Mailport August 2008 Issue

Mailport: 08/08

Gelcoat Miracle Cures

Has Practical Sailor tested Presto Protech ( I tried what seems like a similar product on a truck a few years ago, from a company called Blue Coral, and it ruined the paint.

Bill Streep
San Antonio, Texas
Via e-mail

Presto Protech was among several acrylic coating-type products recently applied to one of our test boats, a 1974 O’Day Javelin. Drying almost upon contact, this

Gelcoat Restorers
The chalky, oxidized hull of our 1974 O’Day Javelin was the perfect test platform for gelcoat restorers. Look for the test results in an upcoming issue.
UV-activated product was one of the quickest to apply. Its gloss compared to that of a conventional paste wax. How long it lasts is a key question that we have yet to answer. A full report on Presto Protech and similar products will appear in a future issue. Our most recent long-term test of these types of products ("Hull Restorer Test," May 2007), showed that one product, Poli Glow, retained gloss on the bow section of our white test powerboat for three years, longer than any conventional boat wax that we have tested. Keep in mind that the acrylic-type products do not "restore" gelcoat. They only cover it—imperfections and all—with a clear, glossy plastic coating that, in some cases, hides minor scratches. For best results, you will still want to eliminate as much oxidation as possible prior to application. Finally, strictly follow the instructions on these products. Buffing the hull with a product that has silicone, Teflon, or some other agent can inhibit adhesion. You might have to avoid using certain cleaners that can peel off the coatings. While the acrylic coatings have outlasted waxes in our tests and several readers have reported great results, we believe that the simpler, more forgiving buff-and-wax routine is suitable for the vast majority of boat owners.
Practical Sailor is currently testing paste waxes as well. And if you’re ready to paint, check out our topside paint test, which kicks off on page 27.

Digital Chart Dilemma

I feel compelled to comment on the article in the April 2008 issue of Practical Sailor on maritime chart updates.

As stated in the article, Garmin updates every six months, Jeppesen Marine updates once or twice a year, and Navionics charts are updated annually. While some of the changes are input by consumers, most are from the United States Coast Guard’s Local Notice to Mariners ( These changes are posted weekly, and also appear in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Vector and Raster charts available at

These charts are used in the international ECDIS Navigation stations used on large commercial ships. The NOAA ENCs are in the S-57 format, an internationally set standard. These charts, updated weekly, are available at no charge to both commercial and private interests. They are the basis for all of the commercially available GPS chartplotters in the USA. The generation of these updated charts is part of the United States agreement to the International Maritime Organization’s mapping branch, the IHO. It is paid for by our tax money.

All GPS plotters aimed at boaters use this information, yet only a few allow the use of the international S-57 files. Instead they take the NOAA ENC’s and convert them over to their own non-interchangable format. You are, in fact, paying for the same product twice, once with your tax dollars and again when you buy it at a marine store.

Many aviation chartplotters allow for downloads from the Federal Aviation

Paceship PY26
The small, but mighty Paceship PY26 and her younger cousin the PY23, pictured here, came from the drawing board of John Deknatel, now president of the renowned marine architectural firm C. Raymond Hunt Associates.
Administration and NOAA, using an international format. Clearly, the manufacturers of marine GPS have put profit above the safety and reliability of their products.

As boaters, for whatever reason, we have failed to demand that the charts we depend on be as current as the government makes them. The NOAA website lists systems that will allow the S-57 format. Until the makers of recreational marine GPS allow the use of the international standard, I will not buy their products. I advise other recreational boaters to vote with their wallets and also boycott chartplotters that only allow their own charts to be used.

Andrew F. Gillis
Catalina 22
Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Spilled Paint

I ordered bottom paint from and topside primer from In both cases, I received discount prices on the paint. The notable difference is that shipped the heavy gallon of bottom paint in a cardboard box with only styrofoam packing to retain the can. Defender shipped the much lighter quart of topside paint in bubble wrap and two layers of plastic bags, with a plastic clamp on the lid and vermiculite between the plastic bags to sop up any spills. The can from Defender arrived intact. The can from broke its styrofoam packing, the lid popped loose and bottom paint leaked inside the box. did credit me 10 percent, but now I’m wary of ordering paint from them again.

David Pomerantz
Separate Peace, Pacific Seacraft 34
Scituate, Mass.

Practical Sailor orders hundreds of paints and other products that are shipped in cans and bottles. Although most products arrive intact, the heavy gallon-size paint cans seem to be the most susceptible to damage in transit. We encourage readers to seek local sources for bottom paint whenever possible. In our most recent bottom paint test (results to appear in the October issue), for example, three of the 52 paints tested spilled during transit. The styrofoam packing arrangement used by Ipaint is common among many bottom-paint suppliers, and Ipaint’s record with Practical Sailor is no worse than that of other retailers, so we

Spilt Boat Paint
Practical Sailor has seen its share of spilled paint—some messes worse than others.
would hesitate to single them out. That said, Defender and others who take extra measures to secure their products and still keep prices low deserve due credit.

Pimp My Paceship

Your recent cover feature about "Small Boats, Big Dreams" (June 2008) really resonates with my family.

As I cruise between Maine and Block Island with a wife, an 8-year-old boy, a small dog, and a rotation of guests aboard our 1979 mini-cruiser Paceship 26, creature comforts are important. Most recently, the formerly lightly used quarter-berth area was transformed into electrics-central.

I found an out-of-production 1500-watt Trace inverter/charger at West Marine for $370 (about one-third its original price). Tied to a dedicated house-power 165# 225AH gel battery, it worked through its first three-day weekend flawlessly, powering refrigeration, microwave, and DVD/monitor (19 inch). West Marine provides the extended warranty protection even for this non-current unit. If it fails, $59 buys me whatever has replaced it on their shelves. I suppose it’s not pretty, but to my family, it’s beautiful. The space between the inverter/charger and the engine housing is fully occupied by the reefer.

I added the 30A 120V power-head and breaker panel on the AC side, as well as a second DC panel (above the radios). I’m especially proud of my custom box for the Sharp Half-Pint microwave. Everything just fits ... and I mean just.

Along with the extensive electrics, I’m in the process of installing a bow roller, a Pro-Fish freefall windlass, and 200 feet of 1/4-inch chain tied to a No. 14 Delta self-launching anchor. A Simrad auto-tiller goes on next week.

Last year, we installed the Harken Bat-Car system for mainsail handling. With its catch bag and lazy-jacks, we have brought all sail handling into the cockpit.

With the Garmin 545, this is a sweet single-handed ride. Next year, the boat gets a new Westerbeke 14 two-cylinder for the jaunts through Woods Hole cut and the Cape Cod Canal. Pimping-the-Ride on a competent small vessel is gratifying, as it doesn’t break the bank and provides a lot of personal pride in projects one undertakes alone.

Richard Gonci
Paceship 26

The joys of small-boat cruising are underrated in our opinion, and your pocket palace deserves a lofty place among Paceships. If there are other readers with pocket cruiser projects, Practical Sailor is interested in hearing about them. Please send photos and your story to Practical Sailor last looked at inverters in the April 15, 2005 issue, but three years is more than enough time for major changes to take hold in this product category. Most interesting is the field of inverter/chargers. Xantrex has a new model (Freedom HF Inverter/Charger) for small boats, and Practical Sailor recently had a look at the MS Series pure sine wave inverter from Washington-based Magnum Energy, which has been serving the RV field. One of the selling points of the Magnum units is that they are made in the United States and owner serviceable, making it easier for sailors to get their inverter up and running again should something go wrong.

Kayak Test?

I’d like to see a review of inflatable kayaks. I attended the Southern California

Hobie Mirage i12s
The Hobie Mirage i12s, which Practical Sailor is currently testing, can be pedaled, paddled, or sailed.
Yachting Association Women’s Sailing Convention in February, and one of the things the cruising panelists recommended was a second mode of transport away from the boat (other than the primary dinghy). I know there are numerous inflatable kayaks available, but I’ve heard various opinions.

Lisa Falk
Kaholo, J40
Via e-mail

Practical Sailor is currently searching for suitable inflatable kayaks to review and encourages readers to offer their product suggestions and general comments regarding desired features to

MOB Recap

Regarding your test of man-overboard alarm devices in the May 2008 issue: The two classes of devices tested (active beacon vs. passive polled devices) have two other inherent characteristics worth consideration.

The active beacon units (Sea Marshall and Alert2) are not resistant to malfunction by design. The only way you know they have failed is when a crewman is missing and there was no alert. In contrast, the passive polled devices (Raymarine and MOBi-lert) will indicate malfunction immediately—when the device does not respond to a poll.

This is characteristic of the different architectures. All of them can be tested, but one must be particularly diligent with the former.

Secondly, the Sea Marshall, personal EPIRBs, and any device that lights up a 121.5-MHz signal upon trigger should be used only in life-threatening situations. In contrast, the Raymarine or MOBi-lert can be used for some other more mundane, but still useful, purposes.

For example, a device can be stowed in the dinghy, so that should it get loose (or someone liberate it), you will be alerted. They are also small enough to strap to a pet. In either case, a full Coast Guard SAR may not be warranted, yet you would still like to know.

There is still no perfect MOB alarm. It would be ideal if ACR would partner with Raymarine or MOBilarm (maker of the MOBi-lert) to produce a version of the personal EPIRB that would register on those systems as an MOB device.

You would then have the advantages of all systems in one package: passive polling, active beacon, and 406 EPIRB.

Jon Fitch
Napa, Calif.

Flow Rite

Alert2 MOB System
The Alert2 MOB system from Emerald Marine Products is an example of a passive system that does not have a continuous self-check built into it.
Could you review a remote-battery watering system from a company called Flowrite ( It looks like just what I need for watering batteries that are buried in a locker that is difficult to access.

Claude Lafleur
1985 Hunter 34
Mandeville, La.

We too, were intrigued by the product and have ordered the Quik-Fill system from Flowrite. We will be reporting on it in a future issue.

Where’s Navman?

A few years ago, in 2004, I was very impressed with the Navman line of marine instruments and purchased their GPS Tracker 5600, Wind 3150 and Depth 3100 for my sailboat. They have served me well over the years, but now I’m having trouble finding parts. Do you happen to know where I could have my Navman equipment serviced in the United States?

Richard Paden
S/V Petite Cherie
Severna Park, Md.

Navman was one of several marine electronics businesses that were swallowed up by Navico last year. From the Navico website: "Navico is truly a house of brands, with the B&G, Eagle, Lowrance, Navman, Northstar, and Simrad brands all manufactured and distributed under the Navico umbrella."

Andrew Golden, spokesman for Navico in North America, explained: "The Navman name was dissolved in the United States in December of 2006, and in the rest of the world in April. The old Navman product line became the Northstar Explorer series. Navico will continue to support the Navman warranty that came with each product. Navman is serviced by Navico in the US. The Navman website is" Since receiving this e-mail from Golden, Practical Sailor has attempted to contact Navico regarding testing Northstar and Lowrance products without success. However, Practical Sailor did reach Ron Arzilli, a very helpful Navman technical expert at the Northstar office in Acton, Mass. He can be reached at 800/628-4487, 866/628-6261, or via e-mail at

LeComte Northeast 38

Add the LeComte Northeast 38 to your "Tough Boat" list. Last winter, while cruising the Berry Islands in the Bahamas, one of those nasty unpredicted storms came up, and we ended up on a coral head and then the beach. After towing the boat off, we were forced by conditions and lack of facilities to sail first to Spanish Wells, then to the Abacos, and finally, all the way back to Fort Pierce, Fla., for repairs. We damaged one holding tank and loosened the keel bedding. That’s all.

A couple of important notes: Our LeComte 38, Agave, is insured on a "Classic" boat policy with Zurich Insurance. Zurich was phenomenal, even covering expenses along the way. Second, Riverside Marina, the yard where the work was done, is one of the last full-service or do-it-yourself yards along the Florida Intracoastal Waterway. It is a family operation that prides itself on being able to accommodate everyone. Many cruisers we’ve met over the years haul their boats at Riverside.

Jim Pepper
Agave, LeComte 38
Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

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