In Search of the Magic Spray


Ah, the magic spray. The one that loosens bolts, stop squeaks, and bolts the door against corrosion. Every sailor has their favorite brand miracle spray (WD-40, CRC, LPS, CorrosionX, etc.), and that brand will often live up to their expectations. However, as we’ve found in our testing, some sprays are clearly more magical than others, and many of the biases among sailors aren’t fully justified.

Several PS Picks Get Upgrades

Several products caught our eye at the Newport Boat Show in Newport, Rhode Island in September, along with some updates to past tests.

Clockwise from above: Schwabb and Calder and Solbian HIT panels; the Garmin 86sci; Sealife Camera, the NASS EF-30A-3.


Renowned offshore racer Bruce Shwabb of Oceanplanet Energy and well-known technical guru Nigel Calder, author of the Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Manual, have teamed up to deliver a rigid, low-profile solar panel from Solbian featuring Panasonic’s Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer cells (HIT). Oceanplanet is the US distributor for the panels, which feature more rugged interconnections that virtually eliminate the impact of micro-cracking. Prices start at $520 for a 78-watt panel.


Garmin has a new marine GPS, the GPSMAP 86sci. The 86sci is a marinized version of a similar model that has been marketed to hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts for a couple years. The compact unit comes loaded with g3 Coastal Charts and, most notably, an integrated InReach satellite communicator (subscription required) that permits satellite messaging, tracking, and distress calls. This watertight rechargeable has a list price of $650.


We reported on the versatile SeaLife camera and video in December 2016, including our observation that the back of the camera was not impactproof to our standard (1 meter drop on all sides). SeaLife has since beefed up the camera, which now aces our drop test. The intelligent camera shoots video on land and sea, down to 200 feet. Prices start at around $700.


In the April 2019 issue we reported on MOB lights and found that the EV-30A-2 from NASS was clearly the brightest, but some samples didn’t pass our drop-test and immersion test. The maker has improved the design and the new NASS EV-30A-3 has passed all drop and immersion tests to date, and is super-bright.

And then of course, there is a lot of confusion of which spray is best for what job.

Yes, there are some spray products that claim to be everything under the sun. But given the wide range of expectations we have, it is physically impossible for one spray to fit all our needs. Some spray petroleum products are good for loosening bolts, some seal electrical connections, some protect against corrosion, some even claim to improve conductivity.

Over the years weve put these products through a variety of tests, with some surprising results. In one study, we found an anti-corrosion coating that actually seemed to promote corrosion. Here’s our greatest hits, so to speak, of miracle spray coverage.

To test products that claim to protect electrical connections, we immersed store-bought electrical toys into a fish tank (PS September 2007.)

CRC Heavy Duty Corrosion Inhibitor came out a winner in our test of anti-corrosion spray coatings (PS April 2007) .

Some products that claimed to improve electrical connections and fight corrosion fell flat in our test (PS April 2017).

Seized bolts on an old trailer bore the brunt of our anti-corrosion spray test (PS April 2009).

The bond-breakers tool kit: vice grip, impact driver, cold chisel, lump hammer, and nut cracker (PS April 2009).

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and his girlfriend Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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