Yet Another Motor Hoist-the Kato


Lifting the outboard motor from the dinghy to its mount on the stern rail (or pushpit as the Brits say) has always been a rather precarious maneuver. When we were cruising, there were no dedicated hoists that we remember (if there were, we couldnt afford one, which may explain our amnesia). Rather, wed tie a short length of line between the stern rail and the outboards handle. One of us would lift from the deck while the other stood in the dinghy and handed it up. The rope was really just to prevent the motor from sinking to the bottom of the anchorage should we slip and drop it.

Today, there are a considerable number of outboard motor hoists available, each of slightly differing design.

In the August 15, 1997 issue, we tested five models, including the Atkins & Hoyle Model 120, St. Croix Little Crane, Garhauer Marine Model 230, Nova Lift and one from Forespar. We judged the expensive Nova Lift ($395 for the 120-lb. model and $545 for the 220-lb. model) to be the best, because of its handsomely bent single stainless steel tube with internal line control. It is intended to be used in conjunction with a cockpit sheet winch, which gives it great power but restricts its placement. The good ones, like the Nova Lift, swivel, so that you can pick up the motor from the dinghy, lift it to rail level, then swing the hoist and motor so that the motor drops neatly onto its mount. The Garhauer Marine Model 230 had the second highest rated load limit, and the lowest price of the five ($187), earning it a Best Buy recommendation.

Kato Marine shipped a sixth model to us last fall for testing. Rated to lift 230 lbs., it sells for $390. Like the Nova Lift, it is a single 1-1/2″ stainless steel tube, with two bends. We think this is a cleaner design than those with cranes pivoting from vertical poles, though it does make for a longer package. The Kato hoist is 60″ long, reaches outboard 21″, fits rail tube sizes of 1″ to 1-1/4″ and rail heights up to 30″. The supplied tackle gives 3:1 purchase. Alternatively, one can specify 4:1 or 6:1 tackle.

We installed the test model on Viva, our Tartan 44 test boat. A 2-1/2″ deck plate is through-bolted to the deck for the pole to stand on. (A rectangular 1-1/2″ x 3″ plate also is available.) A plastic and stainless rail mount secures the pole to the stern rail. A large cleat on the inboard side allows one to belay the line after hoisting. And an eye welded to the outboard side is for securing the tackle when not in use. It all went together quickly and easily.

We didnt try lifting 230 lbs., but based on our experience with the others, we have no reason to think it wont. We did hoist our 8-hp. Nissan outboard, which weighs about 60 lbs. Considering that a 30-hp. motor weighs around 110 lbs., the Kato Lift 230, like the others, should handle most any outboard a cruiser is likely to own.

Because of its clean design and good quality polishing of the stainless steel, we think the Kato Lift is the equal of the Nova Lift, but at a lower price. We recommend it. (Kato Marine, 7416 Edgewood Rd., Annapolis, MD 21403; 410/269-1218.)

The Aerial Chair
We admit to being a bit off-beat in our taste for supplemental seating onboard. Sailboat cockpits are rarely comfortable. Conventional seat cushions help, but do nothing for the back. Thats why, over the years, weve bought and tested a wide variety of portable seats, from various stadium-types to bean bags. The best are kept aboard Viva. Theyre not always practical for use underway, but as soon as the anchor drops, out they come. Our favorites include the Sport-a-Seat (about $70 from Welcome Aboard, 800/295-2469) and the Aqua Lounge beanbag (about $100, 714/645-1843).

This past summer we ordered a unique chair that suspends in the rigging. Its called the Aerial Chair. The designer/maker is Craig Hines, from Bozeman, Montana, who says he got the idea from making hang glider harnesses. What he wanted was a lightweight, portable chair that felt as comfortable as being suspended under the big wing by one of his custom harnesses.

Onboard, the Aerial Chair hangs by a hook that can be attached to a halyard (with a short line to, say, the forestay, to keep you off the mast), or to a screw eye in a solid beam or truss in your home. An aluminum tube with Harken blocks at either end separate the 5mm mountain climbing cords that hold up the fabric seat, headrest and footrest. The two-ply seat is 500-denier Cordura on the inside and breathable Ultrex on the outside. Everything is adjustable so you can change the attitude to suit yourself. Weight is about 2-1/2 lbs.

Our first test was conducted by children, our son and three neighborhood girls. We had two chairs, one medium and one large (four sizes are available, depending on your height, but exact matching doesn’t seem critical). Our son installed his in front of the television, as did the girls across the street. They didnt come down from their aerie perch for a week. (Just kidding. We did make them eat supper and sleep in their own beds.) At the end of the week, one of the girls brought back her Aerial Chair with a sad face. She plopped it in our hands. Dad said that if we girls couldnt agree on who could sit in it, we had to bring it back.

Guess they needed a mediator. Too bad.

Each Aerial Chair comes in a nylon bag with tie. Our only criticism of the chair is the tendency of the cords to tangle when rolled up for stowage. Each time we pull it out, it takes a few minutes to straighten everything. Hines said he advises customers to check it closely the first time you remove the chair from its bag to see how best to roll it up.

Workmanship and materials are top notch. The chairs are sewn by western folk who also do backpacks and camping gear for major manufacturers. Threads are UV-resistant. Hardware is stainless steel and aluminum. As well it should be, for the price of $199.

Hines has done well in the outdoor recreation field, especially since having the chair reviewed in Outside, Sunset and other magazines. Now hes trying to break into the marine market and talking with the discount houses.

If your back hurts, you like day dreaming, or spinning gently to Jimmy Buffet music, the Aerial Chair is the ticket. Better than a hammock. Just keep the lines from tangling.

(Above Ground Designs, 8002 Timberline Dr. #3, Bozeman, MT 69718; 888/863-4057.)

We Missed a Step
After we tested and reported on mast steps in the July 1, 1998 issue, a reader named Joe Wilcox wrote from Seattle that we missed one.

The step is made by Goiot, a French company whose marine gear is widely available in Europe. In the past, Goiot has had difficulty getting and keeping a distributor in the United States.

Wilcox said the step can be had from Charleston Spar, 3901 Pine Grove Circle, Charlotte, NC 28206, 704/597-1302.

We wrote to Charleston Spar. Jim Kulibert, the sales manager, said theyve been handling the Goiot step for but four months. He sent us one to examine.

Reader Wilcox, in his letter, described the step very well:

Very light. Low windage. Captures the foot. Aesthetically, they disappear from a very short distance away. The 4-1/4 width is a tight fit for my athletic shoes, but my deck shoes fit nicely.

The step, made of polished stainless rod, has three welded-on feet with two holes each. It is a good structural shape.

The Goiot steps liability is implied in Joe Wilcoxs further comment, The shape makes it easy to un-snag lines.

Kulibert said the step lists for $34.

We appreciate very much Joe Wilcoxs letter, which serves as a reminder that readers always are invited to chip in with comments, suggestions, observations, ideas, and, of course, Gear Graveyard candidates. Speaking of which, a reader recently sent us a failed ABI mast step that well discuss in a future issue.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 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. You can reach him at