The Mobile Sailor
Fall is here, and for many sailors, that means it’s time to migrate south, where warm tradewinds blow and palm fronds never change color. We’ve rounded up a few products worth considering for the sailor on the move.
LowePro rolling camera case
Lugging heavy photo gear to and from the boat can be strenuous on the neck and back. Practical Sailor contributor and professional marine photographer David Liscio recently found a solution: LowePro’s Pro Roller Lite 250 AW, a rugged, compact rolling case that provides an all-weather cover to protect the equipment from rain or ocean spray.
The 9.5-pound nylon and Velox case is divided into customizable, padded compartments and has a sleeve for a laptop, offering more storage than a comparable hard-shell case. It has a heavy-duty, lockable YKK zipper; angled, telescoping handles; and easily replaceable roller wheels.
Two webbing handles and a padded leather handle make it easy to stow and retrieve the bag. Measuring 13.7 by 8.7 by 22.2 inches, the case meets airline carry-on size limits and is easier to stow than rigid cases like those made by Pelican.
Bottom line: The $280 Pro Roller makes transporting gear much easier then hauling it in a shoulder bag. Liscio has relied on it for offshore photo shoots and has dragged it down rickety docks where gaps in the planking threaten to swallow the roller wheels. The bag always wins.
Always on the lookout for ways to keep our personal gadgets powered while we’re away from the dock, PS tested the SoliCharger-SP, a carrying case, portable solar charger, and amplified speaker system. The SoliCharger-SP—made by SolLight and distributed by Simply Brilliant (which specializes in U.S.-designed, environmentally-friendly products)—can charge a variety of devices, and can do it while playing music from their libraries. The system is housed in a rugged Cordura case that zips open to hold the charging/playing device, offering some shock and spray protection. A front-mounted, 5-volt solar panel, which puts out 70 mA in full sun, charges the 1,500-mAh internal Lithium-ion battery. The battery also can be charged via a 110-volt or 12-volt outlet or a USB port.
The package comes with a 32-pin connector and several USB connectors that enable it to charge Apple devices, most cell phones, smart phones, MP3 players, and GPS handhelds that use 5.5-volt USB power. (It takes about an hour to fully charge a phone.) It also can turn these device, as well as iPads and laptops, into amplified sound systems.
For small boats, like the Cape Dory 25 we tested it on, the SoliCharger is loud enough to be a substitute for a boat stereo, but PS did note some sound distortion at high volume.
We charged the SoliCharger-SP for two hours in full sun, and it was still going after 17 hours of playing and fully charging an iPod.
Bottom line: The inexpensive ($60, www.amazon.com) and petite (7 by 4 by 1.5 inches) SoliCharger-SP is a versatile multimedia charging station that doubles as a portable sound system. Its solar capabilities and rugged case make it a good choice for onboard use.
PS editors, devoted users of the refillable water bottle, recently tested a unique design called the Bubi Bottle. Created by Craig Madaus, owner of Ocean Sailing Consulting, the 22-ounce Bubi Bottle is made of BPA-free, high-grade silicone and is marketed as the first-ever “scrunchable” water bottle.
The flexible silicone allows users to flatten out and roll up the bottle when it’s not filled with liquid. The 9.5-inch-long by 2.75-inch-wide bottle can be rolled up small enough to fit into a pants pocket, requiring minimal galley storage space. Testers found it easy to break down and secure using its circular, aluminum hanging clip.
The microwave- and freezer-safe bottle can serve double-duty as an ice pack or a hot-water bottle, easing sore muscles or helping keep a drink cooler cold. Testers found the dishwasher-safe Bubi easy to clean with a standard brush.
Bottom line: PS testers give the Bubi two thumbs-up for its innovative design and utilitarian function. The bottle retails for $30 and is available in several colors.