Mailport September 2014 Issue

Mailport: September 2014

Hobie memories

Jared Thibodea

Jared Thibodeau (above) and his father, Frank, have enjoyed many adventures aboard Airhead, a Hobie 16.

In response to your May 2014 editorial on the passing of “Hobie” Alter, I’d like to share a Hobie memory: At the ripe age of 14, my son, Jared, negotiated the purchase of a used Hobie 16, Airhead. On gusty days, I would be “invited” to take the helm, so he could dance on the wire as the hull flew. Eventually, our small lake became too confining, so we ventured into larger bodies, ultimately taking the Hobie to our favorite cruising ground and home to our 41-foot Sceptre, Penobscot Bay, Maine.

Launching out of Rockland, Maine, in full wetsuits and PFD harnesses, we had a nice summer breeze of 10 to 15 knots. We packed lunch and drinks, somehow thinking we could spare the hand to hold and eat anything. With Jared on jib and wire, me with tiller in one hand and mainsheet in the other, we blasted out of the harbor, rooster tail and all. The rudder was humming like a banshee. Jared was out on the wire, leaning back for all he was worth, and I was hanging off the stern of the flying hull. The GPS showed boat speed in the mid-20 knots.

We flew by an inbound ferry at the breakwater with its passengers snapping photos as we jumped the wake. We chased down innocent sailboats; one in particular was a well-crewed, larger J/Boat with Mylar sails whose helmsman was so nonplussed at our sudden appearance on his windward beam, that he looked away. 

Normally at 8 knots or so on our Sceptre, crossing the bay to North Haven is a pleasant, dry experience of roughly 30 to 45 minutes, usually with a tea in hand. On a Hobie 16, there’s no free hand for anything, and you’re there in a blink of the eye. 

As we neared the Goose Rocks lighthouse, we both felt a touch cold, even in our wetsuits. The spray and splashing through the mesh tramp had been constant the entire crossing, so we agreed to run up onto the sandy beach of Widow Island. There, in the lee of a blessed little boat house, we sat and enjoyed the morning sun’s warmth, had a drink, and ravenously ate our lunch, even though we had just finished breakfast in Rockland not an hour earlier!

Gathering our wits, and taking a reef in the main, we pushed off and headed where no keeled sailboat dare. We enjoyed a less edgy sail, thanks to the protection of the islands and a shortened main. It is an incredible experience to sail so close to land that you can smell the pines, passing over “dinghy deep” shallows, and weaving the eye of the needle as you please.

By the time we returned to Rockland, we were two spent puppies, a 16 in these conditions is an athletic event and just maybe a little fool hearty.

I’ve had reasonably sized ocean-capable sailboats. I’ve raced Stars and had Sailfish and a Lightening, but in my book, the Hobie 16 gives more bang for the buck and challenges sailors of all levels. It can reward you with invigorating sailing and indelible memories.

Even with our larger boat, which I‘ve sailed across the Atlantic and logged thousands of miles in, my son and I make time to drag Airhead to new adventures, which they always are. My hat is off to Mr. Hobie Alter for a fabulous design.

Frank Thibodeau
Airhead, Hobie 16 and Sceptre 41

LED Strips

Your recent articles on LEDs (see PS May 2014 and June 2014 online) did not mention a form I have found outstanding: LED strip lights. I installed 7-inch strips of warm white LEDs above my settees that light up the cabin at night like a pair of 100-watt bulbs; there are 2-inch strips on the aft bulkheads of the V-berth for reading lights and for illumination. They cost me $12 from an electrician friend; they are about $7 per foot from Environmental Lights (

They have adhesive backs, take up about a quarter-inch of space, and are the best kind of LED to have on a boat, as far as I am concerned. I suggest you give them some consideration. Environmental Lights sells them with dimmers and in colors (including red of course), all more expensive but still a bargain considering output and ease of DIY installation.

H-Y Steiner
Quaker Lady, Westerly Nomad
Spokane, Wash.

Mystery Solved

Box Anchor
Photo courtesy of Jack Phares

Reader Jack Phares was puzzled by this ‘device’ that came with his new boat. The heavy, hard-to-handle contraption is actually a Box Anchor.

I just found this device (see photo above) on board the boat we purchased seven months ago. Finding nobody around the San Diego waterfront who knows its purpose, we would appreciate any info you may have regarding its name, how and where it’s used, and its value.

The collapsible device weighs 60-plus pounds and is a real knuckle-buster/finger-pincher to set up. Once set up, a stainless-steel strut across one corner fastens it securely.

Jack Phares
CHB Royal Star trawler
Via email

The “device” is actually a Box Anchor—a very large Box Anchor—made by the California-based Slide Anchor ( We most recently tested these for our February 2006 article on anchors for mud that cost less than $200. While we tested the $180, 25-pound large version, we’re assuming yours is the extra-large model; a shiny new one runs about $250.

In our testing, we found that the Box Anchor set easily but was hard to handle and provided little holding power in the soft mud bottom. In both the long- and short-scope test, it dragged through the mud at about 100 pounds of pressure. However, we have heard from Box Anchor users that it holds well in sand.

Expandable Hoses

A comment on your Gear Graveyard article in the July 2014 issue: I purchased a black, 50-foot, expandable hose from a vendor at the Miami boat show this year. Unfortunately, I no longer remember the brand, but compared to the green hose in your article, it appeared to be more robustly built, and therefore likely to last longer.

The bummer, for me, was what I found in the small print: The hose is not suitable for potable water. I take that as a serious detraction from the utility of this type hose. It is obviously a wonderful and convenient thing for use as a garden hose or with which to wash the boat. However, I use a water hose far more consistently to fill my water tanks than I do to wash the boat. As a consequence of the warning, I now have to maintain two hoses at almost double the space requirement. Had I known about the prohibition of using it with drinkable water, I would not have purchased it. It would be an informed guess that the same problem exists with other similarly constructed hoses, whether or not the manufacturer had the courage and forthrightness to declare it on the packaging. As you might think, the boat show vendor never mentioned the drawback to me.

Tom Murn
Kiowa, Valiant 42
Via email

Winterizing Outboards

I just stopped by my dealer John Herman at John W. Herman Marine Center in Stamford, Conn. I was buying stuff for my Honda 15’s spring tune-up, and he asked if I had ever changed the thermostat. The motor is six years old, and I had not. He then showed me two corroded, salt-encrusted thermostats that he had just removed from similar motors. Needless to say, I purchased a new thermostat.

John mentioned that the outboard’s freshwater flush opening would sometimes leak, rusting bolts below it. Sure enough, that was the case. My engine’s bottom bolt on the thermostat was rusty, but it came right out. The top one was not rusted, but it turned reluctantly and broke. Off went the motor to John’s shop.

He drilled out the broken bolt and dug a good cup full of salt deposits from the cooling passages. He said it was lucky that the thermostat was stuck open because the engine should have overheated.

In the future, taking apart the thermostat housing, cleaning, and checking it will be added to my yearly maintenance routine. I almost lost a perfectly good running engine!

Thanks to John for good advice and good service!

Len Lipton
Stamford, Conn.

Icebox Upgrades

Your online article, “Keeping You Cool: Improving Your Icebox” was remiss in not mentioning the new aerogel insulations. Polyurethane foam is about R6 per inch, whereas aerogels can get up to R10 per inch. Thus, you can get the same insulation as 6 inches of polyurethane with only 3.5 inches of aerogel, greatly increasing the volume of your icebox, or reducing the overall size of the installation, for the same interior volume.

Jason Folkers

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