Mailport March 2012 Issue

Mailport: March 2012


Photo courtesy of Bob Edgley

Reader Bob Edgley freshened up the deck of his Alberg 35 with Durabak nonskid coating. He gave it thumbs up for performance but said it’s hard to keep clean.

I want to comment on my experiences with Durabak since you recently tested nonskid deck coatings (PS, January 2012). I coated my decks with Durabak about 14 months ago. I’m happy with the durability and nonskid performance, but I’m lukewarm in three areas: It is hard to keep clean; it holds stains; and the color fades fairly rapidly.

Bob Edgley
Boreas, Alberg 35

Inflatable Bottom Paint

One of your articles (PS, August 2011) recommends against bottom painting inflatables because the paint rubs off. I found Aquagard Water-based Inflatable Bottom Coating to be excellent in Long Island Sound waters, and it does not rub off. Defender Industries ( sells it, and it’s very easy to apply.

Cliff Zucker
Via e-mail

We’ve tested inflatable paints by Aquagard-maker Flexdel Corp.— Flexdel Flexabar was Budget Buy in long-term dinghy paint test (PS, August 2011)—as well as Aquagard antifouling paints, but we have not yet tested the bottom paint for inflatables. According to Flexdel, there is only a very slight difference between the inflatable bottom paint and the Aquagard Bottom Paint marketed for use on fiberglass. In fact, the company said, boat owners can use the regular water-based Aquagard Bottom Paint on inflatable bottoms. In our tests, Aquagard Bottom Paint has kept barnacles at bay for up to a year.

Tool Tips

Good article on essential tools in the January 2012 issue. A tool I’ve found extremely useful is the Rigid multi-tool. While the Fein is obviously a more robust tool for the daily use of a pro, I like the fact that the Rigid has additional “heads” available. I have the right-angle drill head; this, along with the standard oscillating head and attachments, allows me to leave my drill and electric screwdriver at home. I just pack the multi-tool bag in my ditty bag, and I can cover drilling, driving screws, cutting, scraping, and sanding—the majority of my boat projects—all contained in a bag the size of a large book. I find it indispensable.

Gary Price
Via email

US Sailing Reports

Kudos to Darrell Nicholson for his editorial regarding the US Sailing accident inquiries (December 2011). As much as I respect the efforts, skills and resumes of all the members of the US Sailing investigating panel on the Chicago-Mackinac race, they have found themselves completely on the wrong end of this issue. I would never suggest that any of these fine people would intentionally steer the findings to their own advantage. However, bias is an insipid and creeping malady, and manages to easily entangle itself without being recognized. That is why in similar situations in other disciplines, particularly those that have resulted in tragic consequences, extra care is taken to avoid potential bias and conflicts such as the scenario that Mr. Nicholson has rightly brought to light. No one that had even the most remote connection to this incident should have had any position or voice on the panel, let alone chaired it. No sponsor, officiator, family member, participant, and most certainly not a manufacturer of some of the equipment that was involved.

The spirited replies to Mr. Nicholson’s editorial penned by Mr. (John) Rousmaniere and Mr. (Stan) Honey (PS Mailport, February 2012) are understandable, and one can certainly argue about who has some of the facts straight, but their position on Mr. Hawley’s involvement is completely irresponsible and utterly indefensible. Here I even must take issue with Mr. Nicholson’s rebuttal (PS, Feb 2012) that Mr. (Chuck) Hawley would have made an excellent consultant, because he most certainly could not and should not have, considering the real and present overlap of interest.

I cannot decide here what is most disappointing in the whole sordid affair: that these experts are ignorant to basic conflict of interest practices or that, incredibly, when called out on the issue, they muster to defend blatantly poor decision making instead of admitting their mistakes and finding ways to avoid repeating them.


R. Todd Smith
Twilight, Cartwright 36 cutter
Onset, Mass

Cetol Alive & Well

Boat Skimmer

PS test boat Skimmer, a Cape Dory 25, is readied for a few coats of Cetol Natural and a toerail repair (after a race-start collision). Despite rumors, Cetol is still readily available in the U.S.

I heard that International Yacht Paints (Interlux Yacht Finishes) announced that they are discontinuing Sikkens and all of its products. If true, what would replace Cetol?

Ron Hallam
Via e-mail

International Yacht Paints ( has discontinued Cetol Marine in Europe only; the replacement for European customers is called Woodskin, which we have not tested. All of the Cetol products will continue to be available in North America. According to Jim Seidel, Interlux’s assistant marketing manager, the confusion likely stems from the fact Cetol is no longer being made in the Sikkens factory ( Production was moved to Interlux’s New Jersey factory about a year ago; the formulas have not changed, and Interlux is using the same raw materials and process to manufacture the Cetol products as those used in the Sikkens factory.

iPad Pointer

I read with great interest your recent review of the navigation applications for the iPad (PS, February 2012). I too rate the iNAVx as a very good and easy to use program, and I use it as an emergency backup to my regular plotter.

I noted the comments about oily fingerprints and long nails being an issue using the touchscreen. There is a simple remedy: a pointer, a fountain-pen sized instrument with a soft rubber tip. I use this exclusively in lieu of my fingers. You can point, move the screen around, and to enlarge or shrink, you just tap the screen and a menu comes up to either zoom in or out. Works great. Verizon Wireless sells them as an accessory to the iPad (


Douglas Smith
Wiscasset, Maine

Nikwax Nowhere


I read with interest your December 2011 article on cordage treatments and decided to try Nikwax’s Rope Proof. I consulted the Nikwax website for distributors. I first went to Amazon and found a seemingly endless list of Nikwax products, but not Rope Proof. Next, I contacted the local retailers listed on the website and had a similar experience: no Rope Proof. No luck either with the West Marine store and local marinas. All of which brings me to my point: When reviewing products perhaps you could add an inquiry into nationwide availability.

Rick Nelson
Tres Bien, Jeanneau 37
Lake Michigan

Although, we were able to find Rope Proof online at and at, Nikwax recently reduced its distribution of Rope Proof due to limited sales. Another Nikwax product, Polar Proof, is the same formula as Rope Proof but comes in different packaging and is marketed for other outdoor activities, according to Nikwax. Nikwax Polar Proof is available through many outdoor retailers, including REI Co-op. The same results can be expected from the Polar Proof as those we got with the Rope Proof.


I had decided to paint my boat nonskid with Durabak—I already got some paint chips from them, and I was pondering color choices—when someone recommended AST Anti-Slip Coating ( They said this is what the U.S. Navy uses. Guys who land aircraft on carriers should know a thing or two about nonskid! Do you have any information about that product? Will there be a test of it in the future?

Ernst Niebur
Baltimore, Md.

We have not yet tested the American Safety Technologies (AST) paint, but we’ll see if we can get our hands on some to include in our next test of nonskid options. You can see how Durabak compares to other anti-slip paints in our report that ran in the January 2012 issue.

Diy Steering Arm

bimini bits

Reader Jim Pelkey fashioned his own wheel steering arm out of leftover bimini bits and nuts and bolts.

I read the “Steering Arm Control” article (PS, August 2011) with great interest. I have been using my own, homemade steering arm control for some time. (See photo above.)

Its cost was minimal as I used leftover parts from a prior bimini installation. The fairlead is taped to the wheel and has never come loose as I only use the arm for light steering conditions. The tube is aluminum, and the nuts and bolt are stainless steel. The end fittings are standard poly.

Jim Pelkey
Whip IV, Catalina 36
Cedar River, Mich.

It seems like a handy DIY project. Our only concern would be that it could not be removed quickly in an unexpected emergency, as the Forespar Steering arm control can be.

Titanium FYI

In response to the December 2011 article on replacing stainless chainplates with titanium: While I applaud the author’s attempt to “think out-of-the-box,” I think he started off with a flawed understanding of the failure modes involved. In my opinion, the failure had nothing to do with galvanic reaction of the stainless. The photos show that the chainplate failed due to a combination of pitting as well as stress corrosion cracking. The author does not mention the particular alloy involved; however, given the age of the boat, I would bet that it was 304.

While the particular alloy used may indeed have a limited lifespan in this application (my guess is that the chainplate was in service for at least 30 years), this does not mean that all grades of stainless would be wholly inappropriate for this application. After all, I would be fairly certain that the propeller shaft on his boat is made out of Aquamet 22 (a super-austenitic alloy that is identical to the Nitronic 50 used for rod rigging), and it sees full immersion service in salt water and marine growth.

Through-deck chainplate tangs must be resistant to pitting with the understanding that there will be some concentration of chlorides/salts that will eventually build up on the surface. More importantly, the chainplate is obviously subject to constant tensile loads in this chloride environment. This turns out to be the perfect recipe for stress corrosion cracking. Therefore, the simplest answer would be to choose the appropriate stainless alloy that will resist both pitting as well as SCC. In this case, AL6XN would perform admirably. While this alloy was not available when the boat was originally built, industrial demand since has driven mills to produce significantly higher grades of stainless. While the material is harder and somewhat more difficult to work with than 304, it would prevent no fabrication problems for a proper machine shop.

The idea the author would go through the bother of sourcing titanium in China seems impractical to say the least. At the risk of being politically incorrect, I would underscore that quality assurance in terms of alloy grade would be virtually nonexistent. Given the critical application, I would want to know specifically what I am getting and from where. Domestic mills provide alloy certification forms with every load of material that is shipped out. At the same time, having custom hardware produced by a domestic machine shop would allow a closer business relationship with a fabricator who may have a more intimate understanding of the application.

While titanium is an intriguing metal, one has to be very careful in selecting the application. Although titanium itself is extremely noble and resistant to corrosion, it must be matched to the fasteners used. If not, then the mass of titanium will tend to induce pitting corrosion in the common stainless fasteners he may have reused.

The author would have done far better to have his chainplates fabricated in AL6XN stainless. The job would’ve been less expensive, virtually immune to the original corrosion issues, immensely strong, and would not set up a whole host of new potential corrosion issues. Non-insignificantly, he would’ve been giving his business to a domestic steel mill and machine shop.

Jonathan Klopman
Marine Surveyor, NAMS-CMS
Marblehead, Mass.

Holding Tank Additives

Great article on holding tank odor products (February 2012). I was surprised that you missed one that prides itself of the amount of bacteria in each bottle: BacTankT3 ( by Nolan Bio Labs. I am not the manufacturer, but we do stock the product here at Amanzi-Marine (

We stock it because it is the best in class we have ever found, and its

priced right from a retail perspective—not the most expensive and not the cheapest. We don’t stock anything else for holding tanks.

John Jacobi, Amanzi-Marine
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

After trying different chemicals to alleviate the odor from the head on our Tartan 37C, I had settled on Odorlos as being the best of the bunch. After using Odorlos for a year or so, I stumbled upon Happy Campers (, an RV product. I ordered some and was immediately impressed: The lingering smell that Odorlos left behind was totally removed with Happy Campers. I’m not sure how it works, but this is now my product of choice. Maybe you can put Happy Campers on your list to test for the next round?

Richard Foy
Salvation, Tartan 37C
Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan

Thanks for the heads up. We will try to test the BacTankT3 and Happy Campers in our next round of evaluations of tank-odor solutions.


Navimatics Charts & Tides iPad featured in the February 2012 article on iPad apps requires iOS4 or iOS5; other information appeared in the table accompanying the article.

The table in the June 2011 article on toilet paper incorrectly listed the price for SeaLand quick-dissolve toilet paper, which was one of the least expensive products in the test. The online version of the article has the updated information:

The SeaLand tank reported on in the February 2012 issue had a conventional round O-ring on the clean-out cap, not the flat gasket that SeaLand introduced in late 2009. The flat gasket, which replaced the round one, is designed to prevent the cap leak described in the February 2012 issue. Our report on the new seal will appear in the April 2012 issue. For more information, see “Holding Tank Test Correction” on Inside Practical Sailor at

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