Mailport March 2006 Issue

Mailport: 03/06

Technical assistant Ben Barnard checks carbon monoxide (CO) during our test of CO detectors.
CO Sensors
We at MTI applaud your article regarding carbon monoxide detectors and the information it provided to boaters about the importance of having functioning CO detectors on recreational boats.

We wanted to let you know that most CO sensors do not need to be regularly re-calibrated. Generally, CO sensors continue to operate reliably over a specified service life, which is typically a three- to five-year period. It is generally recommended that the entire CO detector be replaced at least every five years.

It is also important to note that improved technology and more stringent standards have substantially reduced, if not eliminated, the likelihood that a detector would be fouled by extreme temperatures, humidity, or other chemical vapors.

Our concern is the possibility that boaters will hear about these outdated issues and elect not to have functioning detectors on their vessels. Boaters need to understand that when a CO detector goes into alarm mode, there is a building danger present and they must take the appropriate steps to insure their safety. Simply following the instructions provided with the detector rather than defeating an alarm that is deemed “fickle” is a decision that can have life-or-death consequences. Disabling a sounding detector might be the last thing they ever do!

Jeff Wisniewski
Vice President MTI Industries
(Safe-T-Alert CO Detectors)

Our CO detectors test was not meant to condone going without, removing, or disabling a detector. However, we stand by our conclusion that all of the detectors we tested fall short of an ideal system, one that would allow for real-time monitoring of CO levels.


Batteries and CO
I read with great interest your recent article on CO detectors. Mine is presently unplugged due to nuisance alarms. These alarms are not random problems caused by a small amount of CO. My present alarm is a non-marine model but exactly the same problems occurred with the marine model that came on my Hunter 356. The Hunter dealer suspected that the problem was caused by battery gassing as full charge was reached. My experience with the “home” model on my Krogen 39 seems to confirm that. My alarm will go off about four hours after the batteries start charging. This occurs even if I’m hooked to shore power and nothing around me is running. I would love to have a working alarm but the manufacturers will have to change this problem before I can use one.

R. D. Mayton
via e-mail

Your dealer was right, gas venting from a conventional lead-acid battery that is charging can activate a CO alarm. A gel or absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery like those tested in this month’s issue will likely alleviate this problem. Moving the detector away from the batteries may also help.


Testing Sensors?
I always wondered how to test if a CO or propane monitor was actually monitoring the presence of CO or propane. Smoke detectors are easy, just hold a smoking match next to it or place it next to a smoking grill. How do you check if there is really CO present?

Joe Cazana
via e-mail

Manufacturers will tell you that their units can’t be field tested and this would run the risk of over-exposing your sensor and ruining the unit. Several manufacturers offer a warranty renewal plan where you send the unit back to them for testing. This is probably your safest bet. The inability to self-test the sensors is but one drawback to the models that we tested.


I maintain a Tartan 3500 in Florida Gulf Coast waters year round. To avoid mildew, mold, etc., I annually remove almost everything from the interior of the boat over the summer months when I go north. Not a small job. Have you ever tested or do you have any input on marine dehumidifiers. I found one described at the site,, but there may be many others. I would appreciate any input or guidance you might offer on these devices.

Robb Prince
via e-mail

Robb, we haven’t tested these units, but one reader recently wrote us to report how happy he is with the one he found at Sears. See below.


No More Rain Forest
A thought occurred to me while laying in damp bedding watching the water drops fall from the ceiling. “Perhaps there is something that would take the water out of the air in our boat and home before it had a chance to condense on all the internal surfaces.”

A Google on the Internet and a few quick calls located a dehumidifier at Sears ( Since our boat is fairly large, and the problem seemed huge, we opted for the large size, 70 pints per day. Six hours later, it was humming away in the boat.

After a few days, we only have to run it during the day while we are away. The boat stays dry. Water is not condensing on the aluminum frame ports, even while it rains outside. And we can finally sleep in dry bedding without water dripping onto us. Life is good.

Neil Kaminar
Tribute, Farr 58
Santa Cruz, Calif.


Folding Tandems
I just read online your reviews of the folding bikes in the current issue.I own and ride an older Dahon (circa 1990) that has been much upgraded and changed over the years.

Later I learned about Green Gear Cycling in Eugene, Ore. ( The series of bikes they make (Bike Fridays, Tandem Twosdays, etc.) are very high quality. When my wife and I move back onto our boat (planned for this year sometime) we probably will opt for a couple of Fridays or even one of their tandems that makes into a single. I was surprised you did not include them in yor review. Please consider reviewing one of their bikes.

Keep the rubber side down.

Rann Millar
ETAK, Searunner 34
Anaheim, Calif.

Rann, you’re not alone. Last month’s review of folding bikes seems to have struck a nerve. We now have a folding bike from Green Gear Cycling. It’s pricey and packing it takes some effort, but it looks promising. Watch for a short update on folding bikes and other cruiser-friendly modes of transportation in the future.


Brompton Folders
Your readers should be aware of another folding bike you missed: the Brompton bikes from the U.K. ( I bought mine from Bromptons Electric Vehicles NW ( They fold smaller than any of the bikes you reviewed (24”x23”x13”), but unfold faster. I found the Brompton better riding, and the quality of construction is top of the line.

Dan Leach
Hinterhoeller Niagra

PS also noticed the BionX, an electric folder at the same dealer.


Why Not Check (GASP) Walmart?
I see you missed an inexpensive alternative to the traditional marine store folding bike. You’ll find them — dare I confess? — at They even have a folding trike for adults, as well.

The Kent International Folding Bike has an aluminum frame. It’s functional, albeit a bit heavy. The website lists them as children’s bikes.

They’re cheap ($100). You could get two for less than the price of one of the bikes you reviewed. I bought one for me, then a second for my girlfriend. We have ridden them all over Newport Beach, Calif., and Channel Islands harbors. They both fit in the trunk of a Honda Accord coupe and stow easily belowdecks on a Catalina 30 under the table. 

I depend on your evaluations on critical gear, but I shop like hell to save a buck on the toys like these bikes. I kind of enjoy taking them to a Peet’s Coffee shop on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach frequented on Sundays by Tour de France wannabes in logo spandex and $5,000 carbon fiber bikes. I get all kinds of down the nose looks and suggestions that I should be wearing a clown suit.  But when I take them to the marina, the looks change to envy and I get asked where I got them and how much they cost.

Sid Kusher
Southern California


A Folding Fiorelli?
As a reader who is both a sailor and a bicyclist, I wanted to bring up a solution I use to break down a bike for storage and transportation. S and S Couplings ( are a way to take a complete bike and convert it so that it can fit in a 26”x26”x10” box. Having paid the “oversized” fee to bring a full-sized bike on an airliner, I was easily convinced that S and S Couplings were a good solution.

I had an old Fiorelli racing bike that was perfect for conversion and found a frame builder who did the job. The full break-down isn’t as easy as the simple folders, but anyone who can set a spinnaker can figure it out.

Dave Brezina


Teak Critique
OK, I’ll have to admit being a Tartan owner, I may be a bit on the sensitive side and I get defensive when someone gets critical about her design. Now I know the publication is called Practical Sailor, but when it comes to exterior wood on a boat it is not fair to automatically tag it as a negative trait due to the additional maintenance required. I tend to mine while she is on the hard, and enjoy doing touch ups during the year while swinging from the hook. This intimate time with the boat allows me to examine her more closely and detect potential problems that I might not otherwise be aware of. My 1978 Tartan 30 turns more heads than most any of the newer production boats on the market. To me they look more like Clorox bottles on the water than sailboats and the only way they turn heads is if they have a scantily clad crew aboard. From my view, a boat without exterior wood is a negative, and I’ll never own one without it.

John Steck
Lake Erie


Toerails And Teak
I enjoyed the review of the Tartan 3400. I have Hull No. 32 on order and plan to race and cruise. You commented on the teak, instead of aluminum, toerail. I agree with your praise for the aluminum-style based on my 15 years of sailing a 1978 Pearson 31 (Hull No. 2) with such a toerail. Please note that the Tartan 3400 is available with a perforated aluminum toerail as a no cost option. I have the aluminum toerail on order for my Tartan.

Dave “Cappydave” Morris
Tracy’s Landing, Md.

Teak has practical applications, and PS appreciates the life that a judicious use of exterior wood breathes into a boat. But many of our readers use their boats hard all year, and in all weather. Or they squeeze their sailing into short seasons, sandwiched between cold spells when their boats are under wraps. For them, we felt the aesthetic benefit of teak trim on surfaces like a dorade box top doesn’t offset the extra work.


Muir Windlass
I found it interesting that you had trouble with the Muir unit retrieving nylon rode in the test featured in your January issue. I installed a Muir Cougar a few years ago, mostly because the design fit my bow and rope locker configuration the best. I purchased a new three-strand nylon rode and new chain section. Both were purchased specifically to meet Muir’s specs for the rope/chain management unit that I chose. I have never observed any slippage when retrieving either the rope or chain sections of the rode. I must admit that I have never needed to haul the CQR that I use under difficult conditions. Never have had the anchor really rocked down. You noted that the unit is quite fast. Actually the one thing that scares me about the unit is how fast it does retrieve at full speed and how hard it is to control the speed with the foot switch.

Keith Dobie
via e-mail


Dryshirt revisited
In your January issue you tested our Dryshirt as a base layer against the Nike DryFit and some other products. While you recommended the Dryshirt as a base layer, it performs best as a mid or shell layer, not a base layer. Please inform your readers that we also have a base layer product that we believe outperforms the Nike DryFit product.

Mark Michaelsen
Sailing Pro Shop


Mercury Inflatable
We have a Mercury Quicksilver inflatable with exactly the same sticky tube problem described by a reader in your December Mailport. Undaunted, I cleaned up the tubes with Spray Nine and then coated them with General Paint Acylic Latex Spantex Paint ( Sure enough, it lasted eight weeks of sailing classes and three months of being rolled up. Sharp edges will scrape the paint off, but it’s easy to touch up. I anticipate it will give us another five years use with an annual recoating. Max cost about $10 per coat.

Carl Armstrong
Gibsons Yacht Club
Gibsons, British Columbia


Practical Sailor and I have grown old together. But while I have grayed, PS has morphed, now resplendent in color. I must confess, you look the better for it. However, I cannot easily give up my affection for the old black-and-white-with-a-dab-of-red PS, and it owes to more than habit. You not only looked different in B&W, you were different, in all ways, from the other boating magazines. A change in appearance need not dictate other changes but it does raise my antenna. I wish you the best in your new dress and will remain a loyal subscriber as long as you still read like Practical Sailor. Now if I could just find some kind of makeover magic for my appearance.

Andy Burkhardt
via e-mail


LED In Color
The new color printed issue is outstanding. It approaches the quality of the reporting and testing that you do. One request: Can you reprint the report on LED running lights that was in the September 2005 issue? It would really do the photos in the article justice.

Jack Kelley
via e-mail


Hits And Misses
Hits: Color — is eye catching and more illustrative.

Misses: Glossy paper — hard to read since it reflects the light, wiping out the print. Have to constantly readjust the way I’m holding it. It is also slippery — falls to the floor if not put on a flat surface and dumps stuff that is stacked upon it.

Paper thickness — probably something I can get used to, but I feel as if I turned two rather than one page over. Also may take more pulp. If so, it is wasteful.Suggestion: Check out Consumer Reports. They have it right, to my mind.

Thanks for listening.

Jim Keene
via e-mail


Getting Jaded?
I really appreciate what you guys have done artistically.

However, the content leaves me cold. Since college I have subscribed to many sailing magazines, usually five to seven at any given time. Then something happened: They all morphed into the same magazine.

Maybe I am getting old and jaded — I know I am getting old — but the sailing magazines are getting boring. One more article on trailer sailing, one more on putting my boat away in the fall, one more article on where I can find great ice cream, and I will scream.

Rod Glover
Bradenton, Fla.

Thanks Andy, Jim, Rod, and the rest of you who offered your feedback (and fired a few shots across the bow) after our switch to color. Given the breadth of knowledge among our readers, we take your critiques very seriously. Rest assured, we will not stray from our mission.


...Where Credit Is Due

Waltz Radar Mount
I would like to commend Waltz for its gimbaled backstay radar mounts. After searching for months for a backstay radar mount for my Sabre 34, I almost gave up. After speaking with the folks at Waltz, they were very helpful in explaining their product and how it could be modified to fit my boat needs. At their request, I provided them some rough drawings of the location where I wished to mount the radar base which they used to fabricate a mount that fit perfectly. I was skeptical that the gimbaled backstay would not require further modification, especially since I was using a NobelTec 24-inch radar dome.

To my surprise, my wife and I were able to install the mount, and the radar fit without any complications. The workmanship of the Waltz product and their responsiveness to my unique requirements has won them a loyal customer. I would highly recommend them to anyone considering installing gimbaled backstay radar mounts particularly if the installation required a unique mounting bracket.

Tom Pantelides
Mazi, Sabre 34
Hampton, Va.

Bula, Bula
I was interested to read that you had received LED lights from a manufacturer in Fiji. Surely that can only be Bebi (pronounced “Bambi” in Fijian. I suppose their next product line with be “Cumper,” pronounced “Thumper” in Fijian.) When we were in Savusavu a few months ago we tried out one of their replacements for a 20-watt halogen bulb and were so impressed that we replaced the reading lights over all five berths in our boat with them.

The LED lights give a tightly focused light that easily lights up a full page of even the largest book and yet does not spill over enough to disturb a sleeping spouse beside the reader. They draw about 100 milliwatts of power and they give off no discernable heat, which is a great boon in the tropics.

We also bought an anchor light that draws perhaps 300 milliwatts of power versus 25 watts for our masthead light and yet can be seen from more than three miles away on a clear night and has the added advantage of being able to be mounted a few feet above deck level where it can be easily seen by passing dinghies and longboats, whereas masthead lights often go unseen or are confused with stars and satellites.

We feared the quality of the lights might be lacking, but four months of regular use later, every one of the lights is still working just like new.

Steve Sharp
via e-mail

Seadek Service
In recent issues you have twice mentioned a nonskid material manufactured by SeaDek as worth a try. Taking your advice, we contacted Chuck Yates at SeaDek (

Getting samples for color choices, trading templates for sizing, answering questions electronically. Never have we had better service online. Pleasant, prompt, and efficient — and not too expensive. We look forward to applying the material and never slipping again.

Fred Bagley
via e-mail

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