The Mariner’s Book of Days
We have a certain fondness for miscellanies and exotica such as this. You can find a book of days devoted to all sorts of subjects, such as literature and gardening. Peter Spectre, a contributor to WoodenBoat magazine, either knows a lot of weird little facts about boats or spends a lot of time in libraries. No matter, his Mariner’s Book of Days has delighted and intrigued us since he first began publishing it eight years ago.
The book is organized as a weekly calendar you might keep by the telephone. There isn’t a lot of space for appointments as there are notes under each date and on the full opposing pages longer items pertaining to everything from anchors to seaman’s prayers to poetry to curing “swimmer’s ear.”
For example, did you know that one of the earliest solo-transatlantic passages was made by Alfred Johnson, in the 20' gaff cutter, Centennial, in 1876? Or that the fastest passenger liner of 1838 was the Great Western, averaging 8.2 knots across the Atlantic Ocean? Or that on July 14, 1862, the U.S. Congress passed an act “that from and after the first day of September 1862 the spirit ration in the navy of the United States shall forever cease.”?
For explaining man’s love of small boats, try this: “Perhaps this love for a small cabin was atavistic, derived from our remote ancestors for whom a cave was the only safe, indeed the only possible dwelling.” —Samuel Eliot Morison.
For a pox on modernism: “I would rather die of thirst, ten miles off the headlands in a brazen calm, having lost my dinghy in the previous storm, than have on board what is monstrously called today an ‘auxiliary.’” —Hilaire Belloc.
You get the idea. Price is $12.95. (Woodenboat Publications, Inc., Naskeag Rd., PO Box 78, Brooklin, ME 04616; 800/273-7447.)
Sailboat-shaped chocolates? Yup.
Founded by Ben Strohecker 25 years ago, Harbor Sweets of Salem, Massachusetts, has a motto: “The result of our hobby to make the best chocolates in the world.” Maybe the new owner, Phyllis LeBlanc, a long-time employee who took time off to earn an MBA, didn’t have to take English 101, but she does know how to dip chocolate (one of her first jobs before heading up production and marketing).
Harbor Sweets has a lot of little dies to make its variety of theme chocolates: a series of Dark Horse Chocolates featuring “Dressage Classics” and “Western Pleasures;” the Golf Collection of TournaMints, depicting golf clubs, of course; and the nautical collection of Sweet Sloops, Periwinkles, Starfish, Barque Sarah and others.
We wouldn’t necessarily know the best chocolate in the world if we tasted it, but these are darn good.
Hey, Phyllis, how about changing your slogan to, “The world’s best chocolate”? Or “Our hobby is making the world’s best chocolate?” Something simple. But if you must, um, er, how about, “The result of our avocation is now a vocation—making the best damn chocolate in the world.”? No, that’s not it either. You’re the marketer, Phyllis, not us. We’ll shut up, happy just to be taste testers.(Harbor Sweets, Palmer Cove, 85 Leavitt St., Salem, MA 01970; 978/745-7648.)
The first time we heard Sarah Dashew sing was while listening to one of her father’s sailing videos in which he promotes his particular ideas about the ideal cruising yacht. It doesn’t hurt his case that while listening to him say you need a 60' waterline, a split rig and pilothouse the size of your family room, you’re watching his Beowulf charge through the South Pacific at 18 knots and listening to his daughter play the guitar. Next time we talked to Steve we asked him who the chick was singing at the end, and next thing we knew, Sarah laid on us a copy of her second CD, “Tradewinds High,” plus a photo of herself, so we don’t have to imagine. Smart gal. She even has her very own website (SarahDashew.com).
Sarah writes her own material, and for this CD, it’s heavily influenced by her experiences sailing more than 75,000 miles, most of it, we presume, with her family. Titles include “Cut The Lines And Go,” “Why We’re Here,” “Slack Your Sheets” and “Sail Away With You.” Her voice is rich and a little husky, which we like very much. If we had a criticism, it would be that by album’s end the arrangements seem too much alike. Ah, but variety will come with experience. Sarah is a real talent, committed to her craft. And she’s livin’ in the right place—Austin, Texas.
Price is $15 plus $3 shipping. (Whistle Foot Records, PO Box 157, Austin, TX 78767; 800/425-1962.)
Where Sarah Dashew tries to capture and pass along the many moods of life at sea, singer Eileen Quinn takes a humorously cynical look at cruisers, specifically the fears of the hesitant wife/girlfriend swept to sea by her monomaniacal husband/boyfriend. (Someone please send her a copy of Don Casey’s new book, Dragged Board: A cruising guide for the reluctant mate. Come to think of it, don’t. Eileen could have co-authored it.)
“No Significant Features” has titles like, “The Anchoring Dance,” (“Capable cruisers/in a sturdy little boat/mastering the challenges/of living afloat/know what you’re doing/do it all by the book/so how come you lose it/when you drop the hook?”); “Oops, I Forgot,” (“My friends all saved for a rainy day/lots of money, no time to play/me I upped and ran away/now I’m back, can I come stay?/it’s not that I am a slob/but I never really got a job/didn’t give it too much thought/oops, I forgot.”); and our favorite, “Three Days Out Forty-Five Knot Wind Blues,” (“November Mike November/gave me the good weather news/told me I was going on/an easy downwind cruise/well I guess he got it wrong/and that’s hard to excuse/’cause I’m tossing up my cookies/my body’s one big bruise/I got the three days out/forty-five knot wind blues.”).
Eileen doesn’t have Sarah’s voice, and the arrangements are very simple, but if you’ve been out there, hated it, and need someone to tell you you’re not alone, Eileen will make you laugh and try again. Price is $17 for the CD, $12 for the cassette. (Kevin Quinn, 77-3099 Uplands Dr., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1V 9T6.)
Lord knows there are enough calendars out there. Bookstores are loaded with them at this time of year. Now, after the holidays, usually at great discounts.
They do make good gifts.
We have before us three sailing calendars from prominent marine photographers for which you won’t mind paying full price.
The first, from Sharon Green, is titled Ultimate Sailing. It’s big, measuring 12" x 18", and all shots are of racing, two to a page. Some are quite spectacular, shot from helicopters over the foredeck, capturing the bowman on, say, the Whitbread entry, Merit Cup, wrestling with a headsail while a wave washes over the deck. Price is $15.95. (General Distribution Services, 85 River Rock Dr., Suite 202, Buffalo, NY 14207; 800/805-1083.)
Onne Van Der Wal also has a new calendar. The Dutch native, raised in South Africa and now living in Newport, Rhode Island, offers a well-planned mix of images, ranging from mood shots of snow-covered decks to a lone kayaker passing under the stern of the tall ship Esmeralda, to spinnaker take-downs and classic yachts. The format is desk calendar and planner, measuring 7-1/2" x 8". A World of Boating sells for $15.95 and, like Spectre’s Book of Days, is published by WoodenBoat Publications, Naskeag Rd., PO Box 78, Brooklin, ME 04616; 800/273-7447.
Last up is Benjamin Mendlowitz’s Calendar of Wooden Boats, one of our perennial favorites. Its 12" x 12" (12" x 24" open) size makes it a wall calendar. The colors are deep and rich and there is always good variety to the images: Elizabeth Muir, a 70-year-old schooner designed by Walter McInnis, built in 1991; Grayling, a 75-year-old restored sardine carrier with steadying sails; and spritsail barges Greta and Northdown on the Thames River, England. Accompanying text is by Maynard Bray. Price is $14.50 plus $3 shipping. (Noah Publications, PO Box 14, Route 175, Brooklin, ME 04616; 207/359-2131.)
The Weather Journal
Recently we received a copy of a new bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to a better understanding of weather. From the publisher’s office wrote Amy Bragdon-Roe of Ocean Strategies, “Our mission is to provide a forum for the investigation of weather topics of practical interest to the novice and advanced weather observer. Our rapidly growing readership boasts an international audience of professional and recreational weather watchers.”
The issue we examined contained articles on finding weather on the World Wide Web, forecasting techniques, reading clouds, where ice is found, a test of your weather skills, and a number of departments.
Price of a subscription is $42 in the U.S., $10 more in Canada, and $20 more overseas. (The Weather Journal, PO Box 24, Peaks Island, ME 04108; 207/766-4430.)
Remote Control Spotlights
As mentioned in the August 15, 1998 evaluation of handheld spotlights (in which we favored the Optronics Blue Eye, Guest Great White and Brinkman Black Max among 12-volt models, and the Pelican Pro 4000 and ACR L-6A among battery-powered models), the reason light splatter and glare is so much of a problem is because the spotlight can only be held about 3' away from the eyes. If someone else holds it well away from the viewer, the distance visibility improves. Similarly, if a spotlight can be configured remotely yet still operated by the user, visibility also can be improved, especially if the mounting is high and behind the viewer.
A high-mounted remote-controlled spotlight is hard to imagine on a sailboat. Pitching and rolling would make it impossible to point. However, there are times when we wished we had one, particularly when motor-sailing at night in a storm through a farm of lobster and crab traps with their hard-to-see buoys and floating polypropylene lines.
Accordingly, we examined several remote-controlled spotlights that may be feasible on sailboats, either mounted on their own platforms halfway up a mast or, perhaps, under a radome. Mounted on top of the pilothuse of a motorsailer could well work, though one would have to be careful they didn’t snag lines.
The three units tested here were not selected for their stellar performance, but because they are compact and smooth, with no sharp edges for things to hang up on, plus their ability to be mounted upside-down without collecting water.
Ray-Line Jabsco Model 60020 135SL
This reasonably solid 8" high unit provides a decent beam with lots of splatter, which shouldn’t matter. The horizontal slew is 320°; vertical is 75° stop to stop and the slew rates are smooth and easily controlled. In Jabsco’s lights, the vertical slew moves the sealed beam and not the head. Almost everybody else makes the head slew horizontally. We’re uncomfortable with both vertical and horizontal end stops because the unit “clunks,” as if something is being forced. The user might not immediately realize he’s at the end until he notices the beam no longer moving. This points us to the warranty, which is a secret. Jabsco says it’s a year, but if you want to know the terms and conditions you must write and ask. Ask before buying.
100,000 candle power. List price is $218, discount $145. This model is our second choice.
Ray-Line Jabsco Model 60080 146SL
This 9" high model is brighter and tighter with its share of splatter and it yields a horizontal slew of 360° and a vertical slew of the sealed beam of about +/- 30°. The slew rate on the one we tested was not smooth on the horizontal plane but we suspect we may have received a bad one. It worked for a while and then stalled intermittently. It too clunks at the ends. If you opt for this one, bench test it completely before installation. It hooks up easier than any we’ve seen.
175,000 candle power. List price is $380, discount about $235. Last on our list.
Golight Fixed-Mount RadioRay Wireless Remote
It never fails to amaze us how folks in the heartland can come up with a solid marine product. To a corn husker, saltwater is a kind of ugly rumor where snow, rain, mud and tornadoes are brutal enough. Golight makes a family of rugged remote-controlled spotlights, both hard-wired and radio-controlled, most of which are portable. They slew 370° horizontal; +/- 35° vertical. For vertical, the sealed beam is moved within the case. Most of them plug into a lighter socket and lock into a strong plastic base that is left attached to a vehicle or the unit can be suction-cupped to a smooth surface. The 6.75" high fixed-mount unit is one of the most compact units we’ve seen, but it’s a barn-burner with all of the electronics built in. The handheld radio remote is shirt pocket size.
If we have a complaint, it’s that the slew rates come in two programmable speeds—fast and faster. It takes practice to zero in on a distant target. The sealed beam isn’t the brightest we’ve seen nor the narrowest, but it’s very usable. The warranty is one year, voided by unreasonable use, misuse or opening the product.
We liked the Golight remote spotlights, and although they’re not in marine catalogs yet, we think they ought to be.
100,000 candle power. List price $250, discount $175. Our first choice.
Contacts- Golight, Inc., Route 3, Box 37B, Culbertson, NE 69024; 800/557-0098. Ray-Line Jabsco, 1485 Dale Way, Costa Mesa, CA 92628; 714/545-8251.