Editorial August 1, 1999 Issue

A Summer’s Work

Contrary to the popular belief of Floridians, summer in New England does last longer than two weeks. At least two months, sometimes three, which is the case this year, as June was dry and sunny, with hardly any fog. Good for sailing!

Before launching Viva, our 1975 Tartan 44 test boat, we set up several product tests, which we’ll report on soon. The first was bottom paint strippers, which pitted our perennial winner, Peel Away, against West Marine’s Marine Strip and three other so-called “environmentally friendly” strippers—Napier, Interstrip 299E and Dolphinite—that, unlike the first two, do not use a plastic film over the goop to keep it moist. None of them contain methylene chloride, a known carcinogen, but nevertheless contain powerful chemicals that are harmful or fatal if swallowed and can burn the skin.

Next we installed a Kaytek sonic knotmeter transducer that has no moving parts. Our interest in it was to get rid of the troublesome paddlewheel that always seems to stop turning after a week in the water. Sure, you can open up the floorboards, yank out the transducer and fill the hole with a plug while you clean the barnacles off the paddlewheel, but a certain amount of water always enters the boat and there is always the fear, however irrational, that something will go wrong (the plug won’t fit, a bee will sting you at the critical moment, or you’ll suffer a heart attack before you can fit the plug in) and the boat will sink. The Kaytek transducer and electronic box can replace the transducer on most popular brands of knotmeters, including our Navico Corus. Installing the Kaytek sonic transducer took about four hours; the hardest part by far was routing power leads from the distribution panel to the electronic box that translates the signals from the transducer and sends them on to the original display head in the cockpit.

Lastly, we were curious about a new deck polish called Sure Step. Made by Aurora Marine Industries of Toronto, Canada, this is the first product we’ve seen that is purportedly safe to use on molded non-skid decks. Aurora president Richard Kittar claims that Sure Step is pressure sensitive. “It’s slippery to dust and dirt, allowing the wind to blow it off, yet when pressure is applied from the weight of a boater, either in bare feet or deck shoes, traction increases. When the surface is wet, traction increases even more.” Hard to believe, but we’ll find out. We applied Sure Step to a large section of Viva’s cockpit, leaving the rest untreated. We’ll perform traction tests at intervals over the summer to see if the claims are true, and if so, how long the product lasts.

With the boat launched, we are now turning our attention to anchor and life raft tests. August is a good month for both of these projects because the water is warm (not to a Floridian, but to us it is, all 69°F of it).

Past readers will know that we have already tested 15 or more anchors for their ability to set in sand, and holding power in sand. Now it’s time to test each one in a mud bottom. For new readers coming aboard, we’ll summarize past findings when we report on the mud tests, probably in a winter issue.

It’s been eight years since we tested life rafts and there have been some changes in the market. West Marine is now selling its own offshore raft made for them by Zodiac and Jim Givens was forced to sell his company, with the new owner moving production to Rhode Island. Plus we’re anxious to test new models from Crewsaver and Survival Technologies, as well as rafts we tested previously, like Switlik, Avon and one that didn’t deploy in 1991—from Plastimo.

Summer gives us a chance to get out of the office and on the water. The days are long, but hey, someone’s got to do it!

—Dan Spurr

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