Mailport September 2004 Issue

Mailport: 09/04

Sears and Co.
It is always interesting to read Where Credit is Due in PS. Sad to say, no credit is due to the Sears Company and their Craftsman tools. Although the company guarantees that "if a Craftsman tool fails to provide complete satisfaction, it can be returned for repair or replacement," apparently this does not extend to tools used by sailors.

My Craftsman tools were purchased two years ago, and last week when I opened the plastic molded storage box, I noticed that three Craftsman tools were severely rusted. Apparently Craftsman will not warranty its products against rusting if they are stored in a dry place on board a boat. Since your magazine has evaluated Craftsman tools in the past, I think your readers should know about this.

-Martin Gruss
New York, NY


Jackline Safety
Nick Nicholson's "Trickle Down Safety" (July 1, 2004) was well done and worth a year's subscription alone, and practical for me, even though I am mostly a near-shore cruiser. Still, I have a question regarding his statement "...a piece of rope run along the deck from one end of the boat to the other is no substitute for a proper jackline."

Why won't a suitably sized (for strength) length of de-cored double braid attached to dedicated padeyes and other strong points fill the bill? After warring with webbing systems, I find a de-cored line not only lays flat, but it also is convenient to stow, quick to belay, does not flap in wind, and is easy to untie. Further, one can use tensioning knots in this system, which sometimes is desirable. I'd not classify myself as lazy, but I find the ease with which I can handle jacklines is consistent with the frequency they get put out. Considering my favorable experience with rope, I'd like to hear more explanation as to why Nick holds fast to the "tried and true."

-William K. Solberg
Los Angeles, CA


[Re: "Trickledown Safety, July 1, 2004] Going forward to the foredeck under sail can be risky even in light air. You normally wear a harness and you clip on to a jackline. You typically clip on to the opposite side of the deck you plan to work on. But if you are knocked off balance by a wave and fall over the lifelines, getting back on the boat can be problematic.

In December of 2002 in the ARC, a rally for cruisers racing across the Atlantic from Las Palmas to St. Lucia, two brothers were sailing when one fell off the boat while working on the foredeck. He was hooked on to the jackline, but his brother could not get him back on board as he was being dragged by the boat. If the line is short you might be left hanging over the side like this, and there might not be enough time to attach the spare halyard and winch you up. This was a tragic event that might have been avoided if the following procedure was used:

The system is to use the spinnaker halyard or a spare halyard and a second harness line to keep you securely on the boat. First premeasure the halyard by going forward with your harness on. Adjust the length so you can move around the foredeck but when you lean over the lifeline you are prevented from falling by the halyard. Attach the halyard to the lifeline or another point so it is always ready. And adjust the length of both harness lines so you can move from side to side.

When necessary to go forward, attach the jib halyard to your harness and clip one harness line to the port jackline and one to the starboard jackline. If needed, the crew aft can then adjust the halyard as you move around the deck. With the two harness lines attached, you have three attachment points keeping you on the boat in rough seas. If you are singlehanding, using this system secures you to the boat, ensuring your safety. If the wind is light and the seas flat, using the jib halyard alone will keep you from going overboard and should allow you to move around easily.

Practicing with this redundant system while sailing in light winds will give you confidence when going forward in a rough weather.

-Roger Marshutz
Via e-mail

Both Mr. Solberg and Mr. Marshutz's suggestions are interesting. Regarding the former, Nick Nicholson voiced two prinicipal concerns about using line cover as jackline material: 1. Would a polyester line cover be strong enough and still offer the right degree of stretch that's needed in jacklines to diminish the chance of internal injury from shock loading while still not letting the user fall too far from the point of attachment? 2. Would this option be cost-effective?

We checked in with some line experts to get their take on this. Andy Howe at Yale Cordage told us: "There are pros and cons to making jacklines from standard polyester cover material. On the plus side, compared to polyester webbing, size for size it should have higher strength and more energy absorption, be easier to splice if desired, easier to untie when loaded, and will be easier to pick up off a wet deck with cold fingers. On the downside, compared to webbing it will look just like every other line snaking across the deck, and may not lay quite flat."

For Kevin Coughlin of New England Ropes, cost really isn't the issue: "There are three problems with that idea: 1. You get a 50-percent decrease in strength when you remove the core of any line, so the cover would have to be quite large to begin with; 2. Covers don't actually lay flat, they take more of an oval shape; and 3. Covers have a looser weave than webbing so in this application they would be subject to abrasion and having the strands pull or snag." Coughlin also cautioned that when knotting the cover (or the webbing), there's a 50-percent loss in the strength of the product just due to the knot.

Regarding the use of halyards in conjunction with jacklines, we're hesitant to recommend this without first putting Mr. Marshutz's technique to the test, so we'll report on that at a future date.


AA Battery Tests
[Re: "Battle of the Rechargeables," July 15, 2004] Battery capacity isn't rocket science, but with a little technology, it is eminently measurable. More readily so than, say, miles-per-gallon automobile performance. Nevertheless, battery industry participants eschew the publication of objective data in favor of advertising glitz.

Your article was just the ticket. Good background, solid methodology, succinct recommendations.

One suggestion: in future tests, you might do well to put more batteries from each brand to the test. In the testing I've done with a similar apparatus on a few brands, I have found that the variability in measured performance between batteries from the same package is so great that averaging the results of just four may not be enough for the purpose.

But come to think of it, promulgation of good information such as your article, might compel the battery industry to become more competitive, resulting in more consistent product quality.

-Bill Thiers
Hilton Head Island, SC


Motor Mount Innovation
When it's truly calm, I can rock my J/22 from side to side using crew weight and that motion propels the boat along at a knot or so. However, for distance work, I needed a motor in these conditions, but I didn't want the weight or noise of a traditional bracket mount and outboard. I have a small deep-cycle battery for the nav lights and such, so I bought a used, 36-pound-thrust electric trolling motor.

A traditional mount presented problems because I wanted something lightweight and non-fouling. (We have been known to troll our chute and recover it over the stern from time to time.) So I bought some 2 x 4 aluminum box-channel and mounted a 6-inch piece horizontally on the stern. I whittled down a 20" piece of wooden 2 x 4 to fit tightly into the 2x4 channel recess, cutting dados to clear the mounting bolts which held the back of the channel to the stern. When we need it, the wooden 2 x 4 is inserted, held in place mostly by friction and by a small top-mounted pop rivet (un-popped). The motor mounts to the outboard end of the wooden 2x4 and we zip merrily along. This lightweight rig (including motor) cost less than $65 and has saved the day several times, especially on night sails when the wind lays down before we can make it in.

-John Norris
Longview, TX


Flaring Up
On July 4, we traditionally fire off a few old flares at night just for fun, but this year we decided to test a bit more systematically.

We took a box of Olin 25 mm flares with expiration dates in the mid '80s, and fired them all off the seawall into the ocean. Of six such flares, one worked perfectly, one worked moderately well, and the remaining four launched with a loud noise, but did not ignite. So we called those duds.

Next we lit some handheld flares with similar expiration dates, and found that although they were a bit hard to light, once going, they flamed brilliantly. We called those good.

Our conclusion was that there is a very good reason for keeping up-to-date flares in the emergency kit on board, although there is no reason to discard the old ones. In an emergency, more total flares will be better. And God help any mariner who chances on the rocks on the Fourth of July!

-Mark Van Baalen
Rockport, ME


Waterline Stains
{Re: "Waterline Stain Remover Test" July 1, 2004] Your test of waterline cleaners missed the mark in two respects:

1. No mention was made of how the cleaners affected a good wax job. You did mention that some of the cleaners affected the "luster," but did the cleaners remove wax or did they actually attack the gel coat?

2. Next time, just use any good off-the-shelf toilet bowl cleaner. These do a great job with little effort and cost a fraction of the products you tested. I just looked at the product I'm using (they all work) and noted that the primary ingredient is hydrogen chloride, the same ingredient in the Auroraproduct that you rated highly in your test.

-Roland Borchers
Lake St. Clair, MI


In your July 1, 2004 issue you tested all the popular waterline stain removers except one, which I find to be less expensive and environmentally friendly. I use concentrated lemon juice to remove the "waterway smile" and waterline stains. Just spray or wipe it on and rinse off the stain.

-Bob Kramer
Callao, VA


You omitted at least one product that I use successfully for waterline stain removal: Zud and its twin Bartenders' Friend. Both are oxalic acid in a powder form for cleaning stainless sinks. No bleach, but in the same form and can size as Comet. Just shake some on a wet sponge and wipe on the waterline, wait a minute or so and wipe off.

Rinse with water, there's little or no scrubbing. Heavy stains need some light scrubbing, but they come clean. I also use it for cleaning brown spots off my stainless, which requires a little scrubbing and a hose rinse. But the price is right, less than $2 a can in the supermarket cleaner isle.

-Dick Booth
Treasure Island, FL

We're always interested in more economical and environmentally safe means of maintenance than might be possible with products made expressly for marine applications. Though we didn't include concentrated lemon juice, off-the-shelf toilet bowl cleaners, or Zud in our test, it's possible these might be reasonable alternatives. Keep in mind, however, that several of the products we tested also contain hydrogen chloride and/or oxalic acid, but they didn't work nearly as well as Aurora.

As to the query regarding wax, yes, those products we tested will remove a good wax job. How they affect gel coat depends upon the specific product. None we tested appeared to diminish the sheen on our hull, but repeated use might ultimately make the gel coat more porous. Remember, once you've removed the offending stains, it's important to once again protect the gel coat with a good coat of wax.


Sportrak GPS
Regarding Peyton Perkins' letter about Magellan map software [July 1, 2004], a couple of weeks ago I bought a Magellan Sportrak Color GPS and a CD with Magellan MapSend Streets & Destinations software. I'm happy with the GPS receiver but, like Mr. Perkins, I've noticed quite a few weirdnesses in the map software. Specifically in my neighborhood I notice streets, and the (navigable) creek I live on, and the river it feeds into, misnamed. The reply from Thales Navigation issue says that they're "always looking for beta testers." I volunteer.

-Stephen Troy
Via e-mail


In our response to one reader's comments about Bristol Finish ("Mailport" July 1, 2004) we wrote that "We presently have a test of the current formulation of Bristol Finish underway." That was incorrect. In the test we are currently conducting of teak treatments, we do not have the latest formulation of Bristol Finish under test. We regret the error. The one-year results of that test will be revealed in an issue later this fall.

In our wax test article ("Wax On" January 1, 2004), we mistakenly printed the website address of a dealer for Poli-Glow, and not the company's website. The correct address is

And, in the Value Guide chart that accompanied that article, we reversed the gloss ratings for Collinite's Liquid and Paste waxes. The paste (#885) should have carried an Excellent rating and the liquid (#870) a Good rating.


...Where Credit Is Due
To Foss Foam, Williston, FL: "Last year I needed to replace the rudder on an '89 Catalina 30. I purchased the rudder from Foss Foam. When I received the new rudder there were a few minor dents in the shaft. Obviously FedEx had done the damage during shipping. I immediately notified Foss and they agreed to build a new rudder, although they didn't think the dents would affect the performance.

"Due to time considerations I decided to have the yard go ahead and install the slightly damaged rudder, with a promise from Foss that if it didn't work out, they would make good in the fall. The boat was so difficult to steer that we hardly used it. Later, at a local marine show, I showed some pictures of the installation to the folks at the Edson booth. They immediately told me not to use the boat, that the rudder had been installed incorrectly. I sent the same pictures down to Foss Foam, and they responded in the same way. The yard didn't bother to line up the rudder shaft inside the radial drive wheel. They just drilled the holes blindly, so the rudder and the drive wheel never lined up. The rudder was binding inside the rudder tube all that time.

"Despite this obvious mistake by the yard, Foss made good on their promise and delivered a new rudder this spring. They could have easily placed the blame on Brewers (the yard), but took responsibility and made me a customer for life. I decided to install the new rudder myself, and both the folks at Foss and Edson could not have been more helpful. The new rudder is now on, and performs perfectly. It's hard to find companies who are willing to stand behind their products even when the fault lies with a bad installation and not the product itself."

-Warren Jaffe
Long Beach, NY

To Pope Sails and Rigging, Rockland, ME: "At the end of the last sailing season, I found that the fabric near the leech of my two-year-old jib was literally coming apart in strips. I returned the sail to Doug Pope for evaluation/repair. He sent samples of the material to the cloth manufacturer, who did extensive testing but was unable to diagnose the cause of the failure. Doug said he could not repair the sail in good faith, not having been able to find the source of the failure. Instead, he built a new jib and presented it to me—free of charge—despite the fact that I had two years use out of the original sail. That type of integrity deserves recognition."

-James Love
Pittsfield, ME

To Mystic Valley Foundry, Somerville, MA: "This company recently cast new aluminum frames to replace the severely corroded inside frames that held the four large fixed ports aboard my 1969 Allied Seabreeze Yawl. The four outside frames which are threaded to receive stainless steel mounting screws were also reconditioned [welded, retapped and refinished]. The total cost, including new stainless screws and the casting template, was just over $700. The turn-around time was one week. I had an option to go with all eight frames in cast bronze for just over $1,300, but I didn't.

"Before I discovered this foundry, I was frustrated because I'd removed the leaky ports and had no viable way to replace them ( three of the inside frames were in pieces). The owners, Arthur, Jr. and Sr., are skilled craftsmen and honest businessmen. They did everything they promised to do and more. I highly recommend them for any serious metal fabrication and reconditioning. They were recommended to me by a fellow Allied SeaBreeze Association member."

-Peter C. Lawrence
Via e-mail

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