Mailport April 15, 2004 Issue

Mailport: 04/15/04

Rescue Laser Flare
Thank you for the very informative review on the Rescue Laser Flare in the February 15 issue of Practical Sailor.  I fully agree that the Laser Flare is one of the best night signaling inventions ever. Although this article was informative, I thought a few points were missed that are important to the mariner.  I've owned and done my own tests with the Magnum Laser Flare for the past year during my travels onboard the Global Class research ship Knorr , and aboard my Mini Transat sailboat, USA 175. The testing was with passing ships and smaller boats. After each test, the consensus was that the red laser "would be hard to miss."

One key point the Navy missed was how important the extra time a Laser Flare has over a conventional flare. I felt secure knowing that if I ended up in the water and a ship went by, I could continually shine the laser toward them for the whole time the ship was in sight. If there was a proper lookout, I felt confident they would spot the red laser. With a conventional flare, there is a chance, even with a proper lookout, that a 45-second aerial flare could be missed.

Second, the Navy pointed out that a person in the water would have a low height of eye, and this would limit the distance to the horizon that the laser flare could be seen, while a aerial flare would have an increased visible horizon and could be seen from farther away. All this is true, but if one can't see the ship to shine his laser flare towards, chances are he wouldn't fire an aerial flare.

Even if only considered a substitute, a Laser Flare is good life insurance. It's smaller than most flashlights and fits easily in foul weather gear. It costs a bit of money, but it never expires.  Best of all, one can carry it through airport security!

-Adam Seamans, USA-175
Beverly, MA


Another Shades Alternative
I read with interest your Chandlery section in the February 15 issue regarding the product "Sunspots." I would like to bring to your attention another such product that addresses some of the price and other objections you raised about clip-ons for prescription glasses. I have no connection with the company (ClipOn Guys) but would like to recommend this product to your readers. For the past two years, I have been using a product known as "Clip-ons." These are polarized, plastic, clip-on sun glasses, custom-made to fit almost any size or shape of prescription glasses. Each pair is custom cut from a standard blank in any of three color/shades. They cost about $40 and are well worth it.

I bought a pair about two years ago at the ClipOn Guys kiosk in Beach Haven, NJ, and have worn them both summer and winter ever since. Mine have a few minor scratches and some bottom paint splatter, but work so well that I will probably buy another pair this summer.

They can be ordered over the Internet Just send them a 100% photocopy of your glasses or frames, and they will custom-make a pair.    

-John V. Tesoriero
Brielle, NJ


Painting Caulks and Sealants
I totally agree with your findings that Toplac is a great finish ("Topside Paint Finale," January 15). Its high gloss and self-leveling properties are outstanding, but it is super incompatible with some of the so-called "paintable" caulking compounds.  I used Toplac over West Marine's Multi-Caulk (a poly-ether compound) after the caulk had been applied for two weeks, and found the paint took over four weeks to start curing, and even then never reached normal hardness levels.  Moreover, the caulk seemed to soften slightly.

As a test, I applied Toplac over Multi-Caulk that had been applied for eight weeks, with similar results. I then did a test using 3M's 101 and 5200, and Boatlife's Life-Caulk and Life Seal.  The 101 and Life-Caulk gave the same results as the West Marine Multi-Caulk, but the polyurethanes (5200 and Life Seal) had no such problem.

To overcome the problem, I scraped out as much of the Multi-Caulk as I could, and replaced it with 5200.

I do not have the time to test other paints, so my suggestion is thatmaybe you could do some similar type of test in the future. To apply some 300 feet of caulking and then find such a failure is a "downer," to say the least.

-Brian Cleverly
Via e-mail

That's a good idea. It's been about six years since we tested caulks and sealants—time to gear up again, and this time we can do a separate piece on how they paint.


Plea-Free Tacking
I read with a smile your February 1 editorial, describing a sailor and spouse, and the challenges of sailing a vessel of any size which may require the assistance of said spouse during the tacking of a boat with a largegenoa.

My wife and I sail a Catalina 380 that has a large roller-furled genoa. My solution to the singlehanded tacking issue is the remote-control device on my Raymarine ST5000 Plus SailPilot. This device allows me to automatically move the boat simply and easily while performing the necessary sheet and winch functions required, away from the helm.

I certainly agree that reconfiguring your sailplan is one solution. However, if you already have an autopilot, check with your manufacturer for aremote-control add-on. It is possibly a cheaper alternative. It allows your spouse to not miss a page of his/her book or any other endeavour that he/she may be pursuing at the time.

-Bob Morookian
Midlothian, VA


Today in the mail appeared the February 1 issue and your editorial, "Plea-Free Tacking."  After a double-take at the opening sentence, I settled in to read the rest.  Hitting your statement, "This, I believe, is why we see so many boats headed upwind in a fine sailing breeze with the engine on..." my mind jumped back to December and our return trip to Gulf Shores. Our Allied Princess can be cumbersome to tack, and too often we start doing the "Westerbeke Shuffle."

Honestly, earlier today I'd gone online to SailNet's AirForce Sails website to investigate prices on a 100% jib, and later thumbed through a well-worn book authored by some guy named Spurr...particularly that part about self-tacking (page 203 in my copy).  What a coincidence!

Great "musing" on the subject—but how about something more in- depth? Let's dispel some of the myths about the necessity for a 155% genny to move one toward the next port. This is a timely subject.

-William Huesmann
Via e-mail.


I am a survivor of a racing/cruising sloop which carried a 180% genoa jib so I read your editorial on stress-free tacking rigs with considerable interest.  While promoting the Hanse 371 as an example and also mentioning the Alerion Express 28 and Freedom 30, you omitted several other alternatives to jib wrestling.

Cape Cod Catboats, in their many variations, have evolved since the 1850s and are still popular today largely due to their ease of handling and rig simplicity.  The Nonsuch and Wylie Cats are higher-performance variants of the catboat that in many cases out- pace similar-sized sloops in upwind performance. The Nonsuchs in particular provide no-stress tacking, a dry comfortable ride, and ample accomodations for the shorthanded skipper with an along-for-the-ride-wife (or companion). It has been said that the hardest part of sailing a Nonsuch is putting on the sailcover at the end of the day.  As the very satisfied current owner of a Nonsuch 30 I can attest to the wisdom of that statement.

-Dave Calder
Essex, MA  


I totally agree with you on this subject. Carried to its logical conclusion, this will bring you to the Nonsuch (no jib at all), and 1,000 owners would agree.

-Mark Fagelman, Nonsuch 33, #19
Via e-mail


I smiled when I read your editorial about the ease of sailing the Hanse 371. Perhaps others of the 1,000 or so Nonsuch owners did likewise. I bought my Nonsuch 30 at the age of 67, for precisely the reasons you outlined. By age 75 I had installed an electric halyard winch and a bridle in my marina slip to solve the problem of docking singlehanded in a strong crosswind. At age 80 I reluctantly gave up sailing alone, and last year I let others climb up the mast to take down the wishbone. But when I want to come about, I still just turn the wheel! Reefing, all sail-shaping, and halyard handling are done from the cockpit. Dropping the sail into the wishbone and cradle lines is a snap, and if it happens to fall over the wishbone, the electric winch quickly takes the sail back up for another try.

The designer and builder, Mark Ellis and George Hinterhoeller, showed remarkable foresight in birthing this boat, and aging sailors do have options other than trawlers or tugboats. And an added bonus—when trying to tell people how to find your boat in a marina, the distinctive rig always stands out!

-Jon Amy, NS30-310
Via e-mail


Brunton Binox
I read your December 2003 "Gear of the Year" article and went shopping for binoculars. I found all of the units you reviewed and looked them over carefully. While doing so I was encouraged to look at the Brunton line of optics. Eventually, I chose the Brunton Eterna 7x43 glasses, thinking it would be a little easier to use these glasses for  birdwatching, too.

The glasses are waterproof, fogproof, BAK 4 coated, and come with integral lens caps and a clever carrying case. They retail for over $400 but I found them on-line for $289.

I find their optical quality to be very good. Recently, I took them eagle watching in zero -degree weather with no fogging. I thought I would bring this line to your attention in case no one has done so. I sail a 46-year-old Flying Scot and value your publication for the information, but also for the quality of the writing.

-Bob Barron
Via e-mail


Sailtrack Wax
With reference to your November 15, 2003 article on sailtrack lubricants, for the last 5+ years I have carved a piece of candle to the approximate shape of a slide and put it between the top two slides on the mainsail of my C&C 36. It lubricates inside and out all season, and the headboard is always reachable as long as the wind is forward of the beam, even on breezy days.

-Jon Garvin, RNYC


Flip-It Wheels
As the result of your review of the DaNard Marine Products Flip-It Wheels a year ago (February 1, 2003) I purchased a set of the wheels. The folks at DaNard were delightful to deal with.

I installed the wheels on my Avon Rover 310 and used them last season. They work great! The wheels were everything your review said they were and more, and made moving the inflatable from the dinghy rack to the water very, very easy.

Thanks for identifying and reviewing the product.

-Bill Seale
McLean, VA

We're glad to hear those wheels are working out for you. They're well-made. The DaNard website is


... Where Credit Is Due
To Seaward Products, Whittier, CA: "Recently I took the propane tank from my 1992 Catalina to be refilled and learned that tanks without overflow protection devices (OPD) can no longer be refilled. Searching the ships' stores for a replacement tank I was not pleased with what I found—both the tank and locker would have to be replaced at a rather steep cost. I then decided to contact Seaward Products, manufacturer of the original propane locker that was installed in my boat. Upon calling I was quickly routed to Brian in Seaward's parts department. Brian said not to worry—we can help. Turns out they offer a retrofit lid for the original equipment locker that allows room for the slightly taller tank with OPD feature, and for a very reasonable price. I placed the order, the lid and new tank arrived a few days later, and I'm back in business with an updated propane system. Thanks for the great service, Seaward."

-Mike Cassidy
via e-mail

To Forespar, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, and Ancor, Cotati, CA: "Forespar's man, Randall Risvold, marks a new high in service. Some sort of spring in my 13-year-old spinnaker pole end fitting trigger was not working.  Responding to a "what do I do?" e-mail, Randall said I could ship the fitting and have him soak it in vinegar for three weeks to remove the holding pin, and he would fix it—or I could soak it myself and he would send a kit, gratis. I elected the latter option. 

"The kit arrived, and did not look like the right size.  A second e-mail resulted in a larger-size kit. (Each kit included several plunger pins, springs—both coil and butterfly—and everything else.) After the soak, the holding pin was easily punched out, the plunger pin removed, and the one broken butterfly spring replaced. I then shipped all the other gear back.  No charge for anything except postage back. 

"I bought several Ancor butane torches.  One leaked. They replaced it at no charge. After a few months, another's piezo-electric igniter failed, and they replaced it with the new model retailing for twice as much, again at no cost. I regret that I have lost the nice lady's name."

-F. Bryan MD
Indialantic FL


... Running Fixes
In the March issue we announced the beginning of a new department, Running Fixes, in which readers can share information about competent people and worthwhile places they encounter in their travels—good diesel mechanics and carpenters, good riggers and painters, boatyards with reasonable policies and prices, well-stocked local chandleries, hard-to-find services, and so on.

The tips are beginning to flow in—keep 'em coming. After we collect a bunch, we'll publish them, region by region.

Please send information by e-mail only. Write to us at, and put the words "Running Fix" in the letter header. And please, no commercials.

-The Editors

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