Each year, just prior to the fall boat show season, Practical Sailor editors consult with our testers to come up with a select list of Gear of the Year from the previous 12 months of testing. For most of the 2016-2017 testing season we focused on essential everyday products that owners of boats of all sizes-with a few exceptions-rely on. While our testers appreciate new technology, they recognize that a safe passage often depends on the reliability of the weakest link, and that weakest link is often a seemingly minor component that gets little attention. In short, our Editors Choice list is not the sexiest product roundup, but if youre serious about keeping your electrical connections corrosion free, making professional repairs on a blue-collar budget, maintaining a safe speed in a steep following sea, or looking for a way to manage a big genoa without upgrading to an electric winch, youll appreciate it.
The past year also yielded a number of in-depth reports on boat design, seamanship, and safety. If you are a new subscriber, or are still catching up on your PS reading, we highly recommend you browse the archive from the last 12 months to read several important articles, especially our reports on storm preparation , risk management (January 2017), anchor design (February 2017), multihull design (March2017), liferaft inspection (April 2017), new weather forecasting tools (May 2017), and boatyard safety (July 2017). You can also find details on all of the products below in the original test reports available online.
In the final part of our two-part series on sailboat winches, we investigated the newest trends in winch design. Expanding on Part 1 (The Ubiquitous Winch, PS August 2016), testers sea-trialed several boats equipped with the winches they had bench-tested. The field included winches from Andersen, Harken, Lewmar, Selden, and Antal. The standout, however, was a novel winch from newcomer Pontos, featuring a revolutionary automatic transmission.
At the heart of each of Pontos two designs-the Trimmer and the Grinder-is a unique clutch-and-trigger mechanism that auto-downshifts and upshifts according to the force applied by the winch handle. This auto-shifting action seamlessly adjusts the gear ratio to adjust to the load. The process is a bit like down-shifting on a 10-speed while trying to climb a steep hill.
In field tests, the Trimmer made it easy to sheet the last few inches on a highly loaded genoa. Testers were particularly pleased with the Grinder version, which has range of speeds that proves a real value when fast tacking or asymmetric spinnaker jibes.
Four other winches caught our testers attention:
Andersen 40ST – This mostly bronze and stainless-steel winch is a favorite of many long-term cruisers.
Lewmar Evo – The Evos quick, no tool servicing, self-tailing system, and pricing make it an attractive option to more expensive all-metal winches.
Harken – Under sail, the Harken 402STA, with composite bearings, injection-molded parts proved its mettle. Its drums earned high marks for grip.
Antal – The Antal XT40, with bronze gears and a stainless-steel shaft, had noteworthy safeguards that allowed the line to slip if the self-tailer is overloaded.
Selden – The R40, a ground-breaking reversing winch, convinced our skeptical testers after a few tacks.
Re-Mov Silicone & Adhesive Remover
Old silicone can become embedded in the pores of gelcoat and wood, making it impossible for anything to bond-a real problem when replacing lenses on hatches or ports. In our test earlier this year (see PS Tests Adhesive Removers, January 2017), Re-Mov remover was the most effective overall for removing silicone caulk residue. Two applications eliminated all the silicone from a textured deck, allowing it to match original bond strength. It also worked on poly-urethane.
Crosby Grade B Shackles
During the past two years, we carried out a series of anchor shackle tests that yielded some surprising results. In the U.S., shackle standards are spelled out in U.S. code RR-C-271 G, Federal Specification for Chains and Attachments, Carbon and Alloy Steel. Our tests focused on Class 2 (screw-pin) shackles that meet or exceed Grade B specifications under the U.S. code. These specifications, which have been updated in recent years, are the same or similar to those used around the world. Grade B, 3/8-inch shackles will have a working load limit (WLL) of 2 tons and a maximum breaking strength between 9 and 12 tons, depending on the makers safety factor.
The take-away lesson from our most recent test (Anchor Shackle Re-test Modifies Initial Findings, PS January 2017) is that if you are looking for a galvanized anchor shackle in the U.S., specify Grade B shackles. These are readily available from Crosby (G209 A), and Campbell (Grade B). These manufacturers proof-test their shackles, and weve found no reason not to have faith in them. Of the two, Crosbys wide distribution, clearly stamped WLL, and broad selection of sizes gives its G209 an edge. Campbell Grade B shackles and other brand Grade B shackles that are proof tested will also fit the bill.
Lewmar Winch Grease
Prompted by a letter from one of our readers, Practical Sailor carried out an extensive review of greases during the past 12 months. We limited our initial review (Winch Grease Corrosion Test, PS October 2016) to winch-specific products, including only greases from well-known marine hardware manufacturers Andersen, Harken, and Lewmar. These are all medium viscosity, waterproof greases intended to be changed annually, although they will last longer in light use. In static testing, the metal test coupons coated with the Lewmar Winch Grease simply did not corrode. Performance in the high-temperature oxidation test was also impressive, making it a top pick in this category.
Omni Lubricants Waterproof Green Grease
There are many non-marine brands that can lubricate and protect just as well as branded winch greases. Our report on budget greases (Budget Priced Winch Greases, PS February 2017) focused on greases designated for low-speed equipment such as winches, windlasses, steering gear, and other bits that need to keep moving. The stickiest of the group was Green Grease from Omni Lubricants. This waterproof grease provided excellent corrosion protection in both static and rotating tests, better than the best winch grease. The grease is a great choice for a variety of uses including trailer wheel bearings, windlass gearboxes, steering gear, turnbuckle threads, seacocks and other applications that don't involve extremely high temperatures.
Green Grease was also our Best Choice to protect vulnerable electrical connections from moisture. Although several products claim to be conductive greases suited for electrical junctions, our research discovered that these products, especially those loaded with copper, can actually promote galvanic corrosion in a marine environment. Although it is neither dielectric nor conductive, Green Grease resists being washed-off and excels at fighting corrosion, and has no detrimental impact on properly formed connections.
Our preliminary investigation into anti-seize formulas was framed as a comparison between two categories of greases-organic vs. synthetic. The test pitted Forespars Lanocote, a derivative of sheep lanoline, against Tef-Gel synthetic carrying polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, aka Teflon). There is a range of similarly formulated products in either category that we expect would deliver comparable results. For example, Forespar makes its own synthetic product, Marelube TEF 45, which should compare to Tef-Gel in a head-to-head test.
Tef-Gels specialty is preventing stainless-steel fasteners from seizing in aluminum. As the name implies, it has some PTFE in it. Although it is not as thick as Lanocote, it is a very sticky, thick gel. Because it is generally used to lubricate fasteners, it comes with tiny brushes for brushing the gel deep into the female threads.
Tef-Gel showed exceptional resistance to high temperatures, making it useful in all but the most extreme high-temperature applications (exhaust manifolds, for example). If theres heat or movement involved, synthetics excel. As for corrosion protection, organic greases will do fine.
West System Epoxy
Following up on our test of two-part epoxy bond strength (Stuck Like Glue PS June 2012), and pre-thickened epoxy fairing compounds (Epoxy Fairing Compounds, Part One, PS January 2017), we looked at several brands of two-part epoxies that can be combined with fillers. The test (DIY Filling and Fairing, PS August 2017) compared epoxies and fillers from Interlux, MAS, System Three, and West System. Each of the products filled a particular niche, but the overall choice for the do-it-yourselfer was West System. For fairing, we favored lower density, easy-to-sand, faster curing recipes such as West 105/205 resin with 407 fill for below the waterline and 410 filler for above the waterline. West System pumps consistently delivered the right resin to hardener ratios so both got high marks.
CMP Martyr Anodes
Zinc anodes, which protect a boats metal components-especially submerged metals like props-from the ravages of galvanic corrosion, are a perfect example of a small, seemingly insignificant product that plays a vital role. In a test comparing the performance of aluminum versus zinc anodes in brackish water, testers liked the economically priced Canadian Metals Pacific Martyr zincs. The generous weight and solid interlock between the halves was what set them apart. The wastage rate was slightly lower than that of other zincs, and the robust construction at the union proved durable over time. It is important to remember that you should never let anodes deplete to a point when the integrity of the union is vulnerable.
Kasco Marine Deicer
Our investigation into ways to extend the cruising season (Winter Sailing for Diehards, PS December 2016) prompted a report on bubblers used to keep ice away from marinas and piers. The resulting test report (Keeping Ice at Bay, PS November 2016) looked at several different brands and types, and testers concluded that the deicers with oil-filled motors are generally more reliable than their oil-free competitors because the oil provides an extra measure of protection against water intrusion. In the final assessment, testers liked Kasco Marine deicer, which featured a metal cage and improved trash screening.
Scott Rapid Dissolve Toilet Paper
Following a carefully considered protocol that is not worth delving into here, testers took a second look at toilet paper designed for marine systems and holding tanks (see Best Marine Toilet Paper, PS October 2016). The defending champion from previous tests, Scotts Rapid Dissolve set the benchmark by disintegrating into nothingness with the slightest mixing, but still holding up in the earlier phases of the test (read the full article if youre interested in what that entailed). The standout in the two-ply group was West Marine Pure Oceans, which behaved more like a slow-dissolve single ply. It was the only product in the two-ply group that we would consider safe for some marine sanitation systems.