For this test, we rounded up seven flotation aids from four manufacturers: Float Tech, Gill, Spinlock, and Stohlquist. The test field included an inflatable rash guard, foam racing-style life vests, inflatable PFD-harness combinations, and PFDs designed specifically for women. Only the Stohlquist PFDs meet U.S. Coast Guard standards, but all have innovative features and offer increased comfort and mobility over many Type I and Type II PFDs.
Since defects are usually obvious, anchors is one category of gear in which “what you see is what you get.” Certainly, there are counterfeits and home-welded one-offs that you’ll want to avoid, but the fakes and do-it-yourself anchors are usually easy to distinguish. Before you buy a used anchor, you should have a very clear picture of the size, type, and brand of anchor will best suit your needs. Depending on the specific anchor you seek, you can save 30 to 50-percent on cost by purchasing a pre-owned anchor instead of a new one.
It’s clear that the tools we use to measure stability, and to prevent future incidents are still imperfect instruments, as we saw in the fatal WingNuts capsize in 2011. And in the cruising community, where fully equipped ocean going boats hardly resemble the lightly loaded models used to calculate stability ratings, we worry that the picture of stability is again becoming blurred by design trends.
How frequently do you bother removing spreader boots and taping to check the condition of the spreaders and rigging? No matter how well the spreader ends are protected, and whether you use ready-made vinyl spreader boots or conventional rigging tape, water will get through to the fittings inside. On a boat used in salt water, the atmosphere's corrosive nature can cause rapid disintegration of aluminum fittings (nevermind the fact that the spreaders might be 25 feet or more off the water). The thorough taping job you did on the spreader ends may actually accelerate the problem by holding in water.