Chandlery July 1, 1999 Issue

Busy Hands in Switzerland

We have reported several times in the past about instruments imported by an entrepreneur named David Laylin. He keeps a few Swiss working (some Far East workers, too), does the US balance of trade no serious harm and offers to boat owners some fine but relatively inexpensive instrumentation.

Laylin’s instruments, all of them made to his specifications, invariably are very small, very accurate, very reliable and operate on solar or “almost forever” lithium battery power.

Among Laylin’s products are a handheld anemometer and a first-rate countdown timer called a StartMate.

Even more amazing is a bit of electronic miniaturization called a SpeedMate. The waterproof SpeedMate (it’s US-made) comes in several configurations—for speed (including maximum) and as a log. It is solar-powered and works (with no holes in the boat) by recording the motion of a tiny rotor (screwed, glued or taped on the boat’s bottom) on a 2-1/2" disk kept inside the boat somewhere near the rotor. It’s all done with magnets. The rest is just chippy electronic measuring and LCD displays (reading from zero to 99.9 knots in tenths). The speed devices are priced from $166 to $203.

Laylin’s latest from Switzerland is a Skywatch Elite anemometer and thermometer. It can be used as a handheld or may be permanently mounted on a backstay with a simple, adjustable kit made up by Johnson Marine, the Connecticut hardware manufacturer. The rotor (see photo) is one of those new multi-directional versions; it doesn’t have to be perfectly level to be accurate. Laylin feels that mounting an anemometer on the backstay will give accurate readings from close to the center of effort of the mainsail…even hard on the wind.

As with all things Laylin, one of the Elite’s strong points is that information can be provided easily in any unit—km/h, knots, mph, m/s—with maximums in any mode, and a bar-graph Beaufort scale always present. It also does continuous averaging.

The thermo sensor provides centigrade or Fahrenheit, with maximum and minimum readings, if programmed.

The Elite has in the cap a little Swiss-made compass that makes the unit something that would be nice to grab if you had to take to the lifeboats. Take the cap/compass off the unit if you want compass accuracy. If we bought one of these, we might ask for an extra cap. The cap stores on the bottom when the anemometer is being used, but not when mounted on a backstay. We’d also fashion some kind of quick release fastener, perhaps a knurled head bolt, to demount and stow it during long periods of disuse, or make up a waterproof cover. It’s weatherproof, but not waterproof.

The whole thing has a 36-hour auto-off and is powered with a replaceable lithium battery that should last at least five years. The price: $135, plus $15 if you want the backstay kit. (Speedtech Instruments, 10413 Deerfoot Dr., Great Falls, VA 22066; 800/760-0004;

Vise Cleat
It’s trouble when you get an override on a winch or somebody lays up the turns improperly on a cleat—and it always happens when the wind has decided to administer a national standardized test.

Leave it to Forespar to come up with something helpful—theVise Cleat™. Regular ViseGrips might work, if you thought of it.

Forespar makes it better by taking the usual locking pliers (as they’re called now that something obviously has happened to Petersen’s ViceGrip patent) and adding wide hard-anodized aluminum jaws that can handle line up to 5/8". The rest of the Vice Cleat is stainless steel. It has the usual knurled adjustment screw.

It’s a portable sheet stopper that can jam itself most anywhere, against a sheave, a bulwark, a mast exit plate, a fairlead, and cut you enough slack to save the day’s sail.

It retails for $35.95. (Forespar, 22322 Gilberto Santa Margarita, CA 92688, 949/858-8820.)

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