Mailport: March 2011

Wind Gens in Big WindsWinter Reading List AddsThe Great Anchor DebateMAS Epoxies RespondsDinghy DesignBig BrotherAnother Look at AISBig Bitstorm FansPort-side Galley Mystery SolvedBottom Paint Field ReportCorrectionsUsed-Gear Update

Rocna 25Dinghies Bitstorm Wi-Fi

Photo courtesy of Dave HutchisonPhoto courtesy of Joe Mair


I noted that a reader wrote to ask for a review of wind generators (Mailport, January 2011). Can I ask that you comment on their performance in too much wind? We all know that Southwest Windpower’s AirX ( just gets extremely noisy. Not so well known is that the KISS Energy Systems wind gen ( only has to be switched off and tied down once the wind reaches gale force.

We experienced continuous gales and overcast skies sailing from New Zealand to Fiji and arrived with flat batteries. Do other models manage to produce power in sensible quantities in 35-plus knots of wind?

Dave Hutchinson
Harmonica, Kelly Peterson 44
Edmonton, Alberta

The wind-generator tests we reported on in the June and July 2007 issues (which we cited in the January Mailport) actually were conducted in some gale-force conditions. Winds on two of the four days of testing reached or exceeded 30 knots. Top energy-

producers on those days included Southwest Windpower’s Air Breeze and the Superwind 350 ( For details on how each of the five test units performed in big winds, check out the 2007 articles. Remember that when the wind really cranks up, wind gen blades can be dangerous, and it’s a good idea to secure or stow them.

With regard to noisemakers: We’re not sure which version of the AirX you’re referring to, but we’ve found that the newer AirX (post 2008) is actually much quieter than the old one. There are some basic design features that affect how noisy a wind generator is. In testing, we noted that blades with fine, smooth trailing edges and smaller tips will generally be quieter; units with smaller blades are quieter than those with larger blades; and also a six-bladed unit will always be quieter than a two- or three-bladed unit, provided the blade diameter and design is equal.

I was a little surprised to see that your winter reading list (January 2011) didn’t include a shipwreck tome! Any good reading list should include at least one since it’s far better to learn from others’ mistakes than make your own. A few of my favorites are: “The Mammoth Book of Storms, Shipwrecks, and Sea Disasters” by Richard Russel Lawrence, the updated classic “Storms and Shipwrecks of New England” by Edward Rowe Snowe, and for sheer captivating human drama and mystery, there’s the compelling “The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst” by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall.

Jay Hersh
Salem and Lincoln, Mass.

Thanks for the recommendations. We try to stick to new books in our reading list suggestions, but another great read related to the “strange” voyage of Crowhurst and the first Golden Globe race is “A Voyage for Madmen” by Peter Nichols.

Rocna 25Dinghies Bitstorm Wi-Fi

Photo courtesy of Dave HutchisonPhoto courtesy of Joe Mair


Given my expectation that Practical Sailor provides unbiased information relating to tests of sailing and marine equipment, I was a little surprised by the comments in the Rhumb Lines editorial column in the December 2010 issue relating to the CQR anchor in the editor’s “Short List of Stuff that Lasts a Long Time.” No doubt the CQR is built well, but its performance is an issue. Having read every anchor test I could get my hands on over the last few years, I cannot find any tests where the CQR performed anywhere near as well as newer anchors such as the Rocna and Manson Supreme.

Knowing the importance of ground tackle, I think it should at least be mentioned that there are significant differences of opinion regarding the performance of CQRs. The CQRs have had their run, and I’m sure that they were a considerable improvement over their predecessors; however, in spite of your personal experience, I thought that at least your comments should have been qualified indicating that there is a shifting of opinion taking place.

Joe Mair
Cape Dory MS 300
Boothbay Harbor, Maine

There is probably no more controversial conversation in the world of cruising gear than the one surrounding anchors. We have tested the CQR and many other anchors (including the Rocna and Manson) a number of times, including two long-term field studies. The editor referred to the general conclusions of those tests in the December Rhumb Lines.

The Rocna website,, features a 2006 test conducted by West Marine and Sail magazine, highlighting the CQR’s poor holding performance in a “maximum pull” test, but we would not base our anchor choice solely upon one test. It is hard to replicate real-world experience in testing, but we are confident that, taken as a whole, our own tests and field reports offer valid conclusions. For a look at how the new anchors stand up to older designs, check out the December 2008, November 2008, and April 2006 issues.

Rhumb Lines is a forum for the editor’s opinion, and that particular column was intended to highlight long-established gear that the editor had used during his 11 years of cruising, mostly in the South Pacific. The anchors you mention—the Rocna and Manson Supreme—are fine anchors, but they didn’t fit into the scope of the column.

The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits all anchor, and the skill of anchoring is at least as important as the tool. Despite persuasive marketing rhetoric and “tests” of new anchors, a genuine CQR, in good condition, remains a perfectly acceptable anchor for cruising sailors. One of its biggest assets is its high-strength drop-forged construction, and its affordable price on the used anchor market. Beware of newer knock-offs of inferior metallurgy.

In our experience, it is the setting of the CQR that hangs some people up. In some conditions, it does not set as quickly as others, and like any anchor, it is not always the best choice for certain bottoms.

One of the things we love about Practical Sailor is your focus on keeping boats on the water with a logical maintenance approach. This is why I wanted to respond to your January 2011 PS Advisor on wooden-spar protection. You suggested that spar varnishes alone are a better approach than using an epoxy-varnish combination. While we can’t speak for all epoxies, we believe that using MAS Epoxy is an excellent choice for the reader’s project for the following reasons: 1. MAS Low Viscosity Resin is formulated to go on easily, penetrating the wood and providing a durable, water-resistant substrate that will require less maintenance over time; 2. The more durable/stabilized substrate increases the long-term adhesion of the varnish to the surface. 3. MAS Epoxies go on clear, allowing boat owners to choose their favorite varnish. And because of the stronger substrate, when the varnish needs to be re-applied, only a simple scuff sanding is required to prepare the surface.

It is true that epoxies don’t contain UV stabilizers, but over the last 20 years, MAS Epoxy has proven to be a very effective raw-wood primer for varnishes and two-part finishes. I believe that the epoxy-varnish combination provides a better solution for refinishing wooden spars.

Tony Delima
Partner, MAS Epoxies

There are many ways to skin a cat, and our readers should be aware that the method you describe does have many followers. However, although applying an epoxy undercoat to varnish may be a good option in some brightwork applications, when varnishing spars or other wood where moisture-induced surface movement is an issue, we still recommend sticking to a more flexible finish.

We appreciate your feedback and insight. We did not intend to imply that MAS Epoxy is incompatible with varnishes, but in our experience, straight spar varnish or the Awlgrip-Awlbrite method are more suitable options for our readers when finishing masts and booms.


Rocna 25Dinghies Bitstorm Wi-Fi

Photo courtesy of Dave HutchisonPhoto courtesy of Joe Mair


I have never seen (in PS or various books) a treatise on the relative merits of various dinghy designs—why people choose one design over others and whether some designs lend themselves better to certain patterns of use.

Having just stepped up from trailer daysailing to a Hinterhoeller HR28, I need to acquire a dinghy for my mostly weekend use in Casco Bay, midcoast Maine. My dinghy use will be at destinations only, primarily for local “exploring” or visits ashore.

I’ve asked boat-owning friends for their thoughts, and they’ll just say their choices “are better” but offer little of substance to support their argument.

So what designs are out there and what are their relative pros and cons? Or if you are familiar with a book where this is treated with some depth, I’d appreciate the pointer.

Hank Riehl
Hinterhoeller HR28
Casco Bay, Maine

PS has reviewed numerous dinghies over the years, and as with most things we test and report on, the “best choice” will depend greatly on how and where the boat will be used. With dinghies, you also need to consider how/where it will be stowed and whether the crew would prefer to sail or row as they explore anchorages, or whether they’d rather have power propulsion. We’ve posted a survey online at to get readers’ opinions and feedback on different dinghy types, so look for the results in an upcoming article. In the interim, the pros and cons in a nutshell boil down to the following:

1. Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs)—fast, good for places where you anchor far from reefs, surf breaks, or bars you want to reach; easily beachable; considered the family sedan for cruisers; can be expensive. Be prepared to wrestle a hefty four-stroke to get the full benefit.

2. Folding RIB—Same as above, but more easily stowed and less durable.

3. Rollup Inflatable—Same traits as a folding RIB but slower, even more stowable, and even less durable.

4. Hard dinghy—slow, hard to stow, but will last forever and requires no outboard to push; not as easily beached as a RIB.

I read with interest the February 2011 “Big Brother on the Water” article (pages 28-30) and noticed mention of the launch of “a camera and radar-based scrutiny system for the Chesapeake Bay.” I am particularly pleased that the new system was funded to make all boaters safer. All boaters, by definition, would include recreational boaters. As a sailor on the Chesapeake Bay, how can I access the cameras’ observations from my boat’s laptop computer? I certainly do not want access to the government’s intelligence data or security protocols for identifying vessels of interest. I just want to access a camera system that was funded to promote my safety so I can visually assess the weather and sea state and observe how congested the waterways are. This new camera system seems like a dream come true for boaters with small boats and limited budgets that cannot support onboard radar or weather faxes. Visual observation from the new systems’ cameras would certainly enhance my boating safety.

Hopefully, in the near future, a computer programmer will be able to create an app for my iPhone from camera images captured by the new system that will provide “handheld” live observations around the Chesapeake Bay.

Richard Paden
Petite Cherie
Severna Park, Md.

Unfortunately, in order to view the camera footage taken by the new security system, you need to work for a Homeland Security-affiliated agency, law enforcement, or other “need to know” segment of the local, state, or federal government.

Thank you for PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s thoughtful article on AIS (February 2011). I am a longtime reader of Practical Sailor, and I live on the Lafayette River in Norfolk, Va. I can see the Norfolk Southern coal pier and the Intracoastal Waterway out of one window, the Virginia International container terminals out another window, and the Norfolk Yacht Club piers out another window. A Navy base is only a few miles away. In short, I live at ground zero for a potential sneak attack.

I think that AIS and other forms of aggressive surveillance are necessary in a critical area such as mine, but not necessary in lightly used, non-critical areas.

My boat has been searched by the Coast Guard, and I have found that the Coast Guard is a very reasonable federal agency. My experience has shown that there can be crossover between government and private industry concerning marine affairs.

Edward R. Baird Jr.
30-foot power catamaran
Norfolk, Va.

Rocna 25Dinghies Bitstorm Wi-Fi

Photo courtesy of Dave HutchisonPhoto courtesy of Joe Mair


As cruisers, we appreciate Practical Sailor’s efforts to keep us informed regarding Wi-Fi developments. Based on your articles, we decided to install a masthead receiver this past spring to replace the USB antenna we had been hoisting 15 feet into the rigging to help receive signals. We chose the Bitstorm Badboy Extreme/Unleashed combination. (PS named the Bitstorm Bad Boy Xtreme the Budget Buy in the April 2010 report.)

It is reasonably priced and easy to install with the possible exception of the wire running up the mast. Electrically, all that was required was plugging in the small masthead unit into the Cat-5 cable (Bitstorm furnished) that we had led up the mast, plugging in the small Unleashed unit we put in a hanging locker, and applying 12 volts to the junction box that connected the Cat-5 cable at the mast step. Very basic.

We were in Scotland when we installed the system, and when we logged onto the Unleashed, we saw several dozen signals but not the marina’s system, which had been strong enough to receive without an antenna. Very strange. A call to the helpful Bitstorm representative in Canada quickly solved the problem. Much of the world uses two more channels than the U.S. and Canada, and the marina was using one of the two other channels, which we were able to easily open up with the rep’s help.

For the rest of the season, we experienced greatly improved reception. Through six countries and 2,500 miles, it became the exception when we could not find a usable signal. We also had the benefit of being able to log multiple laptops onto the Unleashed and even a guest’s iPhone. The laptops could also “see” each other and share data.

Tom Wadlow
Joyant, Able Apogee 50
Via e-mail

As I began reading the February 2011 PS Advisor, I expected to hear the reason for the traditional port-side favored location of the galley, and you did have it. You just didn’t remember for sure where it came from.

I believe is was, indeed, the British author and sailing cruiser who began his round-the-world cruises after World War II: Eric C. Hiscock. Hiscock, with his wife Susan, spent most of his life sailing the world in their custom sailboats. Many of the features on these boats were designed by Eric Hiscock himself.

He wrote many books, including a few about planning a voyage and boat design. In his book “Cruising Under Sail Second Edition,” he writes: “If there is any choice in the matter, the galley should be on the port side, as that will be the lee side when the yacht is hove-to on the starboard tack, the tack which has right of way; then the preparations for a meal need not be disturbed by the need to go about to avoid some other vessel.”

Peter Ott
Wanderlust, MacGregor 25
Wellsboro, Penn.

Thank you, Peter. The editor was pretty sure Hiscock wrote on this topic, but someone has walked off with his copy of “Cruising Under Sail”! As “outdated” as the book may be, we still believe it to be among the most valuable, no-nonsense guides to the fine art of cruising.

I have had a boat in the brackish water of Northwest Florida for the last 25 years and have tried several different paints, most of them Pettit brand. I started with Unepoxy, then switched to ablative (ACP 40/60 and Ultima). After 2½ years, my paint is no longer protecting my hull. My dockmates that had the same yard use the same paint at the same time as mine, are getting five years or more out of a bottom job. We also have the same diver clean our bottoms quarterly. I sail approximately 1,200 nautical miles per year versus my dockmates’ 0-150. On my last haulout, I had Trinidad Professional applied. After 2½ years, my diver reports mild algae and no hard growth.

Don Brooks
S/V Fantasy
Niceville, Fla.

Thank you, Don. This is a great example of the bottom paint field reports that we keep on file. Although our online survey has ended, you can still send your bottom paint tales to

The Value Guide on page 11 of the February 2011 issue gave the wrong price for the Raritan Marine Elegance. The toilet costs $630, not $900.

The article on buying used gear (February 2011) did not list the location for Second Wave marine consignment, which is in Seattle, Wash. A photo on page 31 of that article misidentified the photo’s location. The store pictured is Sailor’s Exchange in St. Augustine, Fla.

Another reader-recommended secondhand store is Columbia Marine Exchange,, 503/289-0944.

Where Credit is Due
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 writer-photographer 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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here