Mailport November 1, 2002 Issue

Mailport: 11/01/02

Sunscreen Evaluation
Please keep up the good work of your magazine. I appreciated the recent article on sunscreens [September], which can be lifesavers. You don't mention, however, the technique for applying them.

Many (most?) people apply a large glob on the skin, or on the hands, andthen try to spread it over the whole area. With this approach, there is adense application where it is initially placed, with decreasing densitiesfurther away from the center. This causes uneven spread, wastes material, and increases the chances of missing spots.

A better method is the vanishing technique, where small dabs of material are placed all over the region to be covered, and then spread over the whole region from the small spots. The coverage is much more even, including the edges, and spots don't get missed. Less material is needed.

The consistency of the material is also important. Thicker materials don't spread as easily, or evenly, but may work better for the old technique. If the material is too runny, it may drip too much before it can be spread. Small dabs of most lotions remain in place long enough to be spread, much easier than creams.

Please remind readers of potential eye damage from UV, and the importance of hats and sunglasses. Hats may provide scalp protection to those of us without SPF 30+ hair protection.

-R. Watson PhD. MD.
Carmichael, CA


That was a good article you ran on sunburn protection. However, there is one other area needing protection from the sun which is often forgotten.  I spent the winter in the Caribbean in 2001 and ended up getting my lower lip severely sunburned.  I never thought about it, although I religiously used suntan lotion onmy skin.  This resulted in my requiring treatment from a dermatologist for a “precancerous lesion” caused by the burn. I now religiously use Neutrogena's "Healthy Defense" oil-free sunblock stick which is SPF 30+ and contains Parsol 1789.  It works very well and I recommend thatthose who are exposed to heavy duty sunlight over prolonged periods not forget to protect their lips. According to my dermatologist, cancer of the lip,which can potentially be caused by excess sun burning, is very difficult to treat as there is little beneaththe lip surface to prevent invasion and spread of any developed cancer.As always, forewarned is forearmed.

-Bob Gould
Wellesley, MA


I recommend Gly Derm from ICN Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  It is SPF 25 and goes on without leaving a greasy or oily feeling. I buy it from my dermatologist. Active ingredients are octyl methoxycinnamate, menthyl anthranilate, octyl salicylate, & titanium dioxide.  But it is pricey at $20/4 oz.

-David Blatchford
Mill Valley, California


S2 Used Boat Survey
[Re: S2 11.0 Used Boat Survey, August 1] I've owned hull # 75 (1981) since '86. Overall I love the boat, but I did have some major problems which did not seem to show up in your owners' survey.  At less than 700 hours the Volvo MD17-c swallowed a valve. (I concur with informal survey by mechanics [February 1, 2002] as to how expensive it is to repair a Volvo) at just over 2,000 hours. It had so much blow-by that crankcase oil was being forced into the transmission and V-drive. All seals were replaced several times and shafts were inspected by several different mechanics. Replaced the noisy vibrator with a Westerbeke and have been happy since.

Hull blisters: In 1988 we found many small blisters, which were ground out, left to dry for six weeks. and then barrier-coated. In 1991, before a three-month Bahamas trip, we took the boat out of the water and found extensive blistering, which required a thick layer of glass to be peeled, replaced, and barrier-coated at a cost of just under $6,000. I've since talked to two other 11.0 owners who had blister problems (one minor, one major) and they had also repowered, (one Westerbeke, one Yanmar).

I'm happy to report that as of this date I have found no further blistering and the Westerbeke, compared to the Volvo, is a pure joy. Bottom line? I am now perfectly happy with the boat . The minor maintenance, i.e. leaky chainplates, etc., I consider normal maintenance on any boat.

-Roland Fortier
Hernando Beach, FL


Enjoyed the S2 11.0 review. Most important was the website for S2 yachts and the related links. I have the last S2 hull number 85 of the 27-foot Performance Cruiser and have been looking for connections for S2. Will pass it on to my S2 Friends.

Keep up the great work.

-Bob Kovach
Greenville, SC


VHF Protocols
In an August 1 PS Advisor, Bruce McPhersons asked about call-letter requirements and proper VHF etiquette. You sent him to a website for the call-letter information and commented that etiquette and procedures have disappeared. They are not what they should be but they are still followed by many.

Anyone who wants a sound understanding of VHF procedures can get them from the USCG Auxiliary and Power Squadron course, America's Boating course, or from the Auxiliary courses, Boating Skill and Seamanship.

The procedures are simple. Always monitor Channel 16 for weather alerts, emergency broadcast by the Coast Guard, and calls for assistance. It is the law.

When calling, wait until Channel 16 is clear, so as not to interfere with an ongoing call, then simply speak the name of the vessel you're calling three times, then your boat's name. Stand by silently for three minutes or so, and then try again. Three times is enough, then wait 15 minutes.

When you get a response, make arrangements to talk on another channel, and get over there quickly. Channel 16 is for making contact, not chatting.

If you hear a call for help, stand by listening for the Coast Guard to respond. If they do not respond after a bit, hail the Coast Guard and tell them what's up. You may act as a relay.

No swearing, no chatter, no fake emergency calls—just keep it businesslike and brief, remembering that the time may come when VHF Channel 16 will be your lifeline.

-Frank Leister
USCG Auxiliary, Flotilla 12-8
Charleston, SC

Thanks, Frank—that's a good refresher course right there. We didn't mean to blow off that part of Bruce McPhersons' question in the August issue; it's just that the ratio of informed procedure to longwinded natter and chatter on the airwaves is about 1:15. We'd add that in New England waters, Channel 9 (156.45 MHz) is also designated as a calling channel.


More Buckets! Better Buckets!
It was great to discover another boat bucket maven ["In Praise of the Bucket," September]. Most sailors completely overlook the subtleties of bucket design.

During 34 years of sailing, we've never been able to find our ideal version of the lowly boat bucket.  To run a sailboat, you need at least one good bucket. For years we carried three:  (1) an aluminum bucket; strong, but it marks fiberglass if you're not careful;  (2) a plastic one that doesn't mark, but it's flimsy; (3) a canvas bucket used mainly for dipping up seawater to wash down the deck, or to carry tools when going up the mast.  We'd like to replace the first two.

In our view  The Ideal Boat Bucket would be:

1. About 2-1/2 to 3 gallons in capacity. 2. Plastic—doesn't rust, dent, chip, crush, or leave marks on fiberglass. 3.  Strongly built—strong enough to turn upside down and stand on it (200-lb crew). 4. Able to nest with another identical bucket—to save stowage space. [Amen! Amen! - Ed.] 5.  With a very strong bail—strong enough to tie a line on it and dip seawater while the boat is underway—maybe even strong enough to tie on a line and use as a drogue to slow the boat down. If a regular bail that strong is impractical, then the bucket should have holes or attachment points near the top where a rope bridle could be attached. 6.  Supplied with a snap-on plastic lid— very important. The lid should make a pretty fair seal and be secure when snapped on, so that stuff can be stowed inside when the bucket's not in use, or so, when (not if) the head fails, the bucket could be used as an emergency head for long enough to get the head fixed, or at least to get you out of a no-discharge area. 

Two of those, plus our canvas bucket and we’d be fixed up for cruising.

A bucket that comes close to our specs is the Polyethylene Pail With Plastic Coated Bail, 3 gal., Item #13051, from United States Plastic Corp.,, 800/537-9724. They're  $10.77 each, including snap-on cover.  For several years we've carried two of these (nested) in our lazarette, the inner one filled with cleaning gear and the cover snapped on. Try one—you'll like it.  Also, be sure to get their catalog.  Full of good stuff.

-Brad Armendt
Tartan 30 #282, Emprise


Looser Lifelines?
Re: Nick Nicholson's Offshore Log on lifelines, September 2002: I've heard this argument before: Tight is more secure. And for the first time I've seen a specific argument in print in favor of tightness: If it's loose, you might be thrown off balance when you grab it. I don't believe this one either: Everything else on the sailboat is loose and often off balance (or should be assumed to be) when you grab it.

Here's the engineering argument in favor of loose: Let's take a 200-lb person, ignoring any shock load of his falling against the lifeline, and say he just leans against it with the majority of his 200-lb. weight. Say he does so midway between two stanchions spaced 8 feet apart. Say his force offsets the lifeline by only 1" because that lifeline is pretty darn tight. Then his weight of 200 lbs. is held aboard by two directions of wire pulling him, and each direction has to be pulling inwards with a force of 100 lbs. That 100 lbs. of force at right angles to the straight line between the two stanchions translates into a tension in the wire of 100 lbs. divided by the sine of the deflection angle. Since the angle is small, that sine is pretty close to the tangent, which in turn is pretty close to the angle in radians, which is about (1/48). Do the math. That means you're approximating 4,800 lbs. tension loading by just laying gently against the wire when the boat's heeled heavily.

Then guess how much a shock of a person falling sharply against that wire will multiply that (peak) tension: 3 times? 5 times? 10 times? Your bare type 316 wire 1/4" in diameter won't even come close to handling it, even brand new! The tighter the wire, the less likely it is to hold whatever weight is pressed against it.

Loosen that wire, letting it deflect 3 or 6 inches, and you decrease those tensions by those factors directly. A huge improvement!

I believe the only argument in favor of tight lifelines is that they look neater. The safety argument seems to come out hands down in favor of loose lifelines.

Let the arguments begin!

Just to add my two pennies' worth on a related issue, I don't trust setscrews at stanchion bases either. A good through-bolt parallel to the deck through a hole drilled all the way through stanchion base and stanchion seems far more reliable. Even if the nut comes loose, which is easy to check, unless the bolt rattles all the way out you haven't lost any of the strength, which far exceeds what you might attain with any set screws. The only time set screws have much strength in my humble opinion is when they corrode in place pretty badly; and even then I trust that strength lots less than I do a throughbolt.

My boat has loose lifelines, through-bolted stanchions, and carefully smoothed and faired ferrules in the holes through the stanchions through which the wire is reeved. And I feel much more confident that way. The one that's hard to combat is the inevitable corrosion where the vinyl is cut back at the ends, and indeed frequent replacement, or omitting the vinyl, are the only solutions to that issue that I've been able to figure out.

What am I missing?

-Ralph Alter
Via e-mail

Really—4,800 lbs? Anyone else who speaks sine language want to get in on this? Ralph, see the PS Advisor on rope lifelines on the back page. Could be your next move...


Strong Track Back-Up
I second Terry Field's assessment of the Strong sailtrack [Mailport, September]. We were considering selling our beloved 40-footer because we were exhausted by the time we winched the main up. With the Strong system, one-third the price of other units, I can raise the main to the second spreaders by hand. My wife and I can get it to within a foot of the top before we have to winch.

I wonder if sellers of fully battened sails ever really tell the consumer what a problem this is?

-Rich Hurst
Vancouver, WA


RayTech Navigator 4.0
I recently received my first issue of Practical Sailor (August 1) and I now see why it is so highly regarded.

I have had experience with several of the software packages reviewed in the Navigation Software Update, particularly RayTech Navigator 4.0.

Having a Raytheon-equipped boat, I was attracted to the integrationaspects of RayTech Navigator.  Navigator 3.0 had an awkward interface,but it did integrate flawlessly with my other Raytheon instruments. Iparticularly like the ability to plot a course at home and then uploadthe route to my RL70C Chartplotter on my boat.

With its superior interface it wasn't a difficult decision to upgrade toNavigator 4.0. What a mistake!  I have never successfully gotten 4.0 toupload routes.  In fact, it crashes the chartplotter.  It only occasionally stays working just receiving a GPS position.

As of last April, Raymarine admitted to me that there may be a software"issue" and they would call back after conferring with the engineers inFlorida. Well, they've never called and the person who knows thesoftware always seems to be out.

So my question of Practical Sailor is this:  Do you test equipment, orin this case software, in real world conditions? Do you evaluate acompany's support?  A great product that doesn't work isn't, well, great.

-Lawrence Sterne
Greenwich, CT

We tested it on a not-very-flashy PC notebook running Windows 98, (2nd edition) and ran into no such problem. However, we got another letter on this topic, like Mr. Sterne's, but longer and angrier, from a reader who didn't want us to publish it. So we got in touch with Louis Chemi, Raymarine's product manager for PC software. Our surmise was that RayNav 4.0 might not run well on Windows XP machines (which is what the other reader was using), but Mr. Chemi says that's not a problem:

"RayTech does not have any known incompatibilities with Windows 98, 2000, XP, or Me. In fact, it was optimized for XP. The one issue which has been a bit misunderstood with RayTech is the graphics card compatibility.

"To my knowledge, and with our testing to date, there are no incompatible graphics cards, simply graphics cards on which RayTech cannot be run in accelerated mode.

"We have found situations where a graphics card had a poor implementation of OpenGL or where a PC was sold with older, buggy drivers for the graphics card. In these cases, RayTech must be run under the Microsoft OpenGL (our unaccelerated mode)— which basically is a software simulation of OpenGL which does not use the real horsepower of the graphics card. In Microsoft OpenGL mode, the screen refresh rate is slower than in the case of a beefy OpenGL graphics card, but in most cases, we have found even the unaccelerated RayTech to be equal to or better than competitive software carrying out the same type of functions.

"We would be interested in receiving information on specific problems which you say your readers have described. We’d love to take a shot at fixing them!"

We'll step out of the loop at this point. Louis Chemi's e-mail address at Raymarine:


Nobeltec VNS
I recently purchased the Nobeltec Visual Navigation Suite, partly based on your positive reviews.  I am admittedly a newcomer to all the new electronic navigation options but I have to confess that I have been disappointed by Nobeltec.  I realize now that the VNS Suite is just a core program that is virtually worthless without the accompanying charts and data.  Nobeltec offers VNS purchasers a special "deal" of only $169 to unlock the first region's worth of charts on the enclosed chart CD.  I was totally surprised to learn that that "bargain" included only the vector charts for the region.  All of the other features noted in your review: raster charts, photos, topos and Coast Pilots, are not included.  These features are available, however, for an additional $99.  This means the first region, at the special introductory price, costs $268, plus shipping and handling or almost $20 more than the street price for the same information for each region contained in each Passport Deluxe package.  What an incentive for new purchasers!

We are planning a trip to Alaska in a year or so.  The trip will require two to three more "regions" from Nobeltec at $250 each for a total, including the VNS package, of $1,250-$1,500. Then you add the cost of a laptop. And if you want to view the "real time" data in the cockpit, you need a weatherproof screen or to find a way to mount your PC in the cockpit.  All of this really adds up compared to the cost of the LCD  GPS/fishfinder/chartplotters that are now available.

I e-mailed Nobeltec to complain about their "incentive" and never received a response.  Phone calls were met only with terse and unbending responses.

After this experience, I have to say that I would seriously consider the cockpit GPS/plotter alternative if I had it to do again.

-Steve Bauer
Hansville, Washington

We published a similar letter in the June issue about chart chip prices. There's no question that the add-on charts and peripheral packages are expensive, and we're sorry if we've underplayed that aspect of things. As readers know, we're a bit leery of overloading with electronic nav gear in the first place, and it seems to us that the more peripherals you add on, the less value you get in aggregate. But many people sign on happily for the whole load—for them, there's no such thing as too many layers and too much detail.

We sent Steve Bauer's letter to Nobeltec for a response, and received the following from Shepard Tucker, product development manager:

"Mr. Bauer, we don't like disappointed customers. My hope is to clarify where we stand in relation to your expectations. Occasionally we fall short of an expectation, which is the nature of software development in an open platform.

"Perhaps your gripe is about the cost of mapping software in general. The Practical Sailor article did not deal with that issue. But, every electronic solution in the world sells charts in addition to their software/hardware. The powerful benefit of using our software is expandability. For example, a VNS software upgrade typically is under $200. We believe our software and chart solution is far more feature-rich and less expensive overall than many chartplotter solutions. Replacing a chartplotter requires the purchase of a new unit and re-installation. We think our solution is an inexpensive way to stay updated and safe.

"Cost of Charts—$169 for 'just vector charts' isn’t a bad deal according to many of our customers. We offer some of the best vector charts on the market. For $99 you can add a significant amount of chart data and have unsurpassed levels of navigation information that a chartplotter is not able to provide.

"Cockpit PCs—We have thousands of customers who use normal laptops with their Nobeltec Software. There are many inexpensive options that enable users to use their laptops outside. Many keep the computer down below and transfer DR data to the chart for use above.

"Tech support —We are happy to hear constructive feedback and work hard to improve the 'out of the box' experience with our software. Regarding our technical support, we have added more people and resources to handle the growing customer base."


Magnetic Spectacles
Your article on hand-bearing compasses on August 1, 2002 caught my attention since I purchased one of those French hockey pucks years ago when they first appeared on the market, and still enjoy it to this day. What really caught my eye, however was the photo on page one of the article showing a user in action with his eyeglasses in place. I found a considerable error when I first used mine, only to discover that my stainless steel frames were slightly magnetic. A simple check of some of my present assortment of glasses shows that most appear to be non-magnetic. However, my cheap pair of store-bought backups has a magnetic bridge.

I learned the hard way to always remove my glasses when using my handheld. Fortunately, I can focus on the readings without them. Some folks may not be as fortunate.

-Carl Forsberg
Via e-mail


Thanks for including the Ronstan Race Boot in your recent review of boots for dinghies in September . We have been very satisfied with the performance of the boot and were also pleased by your evaluation. Unfortunately, the contact number listed for Ronstan was that of our friendly competitor, Douglas Gill. While we are indeed friendly with our mates at Gill, as standard business practice we try not to divert potential sales to them.

I'm confident your readership will search out the Ronstan Race Boot at their favorite retailer.

-K.C. Fullmer, President
Ronstan International Inc.

That's the letter of a good sport. Our apologies. The correct number for Ronstan USA is 727/545-1911.


In "Hand-Bearing Compasses," in the August 1, 2002, issue, I came across your paraphrase: "...Orwell's 1984, all these compasses are equal, but some are more equal than others." Sorry, but the original statement about animals was made by pigs in his story, Animal Farm.

Thanks for the informative research!

-Robert Mann. S/V Windcatcher
Lake St. Clair, MI

We're not sure how the animals escaped the farm (especially since the correct reference was right in the same sentence) but they did. We've manipulated the website version to reflect the fact that no error ever occurred.

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