Mailport: June 2010

Sail-Buoy Gets PropsCheap Teak CleanerBoots Built Alaska ToughInterior Refit ResourcesPropane Fridge AboardSoapless in SeattleWire RiggingHandheld Pet PeeveSmart-phone AppsRaising Wi-FiDIY Yards RevisitedSpider PatrolMore On Cleats


In the April 2010 review of beverage holders, I think you “nixed” the Sail-Buoy a bit early because you attempted to use it from a lifeline rather than from one of the stern rails. I have two Sail-Buoys, one on each side of the boat. I enjoy steering from the low side, so I just move my drink from side to side after tacking. I’ve used these holders for many years with no issues. Give them another try!


John Duran
Tranquillity II, Catalina 30
Toledo Beach Marina
LaSalle, Mich.

Photo courtesy of John Duran



The lifeline-mounted Orbex Sail-Buoy ( we reviewed in April jumped ship during testing, leading us to give a thumbs-down to the hook Orbex supplies with it when used on a lifeline. We did not test it on our rail but will be sure to give it a try in our next review of drink holders to see how it fares against the Snap-It V003 (, the Practical Sailor Best Choice for rail-/pulpit-mounted holders. Thanks for the feedback.


I read the article on teak cleaners in the May 2010 issue of Practical Sailor. The article was very good, but you didn’t look at my favorite teak cleaner: Cascade dishwasher detergent.


I’ve been using Cascade dishwasher detergent for years with excellent results. It has just the right amount of alkalinity and surfactant for teak. Cascade comes in paste and powdered forms. The paste is the easiest to handle, but the powder works well too. It’s fast, easy, and cuts through the grime beautifully. You can’t beat the price either: One $4 container of Cascade will do the teak decks on a 40-footer.

Nick Cancro

President, Sailors Solutions Inc.

Northport, N.Y.

I just uncovered my long-lost November copy of Practical Sailor. A reader inquired about XtraTuf boots ( XtraTufs are very popular in Alaska, and their popularity is for a reason. I can attest they don’t slip on a gurry-covered deck (mixture of fish slime, blood, and water), and they are very comfortable. They also come in an insulated version for cold weather. Add a felt insole, and icy water is no problem. They do have one drawback: The tread picks up small pebbles. We always have to remember to clean out the tread whenever we wear our boots off the boat.

Phil North

S/V River Wind

Homer and Kenai, Alaska

I have a 1976 Cal Jensen 2-27 that is a fun and easy boat to

Mailport: June 2010


sail. The issue I have with the boat is that the cabin is still in the 1970s. I have found very little information and resources available to bring it into the 21st century. I am sure I am not the only one who has an old and worn-out cabin. What are some good resources for methods and products to do it right?

Tom Williams

Green Turtle, Cal Jensen 2-27

Bohemia River, Md.

If you’re just looking to modernize and freshen up the cabin, often painting the headliner and getting new cushions or cushion covers will do the trick. But if your’s is a larger-scale project—the teak has weathered beyond repair; you want to add a freshwater line to the galley; you want to add new lighting—a good starting point is browsing online boater’s forums like You can search for posts about others’ projects and DIY tips, or seek specific advice from other forum members. Beyond that, there are several books we find ourselves going back to time and again for refits and maintenance. To name a few: “This Old Boat” and “Sailboat Refinishing” by Don Casey and “Brightwork” by Rebecca Wittman. Another one with how-to’s for interior work is “Fitting Out Your Boat” by Michael Naujok.


In the February 2010 Mailport, a reader asked about using propane fridges on boats. A customer of mine at Marks Marine Electric has a propane RV fridge on his boat. One of the main problems with using propane fridges aboard is that they have no compressor. They use heat to move the active refrigerant through the unit; resultingly, a lot of heat is present. In order for my customer’s unit to cool properly, I installed a solar fan on the deck to vent the excessive heat.

Mark Burrows

Marks Marine Electric

San Diego, Calif.

I have a 2004 Hunter 33 moored at Fishermen’s Terminal, which is owned by the Port of Seattle. I try to maintain the boat in a clean condition and have always used soaps that were environmentally friendly. Last year, the marina ruled that boatowners cannot use soap to wash boats at the marina. I have removed all soaps from the boat and try to wash it with water and a brush only. As you can guess, a scum forms that water and a brush will not remove. Any suggestions?

Larry Vaughn

Otta Sea, 2004 Hunter 33

Seattle, Wash.

There are some “natural” citrus-based cleaners that are non-toxic and are phosphate free. However, because Fisherman’s Terminal mandates that NO soap or detergent be used—in accordance with the Washington State Department of Ecology and Clean Water Act regulations—even these cleaners likely won’t fly. We suggest finding a recipe for a homemade cleaner that meets your needs and passes muster with the marina staff. For general deck washing, try a solution of one-part white vinegar to eight-parts warm water. To remove stains from fiberglass, spot-clean with a baking soda paste. But go easy with it; baking soda is an abrasive and can scratch fiberglass.

Photo courtesy of John Duran


Your answer about wire rigging life expectancy (Practical Sailor Advisor, January 2010) left out an important consideration: Boats stored on the hard in winter with their rigs in place expose the wire, and more importantly, the wire end-fittings, to freeze-and-thaw cycles. If any moisture gets into the fittings, this can lead to premature failure.


To make matters worse, those same rigs are rarely properly inspected, since inspection requires a trip up the mast. We haven’t seen a failure at our club yet, but we still pull Prydwen’s stick each year, to the amusement of our clubmates.

Marc Auslander

Prydwen, 1978 Tartan 30

Shattemuc Yacht Club, Ossining, N.Y.

If a manufacturer goes to the trouble of making a handheld VHF radio float, why not mold a bright case color that gives users a chance to see it if it takes a swim underway? Or, they could go one step further and attach a water-activated strobe to it.


Gregg Bange

Newark, Del.


You make a valid point. Most emergency radios (those designed to be included in life rafts and ditch bags) do come in bright colors—namely orange and yellow—but the majority of handheld VHFs are your basic black. A few new, floating models from Cobra Electronics ( come in orange and black. We recently tested one of them, the HH475.  According to Cobra, having a dark color for a handheld means it’s less likely to look grimy after a lot of handling; however, the company’s two-tone radios offer a compromise, they maintain.


“The orange core does really help with visibility if you drop it at night or into some dark cloudy water,” explained Cobra’s Bill Boudreau.


A few of Standard Horizon’s radios, the HX751 and HX851, use glow-in-the-dark gaskets for better visibility, though we’re not sure how well the “glowing” gaskets work or how visible they would be in a lumpy sea. Standard’s HX851 also has an SOS strobe light that will flash when the radio comes in contact with the water.

Mailport: June 2010


If your favorite VHF doesn’t glow or sport an orange stripe, attach bright-colored or reflective tape to the case or try this little trick we use with things like sunglasses, hats, and the GPS: Attach a bright fishing “bobber” with monofilament. The small floats (about 2 inches long) are easier to spot against the water than dark electronics, and the monofilament loop attaching them can be “hooked” with a boat hook.


I enjoyed your articles on smartphone applications (December 2009 and April 2010) for marine use. Understandably, users are split into the Windows and Apple camps, but there are free weather apps that should work with both platforms.


One is ( Users just enter the address in the smartphone’s web browser and then add it to the home screen (on iPhone) rather than bookmarking it, and then there will be an icon on your phone that, when clicked, gives access to NOAA weather radar images.


Another way is to just use the phone’s browser to go directly to the NOAA Marine Forecast page you want and add it to the home screen. The text may look small, but zoom and click a few times, and you can make your way to the text forecast fairly quickly.


As supplement to the VHF forecast, these are great. Reading the text forecast allows me to take more detailed notes on the forecast for the boat. And if I miss something on the VHF report, I don’t have to wait around for the next one.

Bob Bedell

Via e-mail

I loved the article in the April 2010 issue about improving Wi-Fi access onboard. I did not note any discussion about which of the systems works best when it’s not installed permanently. That is, can I simply hoist any of them up my flag halyard while I am on the mooring and still get good service?

Ed Reiss

Being There, Freedom 38

Bristol, R.I.

The products we reviewed in the April issue, the Wirie (, Rogue Wave ( and Bitstorm (, can all be temporarily installed; and hoisting them on a halyard would be one way to do that. The antennas work by line of sight, so you actually should get better reception by hoisting them. We didn’t test them this way; however, we did vary the height of their mounting during tests.


I was going through an older Practical Sailor and saw that somehow I had missed a survey that dealt with do-it-yourself boatyards (June 2009). There is a superlative yard on the Eastern Shore of northern Chesapeake Bay called Georgetown Yacht Basin.


Don’t let the usage of the term “yacht” put you off: They are the only area yard that has a 110-ton TraveLift, can haul large catamarans, work on fiberglass, wood or steel/metal hulls AND allows DIY work, if you follow the reasonable rules so they can maintain their green rating.


They are not yachtie snobs and have done restorations on everything from VERY rough to showroom vessels.

Peter Gentry

Panther, 1930 brigantine schooner

Baltimore, Md.

Photo courtesy of John Duran


In reference to the May 2010 Practical Sailor Advisor on spider repellents: Last year, I got a tip from a fellow dockmate about using Ortho’s Home Defense Max ( It is a water-based insect killer that comes in a gallon jug with a sprayer and can be found at stores like Home Depot for about $8-$10 per 1.1 gallons. It can be used just about anywhere on a boat except upholstery.


I sprayed it in all lockers every few weeks. I also put some on terry-cloth rags around each dockline, secured with a wire tiewrap. And when we left the boat each weekend, I sprayed the cloths on the lines. It worked very well until we were out of town for three weekends and the spiders returned. You have to be vigilant with spiders.

Bob Abbott

NanSea, Precision 27 No. 17

Edgewater Yacht Club,

Cleveland, Ohio

Like David Short, who wrote in the May 2010 Mailport about his homemade cleat blocks, I also fabricated cleat guards for my boat, using low-maintenance PVC, painted white.


Regarding the chafe of bow lines, routing the starboard line to the deck-mounted port cleat and similarly for the port line greatly reduces the angle at the fairlead. The bow lines on my C&C 37 run almost straight from the respective cleats through the fairleads to the shore cleats. I still use chafe guards, and the lines have remained like new for six years now.

Dr. Charles F. Barth

Crazy Horse, C&C 37

Lorain, Ohio

Also with this article...
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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