Style, fit, and performance define a sailors favorite head protection. With thousands of baseball hats on the market, Practical Sailor chose 11 of the most useful, innovative, or unusual caps and put them to the test in the real world. We divided the field into Aussie-style ball caps (those with integrated neck flaps for increased sun protection) and All-American ball caps (traditional Major League Baseball style). The hats we looked at included Adams Cool-Crown Cap, Henri-Lloyd Fast Dri Tech Hat, Mount Gay Rum Hat, Musto Cotton Twill Crew Cap, New England Cap Hat, New Era MLB Hat, Nike Dri-Fit Hat, Nixon Deep Down Hat, Coolibar All-Sport Hat, Shade Shack Cap, and Ultimate Tropical Cap.
Vibram, the Italian company known for putting the rubber sole into The North Face, Merrell, Timberland, Columbia, and Nike, has developed a funky-looking shoe called the Vibram Five Fingers. The shoes look like gloves for your feet. The individual toe slots are designed to gently spread your toes, enhancing balance and stability, and promoting a more natural motion to reduce the impact on your joints and back. The upper sole is made with a thin, abrasion- and tear-resistant stretch polyamide fabric. The foot bed is antimicrobial microfiber, and the sole is a non-marking rubber that is razor-siped for better grip. The weight varies by size and model. One mens size 42 (8 in the U.S.), weighs 5.6 ounces. while a womens 37 (U.S. size 6) weighs 4.4.
Staying warm at sea revolves around the right choice in clothing, and gloves are key part of the mix. Unfortunately, hand warmth and dexterity are often at opposite ends of a glove rating scale, and sailors need a good showing in both realms. Add to this, underway conditions that can range from dry cold to practically being submerged in ice water, and its easy to see why smart shopping can be a tricky proposition. So we decided to send Practical Sailor Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo on a series of sea trials with two different glove types. The trip conditions ranged from chilly New England deliveries to an absolutely frigid junket in Antarctica. He returned free of frostbite with a distinct notion that it indeed does take two different technologies to get the job done.
Practical Sailor tested foul-weather jackets and pants from seven manufacturers: from Gill, Gul International, Helly Hansen, Henri Lloyd, Ronstan, Slam, and Third Reef from West Marine. Each set included a jacket and a pair of bib trousers designed for coastal cruising and light offshore sailing. All foul-weather kits were priced under $500. Testers examined the sets for wind- and water-resistance, reflectivity, and wearability, and tested the zippers and fasteners. With well-placed reflective patches, a fluorescent peaked hood, and plenty of pockets and abrasion-resistant fabric, the Gill’s Key West gear stood out in field of well-designed sailing apparel.
Italian sailing gear-maker Slam has recently come out with a new laptop backpack, a water-resistant tote for that all-important lifeline to global communications and keeper of all things digital. Like the Oceanracing.com backpack that we reviewed in the January 2007 issue, the Slam bag is specifically designed to carry a laptop in the marine environment. The Slam backpack has two front-accessed, zippered pockets, and one zippered, front mesh pocket. There are also mesh pockets on the sides.
Following Tevas top-ranked performance in the womens athletic-style sailing shoes test (July 2007), Practical Sailor editors decided to try out the latest mens Tevas and Tevas new Sunkosi for women. Teva, the California-based firm known for its strap-on sport sandals, manufactures seven different lines of water shoes, including four sneaker-style varieties. At 11.5 ounces, the mens Teva Helm 2 shoes are lighter than any other mens shoe tested (June 2007), and they offer good drainage. There are mesh openings built into the shoe under the heel, behind the heel, beneath the ball of the foot, and on either side of the toe. Like most of the shoes we tested, the Helm 2s foam insole is removable. It also is perforated with 1/8-inch holes to speed drainage. The shoes upper uses unibody construction, with a laminate of foam and three different kinds of mesh reinforced with synthetic leather in the toe, upper tongue, and heel. The tongue is attached only at its base.
All year long, wooden boat worshippers can drool over pin-ups of the worlds classic beauties, thanks to two calendars that spotlight these works of art (and elbow grease). The Wooden Boat Festivals 2008 calendar, by Gumbo Publishing, chronicles the annual Port Townsend, Wash., event of the same name. With photographs by well-known photographer Mitchel Osborne, the calendar offers a glimpse into the world of wooden boat groupies. Photos of schooners under way dominate the pages, but Osborne also captured the details that make wooden boats what they are. From cane-backed seats and impeccable varnish to tan-bark sails and a busty figurehead, the photos tell the unique stories of the boats that make the Wooden Boat Festival an annual homecoming for people from around the world.
If youre in the market for a carry-all or soft-sided cooler, check out the classic-looking SailorBags line. Practical Sailor recently picked up one of the SailorBag tote bags, and testers have found several uses for it: ferrying items to and from the boat, the beach, and the grocery, and storing dry clothes in a wet dinghy. The Vermont-based company offers three different sizes of tote bags, round and square duffel bags in varying sizes, two sizes of stowbags, and three sizes of foam-insulated soft-sided coolers.
The three hand trucks-Roleez Folding-Wheel, Sea Bowld, and Dock Dolly-were nearly identical, with telescoping handles and flip-up bases. The four others-the Roleez Sports Caddy, Pack N Roll, Wonder Wheeler, and the Foldit-ran the gamut from a very compact, crate-style cart (Pack N Roll) to the large, workhorse Foldit dock cart. Testers considered each rolling carts performance on and off the dock. They also loaded onto the carts items that are often carried to and from the boat-a 12-volt battery, cooler filled with food, and a duffel bag of clothes. Testers also noted how easily each was stowed and how much room it took up.
Late last year, Practical Sailor published an article about devices that keep iPods free of moisture, sand, and dust (see Practical Sailor November 2006). Only one of those products came with speakers instead of earphones-the iFloat from Brookstone-but it didn't have a water-resistant speaker, and the sound quality diminished significantly once the speaker got wet. Now weve discovered a worthy replacement: the Ego Waterproof Sound Case.