Mailport May 15, 2003 Issue

Mailport: 05/15/03

Hayn Terminals
Your report on the Hayn terminal as being equal to or superior to Sta-Lok brought to mind my making a complete set of standing rigging for our 36-foot Allied Princess ketch Princess in Fremantle, Australia using Sta-Loks— my first time ever at doing a whole set. Earlier swaged fittings were like split rust buckets.

One detail that I used was to fill the fitting completely with clear silicone. It sure made for slippery assembly, but after 12 years of use I remain convinced that the silicone prevented any vibration-loosening and absolutely keeps salt and moisture out.

Lubricity isn't a problem as the massive squeezing forces assure almost molecular mating of the metal parts. I used extreme care to keep the strands fair, and it looks like Hayn's notched washer will be a big help. Three cheers for this general type of dependable fitting.

-Tom Hails
Panama City, FL


Electronics Holders
In your April 1 article on holders for handheld equipment you stated "We would not trust a suction cup or adhesive to hold an expensive piece of electronics." I, too, have a distrust of adhesives; the one used on a cell phone as part of a universal belt clip kit failed within a week.  However, I have been using Ram Mounting Systems' suction cup mount for my Lowrance GlobalMap-100 GPS for the past three years. This GPS is one of the heavier ones on the market, so it's really giving the mount a good test. 

I have used it on the bulkhead of my boats and on the windshields of my cars, and have been quite satisfied with it. It works best, in my view, when  the arm is parallel with the mounting surface, such as the bulkhead of the boat (32' sail). This is much harder to do with a windshield and I try to have the unit rest on the dash to reduce some of the strain. Even though the mount isn't taking the full load, it provides a way of keeping the GPS in a place that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

The key to success is having a good seal. Wet the rubber suction cup (even saliva works) and stick it to smooth, clean surfaces. Even applying it over a decal on glass is enough to make the seal ineffective.

Love the magazine—thanks for all the good work and advice over the years.

-Brian Holzman
Madison, CT


Check Bilge Pump Hose
Just a note of caution to fellow boaters. I was checking on my sailboat this weekend and turned on my auxiliary bilge pump to empty the bilge. The hose is routed through one of the cockpit lockers and is the corrugated kind commonly found in marine stores and catalogues. I noticed that the bilge was emptying, but there was little discharge from the through-hull. When I opened the cockpit locker I found that the hose had cracked and water had filled up the locker. When I grasped the hose it fell apart. Needless to say, I am surveying all my pump installations and replacing all hoses of this type. Based on my experience, I would recommend that fellow boaters replace this corrugated hose with higher quality reinforced bilge pump hose. I know I have seen this type of hose in many sail and powerboat installations from reputable manufacturers.

-Bob Stagg
Huntsville, AL


Thanks, Bob—a particularly valuable note as many of us head for spring commissioning.


In-Mast vs. In-Boom Furling
In your April 1 PS Advisor, "In-Mast vs. In-Boom," you state that, "in-mast systems require an awful sacrifice of mainsail shape—you end up with a battenless, hollow roach." You overlooked the fact that there are several vertical batten systems and designs on the market that do create and support a large positive roach. Inspired originally by the Vertech system by Lundh Sails in Sweden, these designs are widely accepted in Europe, and are available in the U.S.

Selden Mast promotes and has engineered its masts to easily handle vertical battens and large-roached sails. Visit www.selden and click on the "News" section for more details.

-Scott Alexander
National Sales Manager
Selden Mast, Inc.


Your comparison was very accurate in your PS Advisor for April 1 on the comparative advantages between In-Mast vs. In-Boom mainsail furling systems. There is one additional advantage for the in-boom system that I have encountered: If the in-mast furler jams partially retracted, then there is no way to drop the sail. With an in-boom system you can always drop the sail and tie it in the traditional manner. This is more of an issue as the boat gets larger.

-Armand Alciatore
Via e-mail


Which Epifanes Was That?
Thanks for your great publication. Your March 2003 article, "TeakTreatment All-Stars Grudge Match" is of very high interest to me: I have been trying to find a better varnish (ie: non polyurethane) for use on my teak, and to protect West System epoxy, which I also apply as a finish (like Bristol Finish). The Epifanes caught my eye, and I went out and bought a quart, butthen discovered a discrepancy. Based on your photograph (page 28), you appear to be using Epifanes Woodfinish Gloss, rather than Epifanes Clear High-Gloss (or rubbed effect) Varnish. West Marine lists Epifanes Woodfinish between their own West Marine Wood Pro and Sikkens Cetol on page 351 of their 2003 catalog, the whole page being these three similar products. You list it as a true varnish on your table on page 31. Which Epifanes are you using, and which one is Woodfinish?

-Karl Diederich
Via e-mail


We used Epifanes Woodfinish Gloss, mostly because it can be recoated without sanding (if done within 72 hours, or a little sooner if it's hot and dry), but also because, among the Epifanes products, it contains what they say is "maximum UV resistance." Because the test is looking for longevity, it seemed the best choice.

This Woodfinish Gloss probably is softer than Epifanes Clear High-Gloss, as suggested in Epifanes' statement that the Woodfinish Gloss can, if desired, have a final coat of Clear High-Gloss. (When working with the earlier varnish test, we did two samples of these two Epifanes finishes to see if the gloss was different. We could not discern any difference.) Note that in this latest test, the Epifanes Woodfinish Gloss was the "best gloss" of the varied products currently being tested.

Basically, transparent wood coatings—whether called "varnish," "wood finishes" or wood treatments"—have become very "chemical" products. The term "varnish" has become blurred. It has progressed from resin to oil to water to liquid plastic-based products. The major thrust in recent years has been how to make it resist ultra-violet light, which is very damaging to almost anything it strikes.

Varnish kept in the shade lasts almost forever, or until it is worn away. This was pointed out in the March report: "A good varnish job down below, gloss or semi-gloss (#60 in the trade), will last for years and years, if not nicked up or worn away."

Some varnish is said to be harder than others, meaning it resists abrasion wear, like on a floor. Some is said to be softer, to permit flexing without cracking, as on a wooden mast. However, in our experience, it's difficult to tell the difference between "natural" and "synthetic" varnish, and it may be that only in very elaborate tests—like a Brinell test for hardness— would the hard/soft differences show up in any significant manner. (The Brinnell test involves pressing a hard ball into a surface with carefully calibrated loads.)


Viv Welcome
Congratulations on the First 235. ["Our New Pal, Viv," April 1] As the original owner of a 1987 235 (Hull #8),  I can confirm your initial observations.  The boat is a good performer, especially in lighter air, as I have the silver to prove it. The plumb bow gives it a good waterline length.  It also acts well as a weekender or an overnighter. With my wife and teenage daughter, we were always very comfortable anchored out in any one of the various coves we used. I thought Beneteau did a pretty good job utilizing the available space.

A couple of things I'd like to point out: First, once you get the boat in the water, you'll probably notice that it will have a starboard list.  With the head, outboard, and battery on the starboard side, that's a fair amount of weight. I relocated my battery under the steps. Second, the keel is iron and you'll need to make sure that it has the proper primer. Since I was new to the boat, it took me a couple of seasons to resolve my keel rusting problems. 

Also good to hear you have a fin keel. The wing keel boats had a problem where the rudder was deeper than the keel.  I saw one boat that had the rudder completely ripped off the stern of the boat.

All in all, I was very happy with Sanity Maintenance and owned her for five years.  I, like most individuals who start at that size boat, have moved up in size and now own a 1989 Sabre 42.  I tell you though; there are times I wish for the simplicity of the 235.

Good luck and I look forward to reading future articles on Viv.

-Jim Stebel
Via e-mail


Congratulations on buying the First 235. We purchased ours, a 1988 aswell, three seasons ago. It was our first boat. When I climbed the ladder tolook at her (she was on the stands) I though I was on an aircraft carrier!

Prior to buying the Beneteau, we had sailed a  Rhodes 19, as well as afew dinghies.

We have nothing but praise for our First 235. It has been a learning curve, regarding maintenance. I had painted cars and airplanes, but never a boat bottom. I had to replace the depth and knot meter, and drilling holes in the hull of a boat seems fundamentally wrong—an unnatural act! That 3M 5200 goop works wonders, but will foul up a pair of Levis in a heartbeat!

We do not have a roller furler, but I am doing the research into what type, brand, etc. Folding a headsail on the dock, on the Chesapeake, in mid- August, has convinced my wife and me that a furler is the way to go.

Best of luck with your Beneteau. I look forward to reading about her in the future. FYI: Beneteau has a pretty good supply of parts for the First 235. I have gotten several items from them. They are courteous, fast, and knowledgeable.

Keep up the good work. I read PS cover to cover, and find it the best source for the "straight skinny."

-Paul Hurtt
NAS Patuxent River, MD


Hull Repair Kit
I recently purchased an item that may be of interest to fellow sailors.  It is a boat hull emergency repair kit.  What got my attention was the price of $30 plus about $8 shipping and handling.  I received the "kit" as a collection of various repair patch items, and I believe it's pretty darn good for the money.  There are about a dozen items in this kit to repair a hull breach.  The largest repair item is a pair of oval and concave sheet metal sides with a rubber seal around one (for the outside). There is a bolt welded to one piece.  The idea is to slip the oval through the hull, position the bolt back through to your side, where the second concave oval slips over the bolt and a thumbscrew (supplied) tightens down to seal the leak. They even included metal pliers with the kit to tighten the finger screws. There are six of these in various sizes. 

Also, there are rubber patches for inflatables (but no glue, interestingly), two hardware pieces that compose a metal drain with seal (good quality), rubber sheeting, cloth sheeting, scissors, and several wire pieces with lead slugs on the end.  I have no idea what they are supposed to do—I think they may be a metal\lead patch for melting into a pinhole.)

All in all, not a bad collection of stuff for the money.  The overall quality is very good.

I bought this kit from a mail-order company called The Sportsman Guide (800/888-5222). The part number for the patch kit is:  3M3-64561-000-000. The item is called "New Repair Kit 7.4."

Just thought I'd share this with my fellow sailors. Fair winds to you all.

-Page Crow
Independence, MO


Customer Service
I'm a long-time subscriber, but unfortunately I've just had to let my subscription lapse. We're cruising in remote areas and it has turned out to be just too difficult and expensive to get mail forwarded. I'll definitely renew when we get back though.

I've got a suggestion when you are reviewing expensive or complex gear. Try out the company's customer support. Particularly their e-mail support. While cruising outside the USA, e-mail support is critical. Phone support and especially 800 numbers are useless. Some companies don't even give you a non-800 number. They are unreachable.

We've found e-mail support that runs the gamut—from nearly immediate responses to never getting a reply. The worst support we've ever gotten is from Alpha Marine Systems for our Spectra Autopilot. They have never once responded to any of the dozens of e-mails we've sent over the last two years. Worse yet, they've hung up on me when I phoned, saying they didn't have time to talk with me. Contrary to their literature and promises, the pilot operates only as a stand-alone unit. It doesn't interface to a GPS and they simply don't care. The second worst is Nobeltec. They just don't answer any e-mails you send them. You get an automated reply telling you to check their website (not possible for me) and asking you to send your message again to another e-mail address. I have done that and never gotten anything back from them.

For us, support is the deciding factor. If a company makes a great product but there is no way to contact them or get assistance when it needs service, it's useless. I'd much rather have the less capable product with top-notch support.

Thanks for the great publication.

-Jeff Robbins, S/V Vesper
Via e-mail


Jeff (and other long-distance cruisers): Subscribers can view the entire current month's issue, and one previous, for free online. All you need is your subscriber ID, your password, and access to the Internet, preferably an access spot shaded by palm trees. You can download the HTML and PDF files, and deal with the paper copies whenever you get back. We know of a bunch of cruising sailors who do that.

Your idea for a consideration of customer service support when we review complex bits of gear, particularly electronics, is a good one, but hard to paint in one brushstroke. We, too, have encounted a lot of variation in that area, and even variation within one company day to day. Certainly, though, if a company offers e-mail support, they need to have someone assigned to the task. There are plenty of companies in the marine trades (as in other trades) who long ago ordered features from their website designers ("Sure, Todd, give us of one of those answer forms.") without any particular notion of where those form results would be sent or how they would be handled.

In a big company, the two worst places those form results can be sent are to the boss, who's lucky to be able to find the on/off switch on the computer, or to Ralph, down in accounting, because he knows all about computers and has some spare time.

Even stranger, in our view, is a website with a contact information page that gives the visitor only a fill-in form, and not a single phone number. Where's the business sense in that?


... Where Credit Is Due
To W-H Autopilots, Bainbridge Island, Washington:

"I have a 22-year-old W-H autopilot installed in my 44' pilothouse motorsailor ketch, operated in waters of Washington and British Columbia, Canada. This past season the autopilot began erratic operation when entering areas of tidal/current turmoil.

"I called W-H at Winslow, Bainbridge Island, on several occasions, while underway, and each time Mr. Will Hamm personally provided advice, willingly taking time out of his very busy day. However, as erratic operation continued, he recommended that I bring the computer controller into his shop for checkout. This step proved the unit to be fine. Subsequently, Mr. Hamm visited my boat to conduct a thorough inspection to locate the problem: A dysfunctional rudder transmitter proved the culprit.

"For all of this effort and personal time, Will Hamm would take no payment! As a retired naval officer and former commercial fishing boatbuilder, I can attest to the design, quality and endurance of W-H systems: They are the best. And to receive such uncompromising support from this company is most exceptional. A 'well done' to W-H Autopilots."

-Capt. Jack Newman, S/V Highland Rose

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