Mailport April 2011 Issue

Mailport: April 2011

Dinghy Field Report

Caribe L10

Full-time cruisers use their tenders for everything. RIBs, like this Caribe L10 that we tested in July 2008, are a good choice for those looking for a reliable, do-it-all dinghy.

In regard to the reader letter requesting informed opinions on choosing a dinghy type (PS Mailport, March 2011): I’ve owned three so far. We started with a fold-up inflatable (plywood floor) and a 5-horsepower outboard. It lasted most of our first year of cruising from Lake Superior to the Bahamas. Fold-up inflatables are not very dry in comparison to actual rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) because their tubes are smaller in diameter. Fold-up inflatables also will not tolerate years of rough service in choppy seas.

Our second dinghy was a RIB with an aluminum floor. It was lighter than the fold up, handled great with a 15-horsepower Yamaha, and it kept us, our laundry, and our groceries drier than the roll-up did. That particular model had a design flaw, however; RIBs must be able to flex, and the aluminum floor had welds that broke instead of flexing.

Our third and current dinghy is a Caribe RIB, which we are very pleased with. Many cruisers have RIBs with big outboards because we use them for everything! Could you carry four passengers in a hard dinghy? Possibly even get the dink up on a plane and get across a harbor safely and quickly should the need arise? Think of using a hard rowing dinghy with a low-horsepower outboard to get your cruising boat out of trouble should your main engine fail and you need to use the dink as a tug. Better hope there’s not much current. You’ll start to get the feeling that having one of those too-big dinghies is more of a necessity than a luxury.

Scott Nicholls

Thanks for your dinghy field report. We would just like to add that one drawback of larger dinghies is stowing them underway. Davits work well for coastal cruising, but not ocean passagemaking. Be sure you have the onboard space to stow a dinghy properly. We appreciate everyone who’s written in with their dinghy stories, and we apologize to those who went looking for the dinghy survey on The MIA survey was a result of our ongoing effort to move to our new, improved website (launch expected this month). Until the survey is up and running, you can e-mail your comments to the editor at

Wi-Fi Solutions

I’ve followed your recent articles (April 2010, January 2011) on boosting Wi-Fi access using higher powered systems. I’d like to add to the mix the system I installed in spring 2010. Greg Gonyea at WiFi Antenna Easy ( has put together a POE system that provides the antenna, amplifier, mounting hardware, Cat 5 cable, 12-volt power module, and software. WiFi Antenna Easy also offers an optional 12-volt wireless router that adds wireless capability for multiple users and eliminates the need for connecting a Cat 5 cable from the system to your laptop.

We installed the system in May and used it on a two-week cruise from the Chesapeake to southern New England. We were able to find and connect to an open router in most harbors with excellent results. It is also a real asset in our home marina, where the connection using the built in Wi-Fi in our laptops was always tenuous. For the rest of the season, performance continued to be excellent.

I had a few issues during the initial start-up related to software I had installed on my laptop, but Greg provided terrific support, taking the time to help me sort the problems out.

WiFi Antenna Easy offers several models. I bought the higher-power AS-2 system. At $254.50 for the AS-2, the price is reasonably

competitive with the do-it-yourself system you recently profiled. I think WiFi Antenna Easy offers a great option that is not as well-known as some of the systems you have reviewed.

Rex Noel
Chesapeake Bay


Creative Hose Storage

Hose storage

Reader Mike Zelman shared his resourceful storage solutions for keeping hoses and power cords neatly stowed: spare-tire covers. Sold at most auto stores and discount retailers, the covers start at $10 each.

I want to share a unique storage system for power cords and hoses that I’ve found and I think my fellow readers will appreciate. (See photo above.) I use two covers for spare tires kept on the rear of SUVs. Using two works best (put hoses/cords in one and cover with the second). If their slits are aligned, a useful handhold results.

Mike Zelman
Ricofee, 1986 Pearson 28
Islamorada, Fla.


Soap on a Boat

Your response to Don Grass’ letter (PS Mailport, February 2011) about an upcoming article on soaps made me write. You mentioned Dr. Bronner’s and Savon de Mer; I hope you will also include Sierra Dawn Campsuds ( in your review. That is what I use camping, traveling, and boating. It is biodegradable, works in cold, salt, and hard water, and works on dishes, clothes, hair, and the body. It’s available on for $10/16 ounces. I’m interested to see how it compares.

Lisa Falk
Via e-mail

We’ll be sure to add it to the test lineup. We welcome any other recommendations for onboard bathing, dish washing, and laundry soaps, or methods that work. You can e-mail them to the editor at


Eco Antifouling


Your excellent, but diplomatically worded editorial, “The Pitfalls of Eco-nice Antifouling” (March 2011) points out the effects of the now quasi-religious nature of the so-called environmental movement.

When I started out in the marine coatings industry in 1965, at a major brand company, we developed a tropical antifouling coating that would last seven years; no haulouts required. Nowadays, slower ocean-going vessels must be hauled out every two years. According to the laws of diminishing return, and this environmental madness, we will eventually end up with naked hulls and no marine traffic!

Overuse of tetrabutyl tin (TBT) antifouling by amateur boaters, especially in freshwater lakes, was criminally inappropriate. However, modern chemistry is the solution, not the problem. Biocides and copper are not the enemy when used correctly.

Michael R. Bingham
Deer Park, Texasz
Via e-mail


Furlers & Rig pumping

hotos courtesy of Peter Szamer and Greatland Laser

Double-headstay rigs common on larger boats like this Hallberg-Rassy 54 are being adopted on smaller boats looking to optimize sail power in light air. Is the reduced space between the furlers causing rig oscillation? We’ve not seen any conclusive evidence that would support the idea.

How well are the relatively new double-headstay rigs doing in the field? By double-headstay rig, I mean the designs with one stay forward with roller-furled light-air sails and another stay directly aft with the roller-furled working genoa. I did a small computational fluid dynamic (CFD) analysis of such a setup after witnessing a case of rig pumping in relatively light wind. (The results were published in the Nov. 18, 2010 “Machine Design.”)

One possible explanation might be as follows: The double-headstay designs were meant for larger sailboats, 46 feet and larger, that allowed for a good separation distance between the two headstays. As smaller boats added this rig, the separation distance got smaller. This allows for fluid flow from the forward furled sail to interact with the trailing furled sail in situations such as sitting at anchor. At speeds of 0.16 to 80 knots, the wind dips inward in an unsteady pattern 18 to 28 inches behind a 6- to 7-inch-diameter furled sail. Have any other readers witnessed similar instances of rig oscillations or pumping?

Fred and Barbara Jensen
Viator, Cabo Rico 34
Sandusky, Ohio

That’s an interesting theory, and a timely one as this issue (pages 12-16) includes a review of furlers for light-air sails that were tested on a 41-foot boat. We’ve not had any reports from readers or Practical Sailor testers of rig oscillation issues related to the double-furler setup. Most of the feedback we’ve gotten from boat owners with two mounted furlers has been positive, touting the added versatility of having a light-air sail and a working genny at the ready. Most also have the light-air sail furler mounted on a sprit, which maximizes its separation from the genny furler. In regards to your report, there are some factors that weren’t covered that we’d be curious to know about. For instance: how loose was the rig, was it an inline set of spreaders and shrouds with no running backstays/checkstays, and did the rig continue to vibrate on the next windy day after the owner removed one of the furled sails and furling gear?


Varnish field Report

I’m an avid reader of Practical Sailor and use your articles to help me choose products for both sailing and maintenance of my Gulfstar 37. I paid special attention to recent articles on wood finishing (January 2011). Based upon your past reviews, I opted to use Ace hardware varnish. It’s worked great on the teak of my Gulfstar 37.

Laser News

The Greatland Rescue Laser
Photos courtesy of Peter Szamer and Greatland Laser

The Greatland Rescue Laser and Green Rescue Flare, which we reviewed in the March issue, are good additions to a boat’s inventory of visual distress-signalling tools.

The following letter was written by Jim O’Meara, former Alaskan bush pilot and the inventor of the Greatland Rescue Laser and Green Rescue Flare, which we reviewed in the March 2011 issue. Since that review, there has been some legislative action regarding use of the laser to signal aircraft. Already signed by the House and Senate, the new bill is an amendment to an existing law that prohibited users from pointing laser-pointers at aircraft. The amendment makes it clear that individuals can use “a laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.”

You might have thought about getting an emergency laser signaling device but were hesitant because of all the hype in the news about pilots being blinded and users getting arrested. You can now shine on with confidence: A law soon to be signed by the president allows emergency laser signaling devices to be aimed at aircraft in an emergency. In all probability, there will be some restriction on power levels (5mW), so the rescuer isn’t blinded.

Now that using the lasers is approved, one can choose to leave the pyrotechnics in the bag, especially if a positional alert device like a PLB or an EPIRB is activated. The laser can be used to signal passing boats, onshore residences, and passing aircraft. Aircraft are required to report any laser sighting.

Jim O’Meara
President, Greatland Laser
Inventor, Rescue Laser Flare


Electric Toilets

Sea Era aboard

The Raritan Sea Era, which we reviewed in the March issue, offers three water inlet options.

I read with interest the electric-flush toilet tests (February and March 2011), since we have the Raritan Sea Era aboard. As you noted, raw-water flushing is a major contributor to toilet odors, so we prefer to flush with municipally treated onboard pressurized water.

Aboard our old boat, with a conventional manual head, we simply directed water from our handheld shower head into the bowl as a source of clean water, but that doesn’t seem like it would flush water where it needs to be with an electric head, to avoid running the Sea Era’s pump dry.

It appears that some heads are designed for pressurized water input. Is there a risk of contaminating potable water from connecting these systems? How do the heads designed for pressurized freshwater flushing connect to the water supply?

Bob Fine
Second Wind, Catalina 350
Winthrop Harbor, Illinois

Any electric marine toilet needs either an input pump pulling in raw water (lake or sea) or a connection to on-board pressurized fresh water through a “solenoid valve.” Some boats have both, which work one at a time, through a Y valve. The output or macerator pump needs adequate swishing water to do its job.

Pressurized water is fed through a normally closed solenoid valve. The valve is opened when electricity is applied. This valve keeps any would-be back-flow of toilet water out of the freshwater system. Any dealer that sells electric marine toilets also sells various size solenoid valves for use with pressurized water for flushing. The solenoid valve would replace the Sea Era’s “input” pump.


Personal Liberty

Kudos for the brave article about the possible impact of AIS (“Big Brother on the Water,” February 2011). In the present environment, it takes courage to speak out on behalf of personal liberty. And anyone with a pleasure boat who has been boarded by the Coast Guard does—as the author said—take a warmer view of the need for honoring the search-and-seizure provision of the Constitution. I expect the author will be roundly condemned by the many who are all too willing to “give up essential liberty” for false security.

Tom Hagoort
Peripatetic, Bristol 41.1
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
and Shelter Island, N.Y.


More ‘Big Brother’

I take issue with the February 2011 article “Big Brother on the Water.” I retired as an international airline pilot less than a year ago after being an aviator for 45 years. When I began flying, there was no such thing as the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). Today, mid-air collisions are extremely rare thanks to TCAS. It’s true that we have traded the “right” to attempt to occupy the same time and space as another aircraft for a loss of privacy but that seems to me a fair trade.

As sailor for 48 years, I crewed on a sailboat from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to New York City several years ago. We arrived at The Battery in Manhattan with no acknowledgement by any authorities. Maybe it was because we were only blocks from the former World Trade Center, but I felt uncomfortable that nobody knew who we were or from whence we came. Perhaps it is my airline background, but I believe such unfettered freedom is out of place when there are radical groups bent on doing us harm.

Les Fuchs
Atlanta, Ga.
Via e-mail

Streamlight Headlight

After reading your Chandlery article on the Streamlight Sidewinder (March 2011), I thought others might want to take a look at the Streamlight Survivor LED flashlight. This is a right-angle headlamp designed for firefighters, so it’s extremely rugged and it throws a very bright, narrowly focused beam. This is important to firefighters to avoid blinding light scatter in smoke, and increases its utility to sailors in fog. The less-expensive version runs on four AA batteries. I have an earlier version with a Luxeon LED, but the new ones have the C4 LED, which should be even brighter.

Chip Stratton|
Road Less Traveled
Worton Creek, Md.


The article on used-gear stores in the February 2011 issue listed an incorrect phone number for the Sailorman store in Fort Lauderdale. The correct number is 954/522-6716.


Comments (1)

Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

The question would be, do we give up our freedom for the minimal risk of a terrorist attack or do we accept the risk as a price we pay for our liberty? The Traffic Collision Avoidance System and the benefits it produces is a poor analogy to the attacks of 911 and the fear that is propagated by some. I will do diligent watches,radar observation and follow navigation rules to avoid collisions.

Posted by: Unknown | March 31, 2012 11:47 PM    Report this comment

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In