clearer, paintable, mildew resistant, and durable. It is packaged in 10.5-fluid-ounce cartridges as well as in smaller tubes. I have used it in marine applications and for sealing Lexan greenhouse panels.


Ted Karanson
Tacoma, Wash.

Sealant Update: Several readers have inquired about the results of our recent sealant test, appropriately named "Sticky Situation." Some of the results run contrary to years of first-hand experience. We are reviewing the data again and will likely revise the test protocol for the next test. There are clearly some good, less-expensive "non-marine" sealants and caulks available for certain applications, but conservative thinking suggests trying to match proven marine adhesive-sealants with your project first. Before selecting a caulk, we encourage readers to review all three recent PS articles on this topic—"Caulk and Sealant Test" (April 1, 2005), "Update: Caulks and Sealants" (Nov. 15, 2005), and "Sticky Situation" (August 2006). These are posted on our website. Just click on the "Sample Articles" menu option.


Which plotter?
I have read the reviews of both digital charts and chartplotters, and decidedly the Standard Horizon is the unit of choice. However, the cartography that goes with it is not. What should I do?

Bob Millstein
Via e-mail

All other factors being equal, we recommend selecting the digital charts that best suit your particular needs first, then choosing the plotter that best runs those charts. Price can be a big factor in the decision. Rather inconveniently, the Standard Horizon CP1000C, our favorite in the test of big screen plotters under $2,000 (May 1, 2005), does not use the charts we rated best in our test of digital charts, Navionics Platinum (February 2006). Apart from going whole hog for a Raymarine Series E charplotter with Navionics Platinum software, you can opt for a mid-priced option that still uses Navionics cartography–that would be PS’s favorite big screen chartplotter, the Raymarine C120 with the Navionics Gold cartography, our Budget Buy in the digital chart test.


Spray nine query
After readying your article on vinyl cleaners, I decided to give Spray Nine a try. Indeed, it worked extremely well on a variety of plastic and painted surfaces. However, when I used it on a Beckson porthole, a Beckson deck plate, and a Ronstan vinyl winch holder, it appeared to react with a coating on the surface. The coating turned a sickly yellow, dissolved, and dribbled off the surface onto the deck where it was easily cleaned up. What is this coating, and is it safe to use Spray Nine on these products?

Doug Hart
Via e-mail

We forwarded your message to Spray Nine, and one of their specialists contacted you directly for more information. Upon learning that the surface was approximately 30 years old with an unknown maintenance history, they concluded that there was no way for them to determine exactly what occurred or why. The company will "keep the file open" on this subject. The company encourages users to spot-test any surface in an inconspicuous place before using Spray Nine. As for the sickly yellow coating that dissolved onto your deck, perhaps a chemist among our readers will venture a theory.


Transposed splice
There was a mix up in the article on splicing fids. The Samson and Uni-Fid 11 pictures (correctly labeled at right) were switched.

I still have the Samson fids I purchased more than 20 years ago. Back then, there weren’t many other choices.

Incidently, I believe the original instructions for the Samson fids said to tightly tape both the cover and the core with tape, then cut a diagonal on the taped end. This end is jammed into the fid, and the pusher is jammed in over the top of either rope part. Over the years, I have had very few pieces ever escape the fid. The pusher just about doubles the length you can run the fid without popping out and going back in on a long splice.

John Shugar
Via e-mail

Another reader wrote us after having trouble finding the Selma fids. The contact info we listed with the article is accurate; however, not everyone wants to call Norway to order the fids. You can also find the Selma kit (five fids) for sale at for $60.


Water weight
Knowing your fondness for bottom paint experiments, I am wondering whether you have ever considered testing how much water weight is absorbed by bottom paint? There is such a difference in boat performance during those first few days in the water compared to the end of the year, even with a sparkling clean bottom! I know fiberglass will absorb some water, but I have to believe that different bottom paints (hard vs. ablative) have something to do with it.

David Urann
Duxbury, Mass.

The folks at Interlux reported that in general, all bottom paints pick up water. Those based on polymeric resins, copolymers like Micron 66 and Micron Extra, will pick up water and can retain that water; those based on rosin, hard and ablative types, allow the water to pass through the film as the rosin hydrolyzes and enhances the release of the biocides accordingly (from within the film). Polymeric antifouling paints release their biocides primarily on the surface as the polymer hydrolyzes. There may be some effect on sailing performance, but given the film thicknesses of antifouling paints, especially on racing boats, it is doubtful the extra water weight would cause any loss of speed.


Saildrives in Florida
In the olden days, I sailed on Lake Michigan and off Long Island. For the past eight years, we have been sailing in Florida. Up North, I encountered people with saildrives and outdrives and never heard much one way or the other. But down here, where boats are in the water year-round, the water is near the 90s in summer, and the UV is intense, I have not met anyone with an outdrive who was satisfied. Prematurely oxidized boots, fouling problems, etc. A few professional yard types have told me outdrives are not a good idea in Florida.

By outdrives, I’m referring to powerboat applications with the outdrive hanging off the stern. I don’t know about saildrives, but for a boat that is kept in the water all year, I wonder about boot failure. The penalty for not keeping a close maintenance eye on these systems might be sudden and severe.

Anyhow, I wonder if you will have different data and different ideas depending upon where the boat is kept.

Barrie Smith
Fort Myers, Fla.


Magma responds
In regard to the Catalina Gourmet Series Gas Grill (The "Great Grill-A-Thon," July 2006), you mention the latch catching on the bottom half of the grill. Simply rotate the latch back to the lock position after you have disengaged it. Then it cannot re-engage the latch hole while the grill is in use. You also mention the non-numeric thermometer. Much of the grilling on a boat is done at dusk, and small numbers are difficult to read. For this reason, we chose to use color bars for temperature range.

In regard to the Marine Kettle 2, the article incorrectly stated that the round rail mounts are plated steel. Our rail mounts are 100 percent stainless steel and hard-anodized aluminum. The mount is not mirror-polished like our grills as this adds considerable expense to the consumer. Because of this, it may develop "surface rust," which is easily cleaned.

You also say that "both kettles would benefit from more deeply set racks to cut down on food falling overboard." The lip surrounding the grates on our Marine Kettle is high enough to keep hot dogs and sausages from falling overboard.

Tom Dougherty
Magma Products Inc.

Our testers recognized the lid latch could be fixed to prevent it from locking while cooking, and it should have been mentioned in the article. The testers said the latch was "aggravating" because the latch’s location makes it awkward to apply the required torque to secure it in the "unlock" position. The mounts are stainless steel and wiped clean except for some small stains that should polish out. The rectangular grills clearly contained food better than the round kettles, which make it more difficult to use the side of the grill to "scoop" burgers onto the plate. The Catalina Gourmet, our Best Choice in that test, is still bright and shiny, three months after being stored outdoors. Very impressive.


Kids’ life jackets
Your article on safety gear for kids highlights a crucial matter of importance.

I have been sailing with each of my kids since they were about 3-6 months old. The first time I took my son, Joshua, on the boat alone, he was 3 years old. We had a great day sailing on our Catalina 34. The safety lines were up as the launch approached. In the few seconds it took me to turn around and pick up one of our carry-on bags, Joshua somehow slipped beneath the lower safety line and into the water.

The launch operator was quick as a whip, and in less than a minute the launch operator pulled him out, grabbing the collar grab strap on the Mustang Type III life jacket Joshua was wearing and properly strapped into.

The kid was wet, but did not even know what happened to him. That fall, Joshua started swimming lessons. Now, he is 12 years old, but still is required to wear a life jacket when on deck, just as I wear my Sospenders inflatable whenever we are underway.

When I see a family or a child on a boat without a life jacket, I have no hesitation to go over to the people and tell them my "Joshua story."

Cliff Rieders
Dream Extreme, Catalina 34
Great Neck, N.Y.

The importance of requiring children, particularly non-swimmers, to wear their life vests when on or around the water was made clear recently when we wrapped up our comparison of infant-toddler life jackets The parents of three of our eight "testers," ages 1 to 4, said their children were likely saved by life jackets. Two of them fell in at the dock. The results of that test will be appearing in an upcoming issue.


12-Inch winch handle?
In the June 2006 article about winches, PS said "There are available 12-inch handles for those whose winches lack the needed power."

What source are you referring to? I have been looking for these for years and have called all the major players (Harken, Lewmar, Titan), and no one is making them now.

Bill Brewer
Via e-mail

We also had a hard time locating a 12-inch winch handle for sale. We talked to well-known rigger Brion Toss, and although it’s not listed on his website, he said he sells a 12-inch bronze handle for about $90. Check out for more information.


Winch data
The June 2006 PS article on winches misses the mark. Basically you have evaluated several winches using an elaborate test rig, and tabulated the results as a product buying guide. The efficiency ranking system wipes out whatever value there was in the elaborate testing.

Reducing the results to a ranking system without reporting the raw data leaves us clueless as to how important efficiency testing really is. The statement that "Andersen’s ribs and Harken’s smooth aluminum drums are easiest on the line" is based on what? An abrasion test? We have Lewmar and Barient winches that are completely satisfactory, and I have not noticed any particular wear in the sheets.

Mark Van Baalen
Bermuda 40
Rockport, Maine

As mentioned in the article, the data and rankings that resulted from our testing were clear. However, the differences in abrasion and in efficiency are too small to outweigh the other factors that come into play when selecting a winch. The testers concluded that all of the winches in our test will provide many years of good service, if properly maintained. We typically try to print as much as possible of the useful raw data that emerges from our tests. Circumstances did not allow this in this case.


Magic Turtle Wax
Regarding your recent maintenance articles on black streak removers ("Bye, Bye Black Blight," June 2006) and rust removers ("Rust Erasers," June 2006). From my experience, Turtle Wax’s Chrome Polish and Rust Remover does a better job than any special purpose marine cleaner that I’ve tried, and at a fraction of the price. Great for removing all types of marks, stains, and streaks—including rust stains on fiberglass and painted services, vinyl upholstery, and of course stainless.

Jack Dosenberg
Fisher 34
Vancouver, British Columbia


Yamaha blues
Ten years ago, we left Canada on our circumnavigation with a new 8-hp Yamaha outboard. Shortly after we arrived in Mexico, our new Yamaha died. We took it to the Yamaha dealer in La Paz for service and made some startling discoveries. Our two-year Canadian Yamaha warranty would not be honored in Mexico. Yamaha, we learned, makes two lines of outboards: a regular line for Canada, the U.S., and Europe, and a cheaper "Enduro" line for the third world. Parts are not interchangeable. Parts for the cheap line are not available in the first world, and the other line’s parts are not available in the third world.

This suggests that bluewater cruisers who want parts and service in the third world should choose another brand.

Kris and Sandra Hartford
Via e-mail


...Where Credit Is Due

Alpenglow lights
I have been a longtime subscriber to Practical Sailor and enjoy your reviews of products. Many years ago, PS reviewed and recommended a cabin light manufactured by Alpenglow Lights in Montana. Based on your review, I bought one and have been extremely pleased with its operation and pleasant, bright light. Last week, when I tried to turn it on, it wouldn’t. I tried to use my electrical test meter to see what the problem might be but had no luck.

So, I called Alpenglow. Its owner, Bob Stoeckley, answered the phone and after a few questions, suggested I return it to him to see what the problem was. Because I love the product and know that it takes a special ballast, I decided to go ahead despite the potential cost. I had no receipt and know it is at least 10 years old.

My wife and I went sailing for three days, and boy did we miss the light when compared to our halogen and incandescent lights. Our cabin seemed gloomy.

Low and behold, upon our return, there was a package with our light. The ballast had burned out, and Alpenglow replaced it along with a bit of wiring. The charge: nothing. All I can say is thanks to a great firm for an excellent product and outstanding service.

John Dickson
Gig Harbor, Wash.

Power tiller
My wife and I decided we needed to do "something" about our engine control set-up on our Catalina 25. We had a bad experience near Cholla Bay, Mexico, in 2004. A sudden strong and shifting wind, along with a powerful Sea of Cortez tide change, quickly pushed us near the rocks of Pelican Point. We learned three lessons that day: 1) Don’t sail too close to the lee shore; 2) Don’t sail too close to the wind (we did three jibes and couldn’t believe how fast the rocks were coming); and 3) We needed engine power and speed to maneuver, and we needed it fast!

The necessity of standing up to lift the access hatch for the engine controls on the Catalina 25, now seems like a design flaw. Then you must reach over the stern rail, while being tossed about, shift gears while trying to adjust the throttle to keep the engine going, and steer clear of rocks. I kept glancing at my depth indicator as we went from over 40 feet of water to only 9 feet within a few minutes. We finally had the engine revved and ever so slowly crept from a near disaster. Remarkably, I’m still married to the same wonderful woman, and she still sails with me when the wind is calm.

We have incorporated the knowledge from our lessons learned, and as for lesson No. 3, we love our Power Tiller. Launching, docking, and retrieving are now much easier. I am also writing to express thanks for Power Tiller’s great customer service. The staff’s knowledge, along with their tips and installation assistance, made the entire experience quite painless. In this time of poor quality products, and disregard of customer satisfaction, my experience with Power Tiller was truly above exceptional.

My Power Tiller has so increased the safety and ease of maneuvering my boat that I recommend it to my sailing friends. As for me, I will never go back to using a "dead stick" tiller.

Victor Byrd
Mesa, Ariz.

In late May, my wife and I took delivery of a Beneteau 423. It came equipped with a gennaker and sock. The sock, called ChuteScoop, produced by V.F. Shaw Co., tore the second time I used it. The reason for it tearing a 10-foot long stretch of fabric remains a mystery. It is possible a line was tangled on deck or that the line did not feed correctly to the top of the chute. I explained the problem to the company, which, at no charge, repaired the top of the chute. The turn-around time was about 10 days, from leaving my house until the repaired unit was back on my front step. On the telephone, the owner was horrified that the sock had ripped. She told me that she had never heard of this happening and asked me to return the chute.

I could not explain the origin of the problem, could not blame the manufacturer, and was prepared to pay repair or replacement costs. When I received the chute back, I was told "no charge." This was outstanding service by a company that produces an outstanding product. I would encourage folks looking for a spinnaker or gennaker sock to give them a look.

Gordon Johnson
423 Beneteau
Didi Mau

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