Mailport August 2011 Issue

Mailport: August 2011

Wing Dinghy

Reader John Gedaminski bought his Wing Systems Wing 9 dinghy, Freedom, based on a 2009 PS review. The carbon-fiber dink weighs only 45 pounds.

Seeing the article about the Wing Systems dinghy ( in the October 2009 issue, I decided to purchase one to replace my slatted floor roll-up. The process of inflating/deflating the roll-up was getting old and the search for a proper hard dinghy had already begun. Sailing a J/Boats J/32, I didn’t want to be towing a heavy dinghy, and the lightweight Wing 9 was just the ticket.

The boat has undergone a few minor design/engineering changes since the initial 2009 article and has gained a few pounds. However, it is still light enough that a single person can lift it.

Although it has less initial stability than an inflatable, it is quite stable.

My Wing 9 rowing model, outfitted with a nice set of 7.5-foot Shaw & Tenney spoon oars, has just been launched. We are soon departing for a three-week Massachusetts coastal cruise, and the Wing dinghy will get a complete field test.

John S. Gedaminski
Liberty, J/32
Quincy, Mass.

One-quarter of respondents to our recent dinghy survey preferred hard dinghies. See more survey results under the right-hand tab “Resources” at

Rope Hygiene

After reading your article about cleaning ropes in the July 2011 issue, I thought, “Why clean ropes at all?” Is there any evidence that an intact, but dirty rope has any less strength than an equivalent clean one? Other than an aesthetic issue, is there any benefit to a clean rope versus a dirty one?

Jack J. Adler
Sirius, C&C 34
Mamaroneck, N.Y.

We’re not aware of any study or test that has shown how dirtiness relates to rope strength. However, salt buildup from constant saltwater contact can affect a line’s softness or “hand,” and embedded grit will tear fibers. Salt crystals might also magnify the sun’s harmful rays (as can occur with varnish), but any loss of strength from mold—the most common foe—or minor soiling is probably not significant. Whether you’re a saltwater or freshwater sailor, a good freshwater rinse will keep the need for a full bath to a minimum.

Protecting Plastic

Certain plastic sheaves are susceptible to sun damage over time. I have tried to replace them without success. I finally found a solution that I wish I had thought of years ago.

I simply cover the block with a piece of aluminium from a disposable pie pan. I hand-crimped the pan around the block, and it stays in place, is easily removed when sailing, and if lost, it is really cheap to replace. It is not very elegant, so I remove them before any guests arrive.


Bob Welbon
Coyote, Hunter 31
Miami, Fla.

Photos courtesy of Bob Welbon

Reader Bob Welbon’s inexpensive solution to protecting his blocks’ plastic sheaves: Cover them with aluminum pie pans. They should be hand-crimped around the blocks to be sure they don’t blow away and become litter.

Hose Expander

Reinforced exhaust hoses and waste hoses are very difficult to mount on fittings. Most boat owners have tried heating the hoses or using lubricants, but I discovered a solution that makes this task easy. I purchased an automotive tail pipe expander, they are available in different diameters and cost around $10 to $15.

The expander is inserted into the hose end, a wrench is used to expand the hose diameter then the wrench pressure is released, the expander is withdrawn quickly and the hose inserted over the fitting. The hose returns quickly to fit tightly over the fitting. This approach works perfectly, and since no flame or boiling water is involved, one can work closely at the point of the task.

Gary A. Gerber
1970 Morgan 33
Via email

tail pipe expander
Photos courtesy of Gary Gerber

This little gadget, an automotive tail pipe expander, makes it much easier to fit reinforced exhaust and waste hoses over connection fittings. The expander costs about $10-$15 and is available online and at most automotive stores.

During research for our upcoming report on sanitation hoses, several makers warned against over-heating hoses so that they might fit over barbed fittings. If you must warm them, they should never be too hot to touch.

Multi-pump Bilges

I am a mechanical engineer with around 20 years of experience in piping and pumps. I read both PS articles (September 2010 and May 2011) on this subject and felt the need to provide some additional information.

The installation of multiple pumps, particularly for bilgewater management, requires knowledge on hydraulics and pump operation. I do not recommend it for the DIYer.

Not all pumps are the same, and when two identical pumps may be installed, any difference in the way they are connected may mean a drastic difference in their operation. Two identical pumps—same model, manufacturer, and installed simultaneously—may differ in their discharge capacity if one has a longer discharge hose or if one hose is at a higher location than the other. If both pumps operate at the same time, one may choke the flow on the other, and although it may be “running,” it has no flow going through. This may lead to a worse situation if it happens that the pumps are required for emergency situations.

The best way to install the pumps is by individually piping or hosing their suction and discharge lines. Otherwise, have an experienced technician or engineer handle its design and installation.

Luis Nieves
Antonia del Mar,
2002 Beneteau Oceanis 331
Fajardo, P.R.

Dacron’s Second Life

I’m writing to share a chafing-gear solution that I’ve not seen mentioned in previous articles. Scraps of old Dacron sails have worked very well for me over the years. Dacron (especially from an old, well-used sail) is very wear resistant yet water permeable. This protects against surface chafe and also allows rainwater to cool the inner cores of rodes/docklines in extreme conditions.

I cut trapezoidal sections of Dacron, about 9 inches tall by 24 inches wide, tape the shorter of the long parallel edges to the line with electrical tape, wind the rest of the Dacron around the line, and finally secure the ends with electrical tape. A few additional wraps of tape every 9 to 12 inches keep the Dacron from unwrapping in the middle. 

Overall cost is next to zero. Check local sailmakers for usable scraps.

Daniel W. Billingsley
Vie email

Cleat Hitch Feedback

The July 2011 article on chafe is a worthy topic; however, the presentation is marred by the unflattering photos showing the belay to a horn cleat. Brian Toss’s “The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice” and “Chapman Piloting” both specify one turn around the horn, with subsequent figure 8s, and finishing off with a half-hitch. Your photos appear to show the line starting with 1½ turns rather than one turn before finishing the remainder of the hitch. (See photo)

Adding the additional turn complicates untying the hitch under heavy load and causes a delay in releasing the line. In addition, a photo in the article shows one of the finishing loops going in the wrong direction.

William Solberg
Wind Dancer, Tartan 3800
Los Angeles, Calif.

Photos by Ralph Naranjo and courtesy of William Solberg

When belaying to a horned cleat, textbooks advise both for and against overlapping the first wrap beneath the horns (left), with contemporary U.S. texts leaning toward the former. In either case, the pull should be at an angle to the cleat (right).

Cleat Hitch Feedback

Long ago, I was taught that when securing a line to a cleat, one should not completely encircle the cleat on the first turn. Your July 2011 article on chafe gear includes two photographs of lines secured to cleats improperly, according to my (probably long deceased) instructor.

David G. Mulock
Mr. G, Sisu/Heritage 30
St. Petersburg, Fla.

The sloppy wrong-way cleating job on page 11 came from our Sloppy Boat Show Cleat Photos file and should have been identified as such. As for the proper technique for belaying to a cleat: Several U.S. textbook sources advise against overlapping the first wrap around the horns, as was pictured on the July cover (below, left). Why? In some cases, friction where the first wrap overlaps could make releasing the loaded line difficult. To confuse matters, this incomplete first wrap is often described as “one full turn around the base,” even though the circle beneath the horns does not actually close.

Photos by Ralph Naranjo and courtesy of William Solberg

When belaying to a horned cleat, textbooks advise both for and against overlapping the first wrap beneath the horns (left), with contemporary U.S. texts leaning toward the former. In either case, the pull should be at an angle to the cleat (right).

However, the British Yachting Association, and some well-respected sailors from both sides of the Atlantic, do suggest a complete wrap before making figure-8s, a practice our own technical editor, Ralph Naranjo, likes to do for highly loaded lines.

You can weigh in on this topic at our Inside Practical Sailor blog at

Don’t lose your grip

Have you noticed that those nice boat shoes you bought, which gripped so well when first purchased, lost their grip after about three years? The reason is because the rubber soles were originally soft, but have now oxidized and hardened. This hardens only the outer layer of rubber, however, so boat shoes can be restored to a good grip by sanding the soles down to fresh rubber. This advice was given to me by Point Loma Outfitting, who sells the Practical Sailor-recommended Slam Match Race Shoe (June 2007) and the lower-cut SLAM Mistral.

It dovetails perfectly with what Olaf Harken told me at a boat show years ago, when I told him that my excellent Harken shoes lost their grip. Olaf advised me to wear my boat shoes off the boat and on rough surfaces, including gravel, to scuff up the soles.

Rick Izard
Philadelphia Sailing Club
Quakertown, Penn.

We’ll be sure to try the sanding soles method. Sailors who wear their boat shoes off the boat should be careful to clean the soles before re-boarding to remove rocks, pebbles, and other debris that can mar a non-skid deck.

Water Tank Sealant

I’m installing a fiberglass freshwater tank that will have an inspection/clean out port in the top. I’m having difficulty determining which sealant would be appropriate for use around potable water. What would you recommend?

Seth Amirault
Via email

Any food-grade silicone should do fine. Sikaflex has done well in our previous tests, and its general-purpose Sikasil-GP acetoxy cure silicone sealant is listed as meeting standards for direct food contact. We have not tested it, but Sika Corp. ( or Jamestown Distributors ( should be able to tell you how well this or other products seal.

In the past, we have also used neoprene gaskets to seal a water tank.


The Chandlery brief on page 21 of the June 2011 issue incorrectly referred to Pettit’s Barnacle Buster. The product’s correct name is Barnacle Barrier.

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