Mailport November 15, 2004 Issue

Mailport: 11/15/04

Barbeque Beef
Not long ago I purchased a Force 10 model 18492 barbeque. It was a major decision between that and the Magma Newport. I chose the Force 10, because I could place wood chips above the burner. The unit was quite disappointing! It would not stay lit with the cover closed.

I called Force 10 and they made a few suggestions, but it still didn't work correctly. The best thing about the unit is the design of the rail mount bracket, which is still attached to the boat. The rest of the unit is at the bottom of the ocean, where it belongs! I then purchased the Magma, which is a difference of night and day.

However, since then I've talked with Brad Clark, a vice president at Force 10, who totally restored my confidence in the company. He admitted that there had been some problems with the gas valve settings and apologized for their not bringing this up when I called. He also acknowledged the issues involved in securing the unit to the rail when under way. He said the unit, as currently designed, should probably be removed when underway.

Brad was very open to my feedback and is currently making some major improvements in their new line of marine barbecues. He promised to send me one of the new units in November or December. So it turns out that Force 10 is a great company and I take my hat off to them.

-Ted Wasserman
Via e-mail


Battle of the Rechargeables
[Re: "Battle of the Rechargeables," July 15, 2004] On page 8 in the table of Ni-MH Rechargeable Comparison, you do not list the mAh of the batteries. Also, which Energizer Ni-MH battery was tested: the 1850, 2100, or 2300 mAh? I have only found one capacity for the other batteries:

Duracell: 2050 mAh
Radio Shack: 2000 mAh
Radio Shack I-C3: 2000 mAh
Rayovac I-C3: 2000 mAh

-Frank Rossi
Via e-mail

Here are the capacities for the batteries we tested:

Duracell: 2,050 mAh
Energizer: 2,100 mAh
Radio Shack: 1,800 mAh
Radio Shack I-C3: 2,000 mAh
Rayovac I-C3: 2,000 mAh

Mr. Rossi is right about the different Energizer capacities. In fact, it's important to be careful when buying the Energizer charger, which includes batteries. The batteries we saw were lower than the 2,100 in the table above. The listed value on the Internet is 1,850 mAh. In other words, the "free" batteries that come with these chargers aren't really free, and in fact may give the batteries a bad name without the expected capacity.


Flashlight Option
[Re: "Flashlight Death Match" October 1, 2004] Somehow I received a catalog from an outfit named (as humorist Dave Barry says, 'I am not making this up') Cheaper Than Dirt (, 800/421-8047). They have an 8-LED flashlight that sells for $5. The case is four inches long and 1.25 inches in diameter, machined from aluminum anodized with a "titanium" color finish. It's sturdy, sealed with O-rings and a rubber cover over the switch, so at least somewhat water resistant. (I have not tested this.)

I bought 10 of them. They run on three AA cells, and I was amazed at how bright they were, but I have not done any battery life testing.

When they arrived I had a lot of trouble getting them to work. It turned out that there was some kind of coating on the machined surfaces of the main tube, the front cap (with the LEDs), and the back cap (with the switch button), which was preventing electrical contact, and it took a lot of cleaning to get them to work. One of them I never could get to work; interchanging parts showed that it was a faulty switch. So I phoned customer service at Cheaper Than Dirt for a new switch. The person there said they would simply send me another one, no need to return the bad one, and the new one showed up in a couple of days.

While the appearance and construction is a little cheesy, and I had to spend some time cleaning these items to get them to work, I'm impressed with the performance, the price, and the customer service. I figure I got my money's worth.

-Steve Troy
Arnold, MD


Inflatable PFD Oversight
[Re: "PFD Test" Oct. 1, 2004] I would like to bring up something you did not mention in your article, something all inflatable PFD users should be aware of, and something that should be boldly printed on every advertisement and order for these PFDs: The CO2 cartridges that are required for all of the PFDs to operate are considered hazardous material and their transportation is very restricted by the maze of regulations involving such "dangerous" items.

Recently, I attempted to travel with my SOSpenders vest and its two CO2 cartridges. Fortunately, I called the airline (Continental) beforehand. I was informed that the cartridges would not be allowed on the airplane, not as carry-on, nor as check-in luggage. They would not allow them on the plane because they are "hazmat." I ended up having to remove my cartridges and send them to the boat by parcel post so they would be there when I arrived. The post office would not send them by first class or priority mail because hazmat items can only travel by ground shipping. UPS would not even take them because I did not have a "hazmat" contract with them. And, I had to get the boat owner to ship them back to me after the trip.

Yes, these are the same little CO2 cartridges that are in every one of the life preservers located under the seats in airplanes. Those things are all over the airplane, yet I couldn't bring my PFD on board because of its cartridges.

I did some research into this after my vacation and learned that some airlines allow them if you check them with your luggage. Some do not. Some leave it up to the discretion of the captain on the plane you are flying or to the ground crew. The problem is that you never know if you are going to be allowed to board with the CO2 cartridges or not.

This was a real inconvenience for me. Someone suggested that I should travel without the cartridges and just "buy a couple" when I got to my destination. But those little cartridges are $20 to $25 each, and that is money that is thrown away because you can't bring them home; they can not be shipped internationally. If I had to pay $50 to buy and discard cartridges each time I use my PFD, I'd leave it home, which is exactly what I'll do on my next charter vacation.

This is an issue that should be addressed by the airlines, the DOT, and the PFD manufacturers. Until the issue is resolved, I think it should be incumbent on inflatable PFD manufacturers to put a clear warning on the package that the user might not be able to travel with the CO2 cartridges, which would make these PFDs and their use extremely inconvenient for the occasional sailor who prefers to have his own PFD on a charter boat.

-Sidney L. Patin
Colorado Springs, CO

Reader Patin is correct regarding the issue that inflatable PFDs pose for air travelers. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines the CO2 cartridges on an inflatable PFD as "Hazardous Materials." They're also considered Dangerous Goods as defined by the International Air Transportation Association. The DOT regulation requires that you declare the hazardous material prior to boarding whether you take your inflatable PFD as carry-on or check it through. Not doing so may result in federal charges.

An exception in the regulation leaves the final decision up to the individual air carrier. Thus, prudent sailors will call the airline in advance to learn the particular carrier’s policy regarding CO2 cartridges.

As Patin points out, the situation needs to be addressed. One means of urging along the policy makers is to log on to US SAILING’s website ( and add your comments to the archive there.


...Where Creit Is Due
To Ritchie Navigation: "I offer praise to Ritchie Navigation's customer service, and Bill Marsh in particular. When I went to replace the light on the eight-year-old Ritchie Globemaster compass aboard my J/42, I loosened too many screws and spilled some fluid, causing a large bubble. The bubble disappeared after a while, but I knew it would reappear with cold weather.

"With a call to Ritchie, I explained to Bill what had happened and that I had just bought the boat. He noted that the model year of the compass was close to the time when they changed over to odorless mineral spirits (which I could have refilled myself), but since you can't mix that with the old fluid, he offered to refill it at no cost. After a quick turnaround, I received my compass back from Ritchie with a new LED light and light cover, refilled, and with a new mounting gasket too—all for $16.50 plus shipping. My compass looks like new. That's excellent customer service."

-Robert Thuss, Via e-mail

To Sailomat: "For over 10 years my Sailomat 601 windvane has been the most productive crewmember on board. Recently, I began servicing it with the intention of replacing worn bearings. After ordering the parts from Sailomat, I received notice that they would be sent within days from the company's factory in Sweden and that there would be no charge. Sailomat, you are an outstanding organization!"

-John Hornung, Via e-mail

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