Mailport October 2007 Issue

Mailport: 10/07

Sail Track Upgrade

I’m rebuilding a 42-foot Cheoy Lee ketch. It has the original wood masts, which are being fully restored, but I would like to upgrade the sail tracks to something slicker and easier to handle. Have you done any reviews on the Harken or Schaefer batt-car systems? How about any of the slick plastic sail track inserts such as the Strong slide system?

L.B. Carpenter
Coconut Grove, Fla.

A basic survey of mainsail slide and car systems ran in our Feb. 1, 2005 issue. Product reviews ran in the June 15, 1996 and Jan. 15, 1997 issues. You might consider a solution that is often recommended by Carol Hasse, owner of Port Townsend Sails, in Port Townsend, Wash.: a Tides Marine Strong Track ( system with a Schaeffer Battslide ( receptacle, which allows you to adjust the batten

Schaeffer Marine Battslide
A Schaeffer Marine Battslide batten receptacle with a rugged Strong Track slide is a simple, cost-effective option for reducing friction on full batten mainsails. Another inexpensive option for intermedi-ate slides or slides on batten-less mainsails is the Bain-bridge Allslip slide. The slides fit most conventional masts. Recent reports from sailmakers suggest that some of the newly produced Allslip slides have slightly different dimensions than their predecessors, making them more prone to sticking.
tension at the luff. The Strong system isn’t as slippery as some of the slides with bearings, but it’s plenty slick and lots cheaper. Hasse says she’s found that, in the long term, the Strong system maintains its slipperiness better than bearing-types. Port Townsend Sails specializes in building serviceable, durable sails for cruisers. The Strong System and Battslide have gotten favorable reviews from readers and contributing editors in the field. We will begin a new series on mainsail handling systems in our December issue with a look at the Dutchman (

Chain Connectors

I am looking for information on the use of connecting links to connect two lengths of BBB 3/8-inch or half-inch chain, rather than the purchase of an entire length of chain, saving weight and money. I am concerned about the breaking strength of the connecting links. A simple peening process promises a strong connection—however, I want to sleep at night. I also need it to run smoothly over my Ideal manual windlass (or a future upgrade to an electrical vertical windlass). I currently have 110 feet of chain plus 145 feet of rode, and want to have 250 feet of chain

Schaeffer Marine Battslide
for cruising Mexico, the Caribbean, and beyond. I have been unable to find information on this, and my gut tells me not to trust the connection.

Tim Smale
Cape Dory 36
Oceanside, Calif.

There’s no way to maintain both the inter-link strength and the spacing continuity when joining two pieces of chain. You’re correct in the assumption that the "two-half" junction links, with their peen to fasten connection mode, do not deliver the tensile strength of an original link. However, a connection that’s nearly as strong as the chain itself can be made with two chain shackles with their clevis pins welded rather than cotter-pinned in place. It’s a strong and rugged connection but will not be happy on a windlass chain gypsy. In a pinch, the short junction can be coaxed over a horizontal windlass chain gypsy. But it must be done with care for obvious reasons, and this becomes more troublesome—if not impossible—when a vertical windlass is used.

The best solution is to buy a 250-foot shot of BBB chain (U.S. made), and make sure your windlass manufacturer says that the chain gypsy on your windlass matches the chain. This investment is one of the most important safety and security aspects of cruising, and those outward bound on a 24/7 basis should rank ground tackle on a par with standing rigging—both are of primary importance.

World’s Strongest Boat?

Thanks so much for your comments regarding the strength (or lack thereof) of

The McCurdy & Rhodes Navy 44
The McCurdy & Rhodes Navy 44, used for training U.S. Navy midshipmen, ranks as a rugged production boat, though relatively few were built.
modern fiberglass boats. Valiant likes to advertise its boats as being able to run into floating containers at sea without sustaining much damage (at least that seems to be the suggestion of their brochure); I think Pacific Seacraft has shown pictures of a beached boat that was still in good shape. I am not aware of such claims from the Scandinavian builders or Shannon, even though Shannon claims (probably more realistically) not to have ever lost a rudder.

What are the most rugged cruising boats that you have come across made of fiberglass?

Jan Weber
Boatless in San Francisco

At the risk of igniting a firestorm, we’re opening this one to the readers for nominations. We’ll keep a tally. Generally, anecdotal information from sailors, surveyors, and our own occasional bruisings, leads us to believe that the hulls of older, heavily laid-up boats—the Westsail 32 ( and its predecessor the Kendall come to mind—handle abuse better than today’s newer boats. However, some of these boats had other problems—blisters, cheap metals, etc.—which ultimately could compromise integrity. In addition, there could be great variation in quality from hull to hull. Throw hull cores into the mix (see "Core Report," page 30), and the debate becomes even more interesting.

If The Shoe Fits

I really appreciated the article on women’s boat shoes ("Sailing a Sea of Shoes," July 2007). However, as a woman with wide feet, I found no mention of sizing of these shoes. Short of finding retailers for each brand and trying them on, it’s hard

Teva Sunkosi
Teva Sunkosi
to know what might fit well, and I get tired of sending mail-order shoes back. For instance, past pairs of Harken ( and Sperry ( have proven to be too narrow for long-term comfort on wide feet. In case other women are looking for wide shoes, many Keen models are great ( These sandals were designed by a sailor. They also have lace-ups.

Susan Heckly
Sula, Catalina 380
San Francisco, Calif.

Our testers noted that the wider fitting brands (in the sizes tested) include Teva ( and Helly Hansen ( ). Unfortunately, sizing was so irregular among all brands (the length measurements for the Size 7.5 Helly Hansen shoes were all over the map), that we cannot confidently make any generalizations.

An update to the shoe test is on the horizon and will include an overview of this year’s Teva Sunkosis. So far, the Sunkosis have surpassed the top performers in the July review. Look for the update in a future issue. Also, upcoming tests will attack other types of shoes—sandals and moccasins for men and women—so if readers have any favorites they’d like to see included, let us hear about them.

Smith on Epoxy & Varnish

I just read your letter-reply in the September 2007 issue: "Teak does not like nor need to be epoxy-coated ... Epoxy rot treatments are not intended to be primers for varnish ..."

You are dead-wrong when it comes to my product, Smith and Co.’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer, which unlike other hard epoxy products and "rot treatments," is intended to be an effective primer. It is made largely from the natural resins of wood, unlike other epoxy products.

For 35 years, it has been an extraordinarily effective primer for varnish on teak. Thousands of people with antique and classic wood boats and wood sailboats swear by it. Take a look at the testimonials sections on my website, You can learn more about why Clear Penetrating Epoxy sealer works at

Steve Smith
President, Smith & Co.
Richmond, Calif.

Epoxy Primer Fan

Your recommendation about not treating teak with penetrating epoxy (September 2007) is not borne out by practical experience.

I sealed all the exterior teak of my J/44 sailboat with Smith & Co. penetrating epoxy and have had excellent results with the subsequent application of varnish (Pratt & Lambert Vitralite). There is no separation of the varnish from the wood at the edges where the water enters and penetrates the wood and pushes up the varnish over time. I have now three years of experience with the application. The varnish gets recoated every nine months (two to three coats).

Prior to reverting to varnish, I used the total system sold by Smith (penetrating epoxy plus polyurethane varnish). The varnish held up as advertised for five years, but it was very difficult to remove.

Richard Leute
Acey Deucy, J/44
Sausolito, Calif.

We are testing Smith and Co.’s two-part varnish with its primer, a report on it and other two-part varnishes will appear in an upcoming issue. Most of the marine wood finish industry has come to recognize that epoxy’s tenacious adhesion quality is both a curse and a blessing. If you’re into fine-finish woodwork, epoxy is a poor (visually) substrate. Its longevity as a teak treatment is hampered in a saltwater environment. Yes, the coating may initially last longer, but application is a pain, and the job of renewing the finish when it finally goes south is a killer.

Docking Tools

BoatUS ( has published interesting data on docklines and storm surge. Their data on nylon rope elongation and fraying suggest that polyester might be superior. Have you tested TideMinders ( or any a similar

TideMinders’ “string of pearls” kit
TideMinders’ “string of pearls” kit includes nine balls that can fit any dock line up to 1-inch in diameter.
products? Could polyester dock lines combined with something like TideMinders be a better preparation for hurricanes and storms at the dock?

Lee Meadows
Cal 25
Annapolis, Md.

We reviewed the Tideminders in the Chandlery section of the June 2006 issue, and we plan to compare it with several similar devices and report on them before next hurricane season. Should you be stuck in a crowded marina during a tropical storm (not our first choice), no method can guarantee that your boat will survive the crush of poorly secured neighbors. Chafe protection and plenty of fenders are essential. If you use Tideminders, we would still recommend "spiderwebbing" long nylon lines to fixed points on shore or on the dock, allowing slack for predicted storm surge. Three-strand nylon can stretch 10-15 percent under its working load. You will also want to make sure that the Tideminders’ loop cannot slide over the top of the piling.

We just finished destructive testing of nylon three-strand at the New England Ropes facility in Fall River, Mass., and will be reporting on that soon.

Lamp Fuel

In response to your request for cheap, pure lamp fuel, I have successfully used the following for many years in a number of paraffin lamps, lanterns, and candles: Lamplight Ultra-pure,, $7 at Ace Hardware for 45 fl.oz., Tiki Brand Ultra Pure lamp oil, made by the same company. I believe it was less than $20 for a gallon at Target.

Timothy Schoolmaster
Evanston, Ill.

Prop Cage Advice

I am researching the availability of propeller cages for a 16-inch-diameter prop on a 3/4-inch-diameter shaft with a single leg strut. The boat will be heading back up to Maine. We want to avoid Spurs, but need something to protect the prop.

Andrew Kinsey
Freedom 36
Cutchogue, NY

Prop cages have high drag coefficients and when lugged around under sail, the proverbial bucket is not an exaggeration. They lessen the effectiveness of thrust under power and are not absolutely immune to damage from flotsam.

With a 16-inch diameter prop, the cage will be pretty large, therefore will induce significant performance-robbing drag. Regardless of what material is chosen (stainless or bronze), it will require custom fitting and bracket attachment, making this both a costly and complex project. Anode protection will be necessary and all the vibration associated with the propwash will stress all fastenings.

We encourage input on this subject from any readers who have installed prop cages. By the way, technical editor Ralph Naranjo’s solution is a pair of night-vision goggles and enough room in a locker to carry his Scuba gear and a wet suit. Just thinking about going swimming in Maine, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland has kept him from snagging any more pots.

TillerPilots Upcoming

The Garhauer snatch block we tested for the August report is equipped with a Ronstan snap shackle. Following our tests, Garhauer upgraded its block so that users can more easily load it while the line is under tension.
Are you planning to review tillerpilots in the near future? We would really appreciate it!

Deb and Frank Ash
Debra Dawn, Glander Tavana

Tillerpilots—and autopilots—are at the top of our "To Test" list. We’ve already begun acquiring products and plan to carry out the test soon. The last time we reviewed tillerpilots was in the Jan. 1, 2001 issue. We looked at two from Simrad (TP10 and TP30) and two from Raytheon’s Autohelm (ST2000 Plus and ST4000 Plus). Testers’ top pick was the Simrad TP30, despite its lack of display. Today’s players are largely the same: Raymarine (Autohelm) and Simrad (Navico). Look for the faceoff in early 2008.

Ronstan Snatch Blocks?

I found the August 2007 snatch blocks test very informing and timely. I was in the market for a pair of new snatch blocks for handling the spinnaker on my 27-foot sailboat. After reading your review I felt well-informed and prepared to proceed. I purchased two Ronstan RF6710 that seem to compare very favorably with the Wichard 34500 Practical Sailor tested. The next time you review snatch blocks, would you please include the Ronstan line?

Richard Paden
1974 Dufour 27
Columbia, Md.

Ronstan is sending us its blocks, and our review will appear in an upcoming issue. Some of the products we reviewed in the August issue use Ronstan hardware. The Garhauer block, for instance, has a Ronstan snap shackle.

Digital Chart Accuracy

Reading some old Practical Sailor magazines, I was struck by a letter in the July 1, 2004 issue about erroneous cartography in a Magellan GPS and Magellan’s subsequent "Don’t blame us. We don’t do the maps/charts" reply.

I had a similar experience at a major boat show. I was looking at one maker’s latest chartplotter. I scrolled the displayed image from the harbor where the show was taking place to a nearby island whose harbor is a very popular overnight anchorage. I was shocked to discover that none of the half-dozen buoys marking significant navigational hazards was shown! The reply I got—"not our problem. We don’t make the chart chips."

It looks like it’s not yet time to give up those paper charts!

Luther Abel
Indulgence, CS 36
Alameda, Calif.

Halyard Stretch

In the table on pages 12-13 of the August issue, it appears that the percent stretch (under a 1,000-pound load) for both sizes of Novabraid is off by a factor of 10. Is the actual percentages of stretch 1.2 percent (Polyspec 5/16 inch) and 1.0 percent (Polyspec 7/16 inch)?

Kelly Arnold
Intrepid II, Cape Dory Intrepid 40
Victoria, B.C., Canada

Yes, a pesky decimal point was misplaced, and we apologize for the confusion. The correct numbers were used for calculating, so the other table entries for Polyspec are correct.


TC-11, which rated highest in our last month’s test of protective sprays for electrical equipment, is available at, along with Ace, True Value, and Do it Best hardware stores.

Marlec Engineering Co. manufactures the Rutland 913 wind generator, PS’s Budget Buy in the July 2007 review. You can contact Marlec at +44 (0)/1536-201588. While several North American companies distribute the Rutland, PS attained its test unit from Cruising Solutions. That company can be reached at

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