Mailport June 2006 Issue

Mailport: 06/06

The Doctor Is In
I recently finished overhauling an old 26-foot Haida, and having used many paints in the process, I have a few comments to share. First off, I would say that “topside paints” are often mistakenly used for decks as well. Maybe this is due to the lack of products specifically for decks. Topside paints are not suitable for decks because all are not flexible, are shiny, and generally will look (and feel) terrible the first time a winch handle finds its freedom and takes a gouge out. I would not recommend that anyone use a topside paint for decks or any other high-use area.

Second, I have used Interlux Perfection, and the cleaner and thinner fumes strike me as extremely unhealthy particularly for the often not well equipped do-it-yourselfer. Most two-part polyurethanes contain isocyanate (among other things), which is dangerous, and to my knowledge does not get the thumbs-up from OSHA in any workplace where positive pressure respiration is unavailable. Also, I had real difficulty avoiding fish-eyes and in keeping particles off the finish coat because of the long dry time.

That said, I was able to roll-and-tip some magnificent final coats on the smaller jewels: companionway hatch, motor well lid, and foredeck hatch. It just took a lot of trials, set-up, and practice.

For the decks, I wound up using a product called Uniflex 255 Aliphatic (available at It is a two-part aliphatic polyurethane coating that is probably similar to the Polagard AG that PS tested except it comes in white, brown, or any shade of grey you care to mix. The Uniflex is a 10-year coating with 150-percent elongation developed for industrial walkways.

The Rot Doctor has performed its own extensive testing of this product: Uniflex rolls on easily, sets up fairly quickly, sticks to just about anything without use of a primer, will flex under foot, fills cracks, and fillets nicely up to toe rails and cabintops. The finish is matte, which is easy on the eyeballs while out in the sun all day. The Rot Doctor is an excellent company: The doctor is a human who will answer questions extensively and most of the staff has been involved in boat restoration or maintenance.

The only other unique product I used is POR15. My keel is iron and was in not-so-good condition (copper bottom paint and iron are a corrosive combination). My wife and I ground off the old bottom paint and original coating (whatever it was), let the iron dry out for a few months (the iron was weeping), then coated it with the POR15 ( The POR15 is a single-part moisture cure polyurethane that has met with great success in the automotive restoration crowd. I had to sandblast it off a part once, and I can attest to the fact that it is as hard as nails.

For reference, my project can be viewed at Thanks.

Jarred Swalwell
Haida 26, Mon Amie


VHF Output
Regarding “Mid-Priced VHF Radios: Icom and Uniden Lead the Way,” why don’t you downgrade radios that produce less than the legal limit of 25 watts? It seems to me that maximum range is a primary safety factor, and it’s probably governed primarily by output power. When that “MayDay” moment arrives, wouldn’t you want maximum range? Anything less should be unacceptable. Is there an alternative explanation?

Chris Doutre
Santa Cruz, Calif.

VHF radio range and how it relates to output is a very complicated subject with many hardware and environmental issues affecting the actual maximum range a radio might deliver on a particular day. Basically, the relationship between power and range is logarithmic. So a few-watts reduction in output power will likely have a miniscule effect on range. All things being equal, radios that have higher output will have a greater range. However, during most of our tests of VHF radios, we’ve found that rated output is not always an accurate guide of actual output. Whenever possible, we use the output from our testing when tabulating results.


DSC Radio
I just read your article “Uniden Adds Some Color to VHF Radio” in the March 2006 edition. I have an Icom M602 mounted at our navigation station with a remote command microphone mounted in the cockpit. The Icom M602 is an outstanding radio and does have the various Digital Selective Calling (DSC) capabilities mentioned in the article. With the high usage of channels 09 and 16, DSC seems to be the right way to easily contact friends without adding to the VHF noise. However, the Icom M602 is decidedly user unfriendly when answering a routine DSC call. When sailing, we are in the cockpit and have no way to answer a routine DSC call using the cockpit microphone. The call can only be answered through the use of the keypad on the main unit.

This was our experience on a recent overnight cruise: Our friends on another boat initiated a routine DSC call to us (fine); the M602 would start beeping—fairly loud through both the cockpit microphone and the radio at the navigation station (fine); there was no way to either silence the DSC beeping nor to respond to the call from the command microphone (not good—awakens the off-duty watch); answering the call and silencing the beep required me to leave the cockpit, go to the navigation station, then go through a series of button pushes on the main unit’s keypad to acknowledge the alarm; choose between responding to the call or ignoring the call; before getting to where the appropriate channel was selected and the microphone was finally enabled. (Terrible—this required abandoning the helm to answer the DSC call—something that is not always possible if in congested areas or steering without an autopilot.)

Because of this, we asked our friends to not initiate any DSC calls to us. On the other hand, we routinely initiated DSC calls to them, and on their boat, all they had to do was push the PTT switch on their cockpit microphone, and their inexpensive Standard Horizon automatically switched to the designated channel, and we were in communication.

I suggested to Icom that a minor software change should be made to the M602 that would permit the user to push any control button to have the unit automatically silence the DSC incoming call alarm, switch to the DSC requested channel for an incoming routine DSC call, and be in communication. I was aware that the Icom manual stated that the DSC functions were not available from the remote microphone. I knew that we could not initiate a DSC call from the remote, but never dreamed that you would not be able to answer a DSC call.

Ardell Hoveskeland
Annandale, Va.

Your letter raises an important point. Makers of marine electronics hardware need to do a better job designing hardware that isn’t obsolete the day it reaches the store shelves, equipment that can be easily modified or upgraded to accommodate evolving technology. PS believes Icom and others should have paid closer attention to the needs of cruising sailors when they introduced their new lines of remote microphones boasting DSC features. We queried Icom about this and got this response: “Technology quickly marches forward. Icom’s original CommandMic, which was first introduced in 1998, does not offer DSC control for the M602 or any other Icom radio with DSC. No manufacturer’s remote control did at that time. The popular, original CommandMic is now a discontinued product.

“At the time of the original CommandMic’s development, Icom felt that DSC control needed to be well protected against accidental use or misuse. The recreational uses of DSC were not a main consideration. Icom has never shied from the truth that the original CommandMic does not offer DSC control of the M602. All Icom marketing materials for the CommandMic were clear on that.

“The CommandMicII, an upgrade of the original CommandMic, does control DSC when connected to Icom’s M422 fixed-mount marine radio, but not to any other Icom marine radio. The CommandMicII is still a current model available from authorized Icom marine dealers.

“Icom’s CommandMicIII, an all new model just being released, offers full remote control of all features on Icom’s M504, including Class D DSC. It is expected that this latest in the CommandMic series will offer full DSC control for all new Icom marine radios to be launched for at least the next year. However, the CommandMicIII’s full DSC control is not retroactive to earlier Icom models.

“If modifying the M602’s DSC control involved a minor software change, then Icom’s engineers would have made the change. The FCC does not take kindly to such tinkering—it would have been illegal for this manufacturer to make such a change without resubmitting the radio for new FCC approval, which would have been a lengthy and costly undertaking. In addition, full software control radios are still a thing of the future. Today’s radios are a combination of traditional (yet modern) circuitry and software. Radios are hardwired to perform certain tasks in certain ways. So the change is not a simple one.

“In sum, the CommandMic and M602 work well together as designed. That design does not include remote control DSC operation. Newer Icom models are changing to allow full DSC remote control.

“Icom America appreciates Mr. Hoveskeland’s business and frankness, and the opportunity to comment on and clarify this matter.”


Towing And Salvage
Your April article on insurance was very good. But you completely left out the subject of salvage—specifically the difference between towing and salvage, and the fact that only marine insurers like BoatU.S. normally offer salvage insurance.

In the everyday life of the recreational sailor with a keel boat, (particularly here in the Chesapeake Bay), salvage claims by a tower are the most common threat to the sailboat driver. I think it is essential that your magazine come out with an additional article discussing the salvage/towing problem, and the necessity for real salvage insurance. I had insurance with Progressive Insurance Co., one of the nation’s largest auto insurance companies (they say), and the company that underwrites USAA’s large boat insurance. After one year I discovered that not only did they not have salvage coverage, but their underwriting department had no idea what I was talking about when I pointed that fact out by phone. The next year I switched to BoatU.S. insurance. I not only got salvage insurance, but I paid about $100 less for the whole insurance package.

William J. Sweet
Sweet Dreams
Chesapeake Bay, Md.


Insurance In Florida
We live in Palm Beach County, Florida. My wife and I have owned three sailboats since 1990— all insured with BoatU.S. We never had a claim until 2004.

Unfortunately, our current boat, a Gulfstar Sailmaster 47, suffered damage in hurricanes Francis and Jeanne in 2004. The total claim was about $18,000. In May 2005,

BoatU.S. renewed the policy with a $200 increase in premium, bringing our premium to $2,350. No complaints. They were very prompt with the estimate and payment.

However, I have just received notice of non-renewal for this year. The reason? A claim filed in 2004. Yes, it has been a catastrophic time for all insurance companies, but it seems like a Catch 22 that you can have coverage as long as you don’t file a claim.

I guess we’ll just have to move.

Joe Hrobuchak
Jem, Gulfstar Sailmaster 47
Palm Beach, Fla.


Shannon vs. MacGregor
I really got a chuckle out of your review of the Shoalsailer 35, with its $368,000 price tag. Our MacGregor 26M (our third MacGregor, by the way) will easily tack through better than 110 degrees, draws considerably less than 30 inches when we choose to go in shoal waters, and will power at well over the 11 knots claimed by the Shoalsailer.

The boat at our Florida home is a MacGregor 26M with a blue hull and is called Rhapsody. Our Vermont boat is a MacGregor Classic 26 and is named Protocol. The 26M, with its rotating mast, will make well over 6 knots fairly closehauled in 15 knots of wind, running on the mainsail alone.

It’s easy to overpower these boats, and a full main with even a jib fully extended is simply too much sail in wind speeds of 15 knots or higher. The boat in Vermont requires main and genoa (130 percent) to go that fast. That suggests the rotating mast makes a big difference.

The MacGregor is not as commodious as the Shoalsailer, but it’s certainly comfortable for a couple. Furthermore, it costs (with motor) considerably less than $30,000. I simply can’t understand what I would be getting for the other $338,000. Can you help me out??

Dave Hill
Protocol, MacGregor Classic 26

As the Romans put it: De gustibus non est disputandum.


Pedal Power
As a new subscriber, I liked the article on the towed water generator.

I have a somewhat related question. Has anyone adapted a generator to use people power from an exercise bike? Using an exercise bike to keep in some shape on long cruises makes me want to put that wasted energy to some more productive use.

Ray Kutzer
Erie, Penn.

Ray, thanks for the letter and welcome aboard. A few years back, editor-at-large Doug Logan, who was then the editor, created such a contraption in his home using an exercise bike with a heavy flywheel, an automotive belt, and a car alternator, hooked to a deep-cycle battery. The battery powered an 80-watt fluorescent light fixture, sometimes combined with a 65-watt TV. Average output at “cruising speed” was about 4.5 amps, or a bit more than a 60-watt solar panel at peak output.

He kept the battery topped up for a year and a half, but as he pointed out, 4.5 amp-hours a day doesn’t get you much but exercise. A solar panel will work full-time, while an editor is only good for about an hour a day.

Given your interest in renewable energy sources, you may be interested to learn that our last test of wind generators concluded that the wind is not reliable enough in most anchorages to generate the optimistic daily outputs that you might read about. Some new designs are appearing, however, and we will be testing these soon.


Insulating Fridges
I read with interest the letter from Daniel Caplan regarding insulating fridges, and would like to pass on my experience with expanding foam insulation on my C&C 36. In retrofitting the icebox for refrigeration—through an inspection port—I discovered the moulded-in ice box had a layer of factory installed foam sprayed on the backside but that there was a 2- to 3-inch space between it and the back of other fiberglass components.

In this area, we use low expansion foam for insulating around windows, doors, etc., in the construction industry. This comes in aerosol spray cans with an approximately 1/4-inch diameter wand attachment. I drilled a series of access holes in inconspicuous places and foamed the vacant space, vastly improving the insulation around the box.

This spray material is much easier to use—and a lot more forgiving—than the mixed material referred to in your response to Mr. Caplan. It should be readily available at any building supply dealer. This retrofit was carried out in the spring of 2003, and there are no signs of the foam degrading.

Gordon Brewer
Caprice IV
Corner Brook, NL, Canada


Flare Recall Notice
In April, someone was seriously injured while using a Pains Wessex MK7 White Hand Flare. Pains Wessex is cooperating with the authorities to investigate the incident and has started its own internal investigation.

Although the cause of the accident is unclear, Pains Wessex is recalling all of its White Collision Warning (MK7) Hand Flares.

No other Pains Wessex products are being recalled. The Pains Wessex White Collision Warning (MK7) Hand Flare is sold on its own and is also contained as part of the Collision Warn-Off Kit and the ORC RORC Distress Kit.

The company is urging sailors to check to see if they have a White Collision Warning (MK7) Hand Flare, and, if so, to return it immediately to the place of purchase, where it will be replaced. If you aren’t able to return it to the place where it was bought, take it to the nearest chandler, call Pains Wessex, (+44 (0) 2392 623962), or send an e-mail to


...Where Credit Is Due

Bottom Paint Bravo
While spending hurricane season in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, we ordered Sea Hawk antifouling and primer from Marine Warehouse, whose main office is in Miami, with a full-service facility in Trinidad (and whose prices for the paint and many other things is much better than other sources). The paint was delivered in my absence, and when we returned, most of the work was done. We discovered that we needed one more gallon of paint, and when I purchased it, we realized that the original shipment was in error. We applied the last gallon, which was compatible, to the waterline and leading edges, but a few months later the first paint is not nearly as resistant to growth as the type we ordered (but did not receive) and had applied last.

I emailed Sherri Roopchand at Marine Warehouse, who forwarded the message to the owner, Albert “Appi” Bijl. He in turn sent the message to Kathy Hester at New Nautical Coatings Inc. (Sea Hawk Paints). She has offered that I can pick up new paint at one of the marine stores carrying their paints, at no charge, or to make it available at no charge if I decide to have it applied in a yard using their products in the U.S., where we will be spending the coming months.

A simple shipping error has not only been rectified in record time, but has won a loyal fan. (By the way, the paint they shipped was more expensive than the one we ordered.)

Bill and Cathy Nation
Amel Super Maramu 2000
Sogno di Mare

Kudos To Edson
We recently had a new boat built that Carl Schumacher had designed to accommodate an Edson CD-I steering system. Within a year of taking delivery, we noticed that there was corrosion around the bolts that secured the pedestal to the deck. Upon consulting Edson, we learned that the company had supplied the builder with proper aluminum bolts and that the builder had mistakenly installed stainless steel bolts that reacted with the aluminum. Though Edson was not at fault, they replaced the pedestal at no charge. I have had Edson pedestal steering on various boats for 40+ years and never realized that aluminum bolts secure the pedestal.

Ted Wasserman
Outbound 46
Brookline, Mass.

Alado Comes Through
I felt it was important that I tell you about the great service that Alado, which makes Alado Furlers ( provided to me. After much research on economical furling systems, I decided the Alado System was best for me. So I bought it in early 2005 and had one full season with it with no complaints. It worked well and I was very pleased. At the time of lift out, I removed the jib from the furler, and my friend noticed that the aluminum foil section just above the furling drum was badly twisted—why it twisted I don’t know. Later that weekend after the boat was lifted onto her cradle, I contacted Alado, sent them pictures of the damage and was very surprised by their positive cooperation in getting the damaged foil sections replaced. They asked a number of questions, checked their own quality control methods, and sent me the replacement foils—no hassles, and most importantly no cost to me whatsoever. This speaks volumes for their customer service and the faith they have in their product. You should check them out.

Wayne Stokes
1975 Rival 32, Secret Arrival

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