Although the ease and convenience of electronic chartplotters has ensured their place aboard most every vessel these days, the punch-and-go navigation that makes them so popular has also spawned a generation of slack-jawed zombies when it comes to even the most rudimentary of navigational skills. Prudent mariners continue to carry paper charts, both as backup to chartplotters (and their “one diode away from disaster” nature) and to have the big picture view that a plotter just can’t match.
For those who’ve lost their way or simply want to get back in touch with their paper-chart plotting skills, Weems & Plath has introduced the USPS (United States Power Squadron) Plotting Kit.
The kit (Model No. 350) includes an Ultralight Divider, a USPS plotter, a copy of the “USPS Basic Plotting Guide” booklet, and comprehensive instructions on how to use each of the navigation instruments. PS testers reviewed the instructions and the booklet, and found that both are more than adequate. The booklet does a good job of describing the basic concepts of coastal and inland navigation, including: how to measure latitude and longitude of a point on your chart for entry into a GPS; how to plot a position using latitude and longitude given by the GPS; and how to plot, measure, and label course lines on a chart.
A good starter kit for the novice or refresher for the experienced navigator, the Weems & Plath USPS Navigation Kit is just the ticket to reconnect with your navigational roots. The kit lists for $44, roughly a $4 savings over purchasing the items separately.
Xantrex, a maker of marine inverters and battery chargers, is manufacturing something new that meets boaters’ power needs and fits in their pockets. Measuring just 2 inches by 1 inch, the Xantrex TrueCharge-2 is a 12-volt USB charger that can be used to keep your growing bevy of small electronics charged and ready to go.
Any gadget that you can charge via a computer’s USB port—some GPSs, cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, MP3 players, digital cameras, e-tablets, etc.—can be plugged into the TrueCharge-2 for charging. The TrueCharge-2, which can be plugged into any 12-volt DC accessory socket, converts 12-volt power from the boat’s battery into 5-volt USB power that can be used by most mobile devices. A blue LED light lets you know when the device is charging.
We took the TrueCharge-2 along on a recent multi-day trip to the Florida Keys and used it more often than we had thought we would. Although we try to unplug from the digital world once we leave shore, we still like to listen to our favorite playlists from time to time, and of course, we have to keep our digital cameras at the ready. The TrueCharge-2 made that easy without the need to fire up our laptop or bring along multiple cords for different devices so we could charge them from a regular socket.
Other manufacturers market similar devices, but we liked the fact that this one came from Xantrex, a company we know to make quality power products; it gives us more confidence the USB charger will stand up to life on board. (In our most recent test of marine inverter-chargers, testers tapped the Xantrex Prosine 2 as the Budget Buy.)
Bottom line: Far from a must-have boat item, the TrueCharge-2 is definitely a handy charging device, and for $11 (www.campingworld.com, catalog number 55596), it’s worth adding to your gadget arsenal.
On most cruising sailboats, a fair amount of stowage room is taken up by spares—extra hose clamps, spare batteries, random fasteners—small odds and ends kept onboard just in case they are needed. But what about spare rigging? Those who do carry backup shrouds and stays know that finding a dry storage spot for 50 to 60 feet of heavy, difficult-to-coil wire isn’t always easy, especially on smaller boats. It’s often allotted a home in the bilge or lazarette, where it’s at risk of corroding before it’s ever needed.
Colligo Marine, well known for its innovations in synthetic rigging, has come up with an alternative to toting around corrosion-prone coils of spare wire shrouds and stays: The Colligo Emergency Shroud Kit.
Made of 12-strand Dynex Dux, the backup shrouds are not only much lighter than wire, but they’re also stronger, more durable, corrosion-resistant, and easy to coil. The whole kit—one unspliced, aircraft-aluminum line terminator; a length of Dynex Dux (53 feet of 7 millimeter or 65 feet of 9 millimeter) with a spliced terminator; lashing line, two fids for splicing, a 6-inch length of tube for chafe protection, and a laminated card with splicing and rigging instructions—can be stored in its supplied, easily stowed 12-inch-by-15-inch plastic bag.
We took a look at the 7-millimeter kit ($400), which can serve as a temporary replacement for shrouds up to a quarter-inch in size. The line is rated for a safe working load (SWL) of 3,000 pounds with a breaking strength of 15,000 pounds. (The $570 9-millimeter kit can replace shrouds up to 3/8-inch and has a SWL of 4,800 pounds.)
The only potential concern we had was whether splicing the Dux line would be easy enough—even for someone with no previous experience splicing synthetic rigging. While we couldn’t simulate an at-sea emergency, we did have a splicing newbie try her hand at affixing the Dux shroud to the supplied line terminator.
The tester found the printed step-by-step instructions to be quite clear, and the accompanying photos made the directions easier to visualize. However, there’s a two-part video, “Modified Brummel Splice,” on Colligo’s website that walks users through the entire process, and our tester ended up watching it a few times before tackling the splice.
The entire process took the tester about 30 minutes. It was fairly easy and painless, but she did note that having a sharp knife handy is a must. Trying to weave a rough-cut Dux end through itself is challenging and frustrating. We can’t see this being a quick fix in an emergency, unless the shroud is pre-spliced or the sailor is a well-practiced splicer.
Bottom line: The Colligo Emergency Shroud Kit is a lightweight, durable, and easy to stow alternative to carrying spare wire rigging. Galvanized cable clamps, some slightly used 7 x 19 wire, and matching thimbles offer a cheaper option. To solve the stowage problem, it can be loosely coiled and stashed under the guest berth cushion.
In our eternal quest to be fouling-free beneath the waterline, we recently picked up a tube of Prop Glop antifoulant for propellers and running gear. Made by Moby-Cool.com, Prop Glop is as glamorous as its name implies. The 4-ounce applicator resembles a stick of underarm deodorant—complete with bottom twist knob—and the goop looks like a bar of cooled-off caramel.
One $30 tube of Prop Glop should be enough to cover one prop, shaft, and rudder. What piqued our interest the most was the fact it can be applied underwater and can be touched up easily. To apply it, users simply clean their running gear, then rub the Prop Glop over the areas they want to protect.
The company claims the protection should last eight to 10 months. We’re admittedly skeptical of its longevity claim, but we’re eager to see how it compares to the other metal antifouling products we’ve tested: Prop Speed (PS, November 2006), the baked-on Mussel Buster (PS, July 2010), and Pettit Barnacle Barrier, which has gotten much positive reader feedback.
This summer, we plan to coat the inboard prop and shaft of a Tartan 37 with Prop Glop. Look for an update on its performance in the next bottom-paint update.