Battered sailors make good test subjects, especially when we are talking about gear to preserve our joints and appendages. That is why we sent technical editor Drew Frye and his surgically repaired knee out into the world of orthopedic accessories for sailors.
The Henri Lloyd Rapid Coastal takes top honors among the coastal jackets, followed by the Best Buy, Ronstan's Inshore. Of the offshore jackets tested, we liked the Gill Atlantic best.
At a recent boat show, Practical Sailor editors ran across some interesting kneepads made by Crocs, the manufacturer of those annoyingly popular brightly colored, clog-like shoes. Still sore from some serious knee time during spring maintenance, we decided to see whether the Crocs kneepads were an improvement over our homespun design (Duck tape and sponges). The Crocs are lightweight and made of the same thick, foam-like material as the shoes, which the company claims is buoyant, non-marking, anti-microbial, and odor-resistant. The stretchy elastic straps are adjusted with plastic buckles.
In the early 1980s, W.L. Gore & Associates and Atlantis teamed up to create waterproof foul weather gear that was also breathable. They had...
Practical Sailor tested seven sets of mid-level marine foul-weather gear, four sets of which were designed specifically for women. The other three were unisex jackets and bibs. The gear tested was: the Gill Key West, Gul Newport, Helly Hansen Fjord, Plastimo XM Coastal, Plastimo XM Offshore, Ronstan Inshore, and West Marine Third Reef. Each set (coat and trousers) was evaluated for fit, comfort, ease of doffing and donning, and breathability. Testers looked closely at the details including zippers, Velcro, snaps, pockets, hoods, and cuffs. One of the most significant findings was that fit can greatly affect foul-weather gear performance as far as water-proofing and wind-proofing are concerned.
Its hard to believe, but the 2009 holiday season is upon us. As is custom, Practical Sailor editors have put together a varied roundup of gifts to stuff those stockings more likely to hang from a bulkhead than the mantle. For the racing or small-boat sailor whos making the leap from wire rope to high-tech fiber, Colligo Marines Softies offer a lightweight alternative to traditional steel shackles and headsail hanks. Made of extra strong and chafe-resistant Dyneema, the "soft" hardware is the perfect solution for use with synthetic forestays, and unlike metal hanks, theyll never leave rust stains on sails. Using the Softies is as easy as pulling the shake-resistant knot through the expandable spliced loop, then sliding the slip ring (rubber O-rings) up to the knot. A lanyard ensures easy opening, but the self-tightening O-rings offer added security against accidental opening or shaking loose.
One of the reason we pay premium for brand-name products is the expectation that if something goes wrong, wed get outstanding support. Some U.S. companies (think Buck knives) have built their reputations on their lifetime warranties. But in the global economy, when brands are sold and resold, it is getting harder and harder to obtain good warranty support.
Cold-weather sailing apparel needs to be more waterproof, more windproof, and much warmer than gear for most other cold-weather activities. To find the best glove for cold-weather sailing, two Practical Sailor testers took 14 pairs with them on a three-season cruise of the Chilean channels. The cold-weather sailing gloves fell into four distinct categories: mid-weight, water-resistant gloves; heavyweight, neoprene gloves; insulated gloves; and layered gloves comprising an outer waterproof shell and an inner glove liner. The test gloves included the Gill Extreme, Gill Dura-shark Winter, Gill Three Seasons, Gill Helmsman, the Henri Lloyd Offshore Racer, Henri Lloyd Stealth Winter, Musto Frostbite, SealSkinz gloves, Stearns Arctic Water, Gul Anatomic Cut Helmsman, Zero Featherlite by Fairfield Line, L.L.Bean Vortex, Lined Nitrile (heavy-duty rubber gloves), and Montanna Hyvent by The North Face.
When it comes to gear for the outdoor enthusiast, there are a lot of crossover products. Hikers, bikers, boaters, backpackers, and climbers share a need for lightweight, durable, and practical equipment. So as Practical Sailor editors geared up for our summer adventures, we looked for products that could serve double-duty on the boat and on the trail.
While the keep-it-simple-sailor philosophy underlies our selection process, we do stumble upon products that, although far from necessary, fulfill their primary mission: incite an urge to splurge. If you have a sailor on your gift list who seems attracted to gadgets, bags, and cool apparel, here are three of our testers favorites.