Mailport August 2014 Issue

Mailport: August 2014

Vesper/AIS fan

Pearson 36

Reader Mitch West sails Varuna, his Pearson 36 cutter, off the coast of Monterey, Calif. West is a strong proponent of AIS aboard cruising boats, and he reports that his Vesper AIS splitter has served him well.

In regard to your December 2013 Chandlery article on the Vesper SP160 VHF splitter. After too many near misses with merchant ships, we installed an AIS in 2012, using the Vesper splitter to the masthead antenna. Your article mentioned target reception at 1.5 miles without and 11 miles with the SP160. In our experience, we sometimes see merchant vessels at 80 miles or more, and other cruisers at 30 to 40 miles with the Vesper. When approaching Colon, Panama, the display was “maxed out” at 50 miles (it only shows the closest 100 contacts).

Though we have not done rigorous testing, we have traveled from Grenada to the Sea of Cortez in the past two seasons, and nearly always see merchant vessels at 30-plus miles, and the smallest sport fishing boat at 15. (I’d love to know when they see me—maybe some test could establish that.)

I thought the conclusion also left out something important: The cost of good coax cable far outweighs the cost of any antenna. If professionally installed, maybe requiring mast removal, a splitter looks more attractive.

I don’t attribute all this performance to the Vesper (though it serves us well). My point is: AIS is way better than this article suggests, and anyone making overnight transits in the vicinity of shipping should have one.

Mitch West
Varuna, Pearson 36 cutter
Portland, Ore.

Shaft Line Cutters

I’ve been looking for information on what is called “shaft line cutters.” Have you ever done a report about them, or do you know where I can find some information about them and boaters’ experiences with them?

Steve Iser
2006 Mainship 400
Via email

Three of the most popular line/net-cutting devices are the Prop Protector (, the Spurs (, and the Shaft Shark ( PS compared the Prop Protector and the Spurs back in 1996. Testers favored the less-expensive and easier to install Prop Protector, but both worked well. If you’re on a really tight budget, try a serrated knife lashed to a boathook. If you happen to live in Maine or elsewhere with lots of lobster pots, it’s always a good idea to keep a wetsuit, snorkeling gear, and a sharp knife on hand, even if you have a line cutter.

Keep in mind that havomg a line cutter is not a license to plow through a field of fish or lobster traps; someone’s livelihood depends on that tackle. Avoid the traps at all cost, and make an effort to untangle a fouled prop first; cutting trap lines should be a last resort.

Joker Valve Woes

I replaced the original manual Jabsco head in my boat in August 2011 with a Jabsco Twist’n’Lock Compact Manual Head, and we recently had the occasion to replace the Jabsco joker valve. I decided to try a Groco joker valve since it was cheaper, and PS said the two were interchangeable in the July 2013 comparison of joker valves.

When I installed the Groco valve, it was a snug fit in the toilet. The valve leaked immediately. After a week of adjusting and hoping the valve would seat, I replaced it with another Groco joker valve. It was also a tight fit and leaked immediately.

When I removed both Groco valves, I noticed that the duckbill had a small opening that was “set” in the valve. Neither valve had this opening when I installed them.

Upon further investigation, I found that the Groco valves are larger than the Jabsco valves, and the tight fit in the toilet causes the duckbill to open slightly, allowing waste to backfill into the toilet. We switched back to a Jabsco joker valve in the toilet.

Contrary to your article finding, it’s been my experience that the Groco joker valve is not interchangeable with the Jabsco joker valve in a Jabsco Twist’n’Lock Compact Manual Head.

Dave Alexander
Sanity II, 2003 Beneteau 393
Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.

Thanks for your field report. The Groco valve was quite stiff and not our favorite in the 2013 test. It did not leak in our tests, but perhaps there are slight manufacturing differences between lots. We did have some problems with the Raritan valve leaking, but we traced it to installation issues.

In real-world use, we’ve seen every brand leak on some occasion. Often, there is some minor misalignment—plumbing is so often cramped and hoses stressed—and we have learned that initial leakage is no measure of long-term behavior. After continued long-term testing, and in retrospect, we are willing to eat crow and say that we should not have recommended the Groco valve for Jabsco toilets. We apologize.

We’ve been subjecting our two test favorites, the Jabsco and Raritan valves, to extended onboard use in Jabsco 29090 Twist’n’Lock manual heads for an upcoming followup article. While we are still waiting for final results (testers are using the valves through complete failure cycles), we have found that both the Jabsco and Raritan valves fit the Jabsco manual head without leakage, if alignment is correct. The Raritan valve requires slightly greater pumping force, but we’ve not had any clogs. The Raritan valves seem to last nearly twice as long before leaking backward. Failure is always due to scale build-up, but the stiffer design seems to endure it better.

While a full report is in the works, our current preferences for joker valves for the popular Jabsco manual toilet are the Raritan and Jabsco.

Strataglass Restorer

I purchased a new dodger for my Prout 34 catamaran and have a continual problem with the jib sheets scarring the Strataglass when I have to roll up the jib. The marks are deep and impede visibility. The canvas maker talked me into Strataglass based on its superior clarity, which is true, but this stuff is far too delicate for the abuse it gets on my sailboat. Next time, I’ll go back to heavy clear vinyl, which I used for years and was quite happy with.

The damage occurred before your article on clear-vinyl restorers (see PS, May 2014 online) came out, and frustrated by the lack of effectiveness of the Imar products in removing these pretty severe blemishes, I tried everything else I could think of.

Now, one of my favorite products for general cleaning and restoration is Turtle Wax Color Back ( To my amazement, it removed all the blemishes and left a perfect result. I suggest you add it to your group of test products in the future.

By the way, I also use Color Back on the high-gloss catalyzed varnish finish on the wood inside the boat. It does a great job of restoring the shine on scuffed areas, and it works on Plexiglass and metal. It has become my first-line, go-to product for practically all my polishing/waxing projects.

Boyd Bundy
Cat-A-Tonic, 34-foot Prout
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

LEDs and RFI

I’m glad to see that you’re concerned with radio frequency interference (RFI) in testing LED lights (see PS May 2014 and June 2014 online). I want to point out that your use of VHF, alone, to check for RFI, may not be of much help to users of single-sideband (SSB) radios, both transceivers and receivers. The reason is that our VHF radios use FM modulation, which is much more immune to RFI than SSB. Many of us use SSB for receiving weather faxes and other weather broadcasts, in addition to two-way communications. RFI can obliterate or otherwise degrade the transmissions. Please consider extending your tests to reveal the RFI impact of these LED lights on our SSBs.

Peter Glanton


The chain article in the June 2014 issue incorrectly stated that an article on mooring chain appeared in the October 2012 issue. It was a blog posted on Oct. 24, 2012.

Comments (1)

Shaft Line Cutters
Your suggestions for useful line cutters, especially for Maine sailing which is mined with lobster pots, did not include the best device for cutting free of lines that I have found. It is the "RazorSharp HOOKNIFE" which I obtained from Attached to a common boat hook, it allows you to reach over the stern, hook the offending lobster pot line, and with one sharp pull of the razor sharp hook, cut the line and pot and line go free. This works best if line is only hooked on the rudder, once wrapped on a turning prop, the line problem is much more difficult. I know! I have just had my boat hauled to remove the line wound on the prop shaft, displaced the prop sufficiently to destroy the the prop shaft seal, and have the lobster pot bend a blade of the Maxprop.
Most lobster pots in west Penobscot Bay are a single line to the lobster pots and rarely cause a problem. On the east of the bay and further east, a toggle float is used between the lobster trap and the colorful floats. If you are sailing west to east, or east to west, when the tidal currents are more north-south, the toggle and float put a shallow line perpendicular to your track. If you miss seeing it in time, you too will have a sad story to tell.

Julius feinleib
IDUNN 48' Ted Hood Motorsailor

Posted by: Julius F | August 11, 2014 6:53 PM    Report this comment

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