Gear Graveyard May 15, 2005 Issue

Hevea Sea Boots

What accounts for disintegrating sea boots from a European manufacturer?

Here's the Hevea Thermo boot that PS received from a reader who had owned it for a year and worn it three or four times. Note the crack that spans the entire mid section. Inset, the outer layer of the boot is evidently separating from the inner liner just above the heel. The same situation was occuring with the front of the boot.

Far too long ago we got a package from Chris Bridge, a reader in Southern California, who sent us one seaboot that appeared to be much older than it actually was. Bridge included a letter recounting his misfortune with this boot and its mate.

It seems the boots in question (the Hevea Thermo, pictured here), simply began to disintegrate after what he estimated to be six to 12 months of ownership, during which he only wore them three or four times. We were concerned because, as Bridge pointed out, PS had given another Hevea product—the Pacific boots—high praise in our Sept. 2002 article "Seaboots Under $100." The boot that Bridge sent us is a different model, made of a different material, yet the concern remains because the Thermo seaboot is still marketed to sailors.

Hevea is a large manufacturing firm based in Holland, and the Thermo seaboot that Bridge purchased was distributed in the U.S. by Euro Marine Trading of Newport, RI. We took the issue up with Tim Robinson, who was at the time a vice president at Euro Marine, but has since moved on to form his own company.

He told us that several years ago the company ended up with an unplanned surplus of Hevea seaboots when West Marine discontinued carrying them in its catalog. Unbeknownst to Euro Marine, the material used to make these has a shelf life. "We did not know this," said Robinson, "nor did we notice that a new shipment we had received had some boots that had already been in the bag for years when we received them."

Robinson explained that the boots are made of a foamed polyurethane called Purofort. "When kept in a bag for more than roughly two to three years, it falls apart. This doesn't happen in the bag, it happens, as we found out, after the boots get out into the air for awhile, and when worn. They did literally fall apart.

"We initially thought the problem was that we had just received a bad batch of boots (they are all production dated on the bottom) and a red flag didn't go up right away until this kept happening."

Robinson told us that by the time he and his Euro Marine Trading colleagues discovered the problem, there were hundreds of pairs of the Thermo boots from the dated batch on the feet of sailors in the U.S.

Because Hevea was acquiring the boot division of Dunlop at the time, management changes meant that Euro Marine Trading couldn't get warranty questions answered easily, nor much support for replacing the faulty boots.

Siebe Noordzy, president of Euro Marine Trading, confirmed this, adding that his company stopped selling the Thermo sea boot and has suspended its relationship with Hevea. Nontheless, he stressed that not all the Thermo boots are bad. He said he has owned one pair for 10 years and hasn't experienced any problems.

Ilse Jansen, a Hevea marketing communications official, told us that the company no longer uses Purofort to make the Thermo boot. She also said "storage conditions are very important. The boots should be stored under dry, cool, and well-ventilated conditions. We don't give warranty," said Jansen, "because it is difficult to check the storage conditions and the usage circumstances, and each situation should be discussed case by case."

At roughly $100 a pair, Thermo seaboots should carry a more consumer-friendly warranty. PS would like to hear from other readers who have experienced similar problems with Hevea's Thermo seaboots.

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