Mailport: 02/09


Happy Alerion Owner

Thanks for the daysailer article. A nicely written piece, even-handed, fair, and informative. Perhaps a good follow-up project would be to arrange to have the staff avail themselves of the opportunity to sail most-if not all-of the domestically built boats next spring and summer.

Let me be the first to volunteer my boat, an Alerion Express 28, for such a test.

Pat Nowak
Alerion Express 28
Holland, Mich.

Future tests will take a closer look at some of the boats we featured in last months article “Making Sense of the Trophy Daysailers,” along with some other classic models that were not included in that review. Several readers also pointed out that we neglected to mention Ralph Schachters role in bringing the Carl Schumacher-designed Alerion Express 28 to fruition. Schachter was sailing a Schumacher-designed Express 27 when he joined forces with his longtime friend to create the AE 28. Everett Pearson bought the mold later, after six hulls had been
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Photo courtesy of Pat Nowak


built. Schachter sailed Hull No. 1 until his death in 2005. Of Schachters many accomplishments, the development of the Alerion Express 28 was the one he was most proud of.

Sea Anchors for Big Seas

I enjoyed Practical Sailor contributor Skip Allans accounts of preparations for the Single-Handed TransPac Race this year, and I was very upset to hear of his loss and the circumstances (“Farewell Wildflower,” December 2008).

Having made a couple of single-handed small boat Trans-Atlantic crossings in the 1970s and rolled my boat in a following sea, I concluded that a parachute sea anchor should be onboard every single-handed boat, whatever the size. There is always a breaking sea somewhere that will be big compared to ones boat and quite capable of a roll-over or trip-up.

Running with a storm, in addition to being dangerous, is very tiring and also keeps one in the storm for the longest period. With a big enough parachute sea-anchor and good chafe-prevention gear, lying bow-to the storm will not be pleasant, but much more restful, safe, and brief.

Randal Peart
Eclipse, C&C 25 
St. Joseph, Mich.

Well aware of the successes others have had using a sea anchor, Skip Allan concluded-after many thousands of sea miles on

Wildflower-that the best tactic for him and his boat in conditions like those he encountered off the coast of California last summer was to run before the wind, and if needed, tow a drogue behind the boat. He has considered a sea anchor and similar tactics advocated by Lin and Larry Pardey in their book “Storm Tactics Handbook,” but Wildflower had relatively little flotation in the bow. Regarding a sea anchor, Skips concern was that Wildflowers rudder would be vulnerable to damage should the boat be hurled backward on a wave. The boat does not lie hove to well, and even if it did, the confused seas Skip encountered made this tactic untenable. As the long history of yachts at sea has shown, there is no right storm tactic that works on every boat in all conditions. For some boats, running before a sea has proven disastrous, for others, it has been very effective. In the wake of Skips loss, we take a look at drogues and drogue tactics on pages 24-30 of this issue.

Stainless Tools

While I was impressed with your article, “Stainfree with Stainless” in the October 2008 issue, I felt your readers might be interested in a less-expensive alternative to the Wera screwdriver. For years, Ive been using the MegaPro 15-in-1 stainless screwdriver with nickel-plated bits. It is a very good tool and has become my go-to screwdriver at home and on the boat. At $25, you can buy a few spares for the price of one Wera. Mine has stood up to several years of use and still works like new.

Tom Jesionowski
S/V Pelican
Port Orchard, Wash.

First-Aid Fungicide

We have lived on our sailboat in the Caribbean for five years. Our most-used medical item was not included in Practical Sailors list of required supplies in your

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Photo courtesy of Jimmy Belson


recent article on medical kits (“Medical Kits for Offshore Voyaging,” December 2008).

In the tropics, wounds do not heal with just antibacterial ointment. You also need a fungicide. We have had very good luck with a French product in a spray pump container called “biseptine,” spelled with a lowercase “b.” It is antibacterial and a fungicide. Also, the strips of tape that doctors use that look like packing tape stick much better than butterfly bandages.

Bill Langlois
S/V Hope,
Island Packet 35

Glacier Bay Cat

After reading your article on electric propulsion, I began to question: Did I buy too soon; was it the right choice; or am I little crazy?

When we specified that we wanted Glacier Bays system in our new Perry 43 catamaran that was being built in Australia, there were many doubters. But the noisy, heavy, and inefficient equipment that you find in conventional boats just didn't fit what we wanted.

We have now cruised 2,500 miles in the South Pacific and love Glacier Bays system. We can be at anchor all day and enjoy unlimited electrical use while we steam a lobster in our galley using a standard kitchen Miele Steam Oven, clean our clothes in the washing machine, and relax in the comfort of air conditioning-plus much more.

Then we start one genset, pull up the anchor, engage two electric motors, and power off at 7 to 8 knots. In 20 minutes, we have recharged the batteries and we are “very quietly” underway, using a three-cylinder diesel adapted from a Mercedes Benz “Smart Car” engine.

I hardly notice the fuel consumption, and we still have the other genset in reserve. The creature comforts are great, and the economics are even better.

We have had a few sea-trial problems, and we anticipate that more are in the offing. But the benefits that we have experienced are encouraging.

Jimmy Belson
Island Dancer, Perry 43
Hope Island, Australia


Im in the market for a good sextant, and I haven't been able to find information on what features to look for, or more specifically, which brands and models have a good reputation. Do you have any suggestions for a used one? Is there a place where I can send it in to be serviced?

Frank Tansley
Grace, Hans Christian 41T
Ventura, Calif.

We reviewed sextants in the April 15, 2001 issue, and that article is posted online at, under “Tools and Techniques.” Our favorite sextant, the bronze frame C. Plath “Classic” is no longer being made, although the Cassens & Plath Ultra exhibits the same quality workmanship. The Asrtra IIIB is a well-liked mid-range unit. Theres a cult following of experienced navigators who love the David White Mark II Navy WWII sextant, an all-bronze instrument thats three-quarters the size and weight of the Plath and often sells for a fraction of the Plaths price. If you are just interested in a back-up or something for lifeboat navigation, the plastic Davis Mk25 is surprisingly accurate with practice, although wed opt for a new one, not used. If you are buying a used sextant, you should insist on an inspection period so that it can be checked by a professional. Beware, there are some “genuine reproductions,” that are worthless. An authentic C. Plath should come in its original box, and come with proper documentation, including a certificate of accuracy and calibration tables. If you buy used, expect to pay another $100-$200 to have the sextant professionally reconditioned and checked for accuracy. Robert White Instruments in Boston, Mass. ( has been doing this for years, but there are qualified service technicians in other major cities.

Vinegar Lover

With regard to your recent test on mildew cleaners (Practical Sailor, January

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2009): I won't use bleach or anything else for cleaning mildew except plain old white vinegar. Full strength in a spray bottle or diluted in a bucket, it cleans mold and mildew, does not require rinsing, and its real cheap.

The only downside is that the boat may smell like a pickle for a couple of hours.

Tony Pizzuti
S/V Blanca Luna
Nassau Bay, Texas

White vinegar is one of our favorite cleaning products, too. It and other “green” household cleaners, including ketchup, were featured in the May 2008 issue.

Weather Classes

One aspect of voyaging that Im having trouble learning about is weather. I understand (and have used) professional advisors, but when it gets right down to go/no-go decision time, I always wish I knew enough of the fundamentals to concur or not. Book reviews are great, but a review of courses (online or not) would be very helpful since lists of classes are not easy to glean from the Internet.

Ron Odenheimer
S/V Cetacean
Via e-mail

A review of various weather courses is something we will look into. While we have yet to see a “perfect” marine weather book, David Burchs “Modern Marine Weather” is a good place to start. Though not explicitly a marine weather book, Jack Williams “The Weather Book” offers an intelligent look at U.S. weather patterns. You might also look for books that deal with weather patterns in your specific region, as these are not fully developed in most general weather books. As for seminars, look for those led by former NOAA forecaster Lee Chesneau (, author of “Heavy Weather Avoidance,” or Joe Sienkiewicz, who is with NOAAs Ocean Prediction Center.

Seasickness Comments

I am an offshore sailor, susceptible to seasickness, and a practicing anesthesiologist. It is with this expertise that I offer the following thoughts on your excellent recent article on “Cures Seasickness” (Practical Sailor, January 2009).

I have been using Transderm Scop since its introduction, both on the boat and for treating post operative nausea. In fact, we had some samples from a drug rep that we tried on a Marion Bermuda Race in the early 1980s before the drug was available to the public. I have seen all of the side effects you mention in your article.

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However, if one limits the time that the patch is worn to 24 to 36 hours maximum, the side effects will be minimal in most people. I was pleased to learn about Scopace in your article. I believe it is a better alternative to the patch because of the dosing flexibility and more rapid onset of effectiveness.

I am surprised that you did not mention Dexedrine, dextroamphetamine, in your article. The gold standard for relief of motion sickness is a combination of oral Scopolamine (0.4 mg) taken with Dexedrine (2.5-5 mg). This combination works very quickly and is the only regimen that will relieve symptoms of seasickness even when they are well established.

However, the dexedrine requires a physicians prescription, and many physicians will not be familiar with the use of dexedrine for motion sickness. You can find extensive references to share with your physician by Googling “Dexedrine and Scopolamine for Motion Sickness.”

Dexedrine is an amphetamine and as such is a controlled drug, so you need to be sure you have a valid prescription to keep it on board. This combination was developed by NASA to treat motion sickness in astronauts. Ephedrine is a more benign stimulant without the negative connotations of an amphetamine that can be used as an alternative to dexedrine in a dose of 12.5-25mg by mouth, but again not without your physicians advice.

The definitive expert on motion sickness is Dr. Charles Oman, director of the Manned Vehicle Lab at MIT, who is also a sailor. I have heard him speak at Safety at Sea Seminars and seen articles he has written in sailing publications.

Dr. Richard Lilly,
South Glastonbury, Conn.

Fujinon Compass

In March 2007, I purchased a pair of Fujinon FMTRC-SX binoculars, largely on the basis of your review.

On the trip home, I noticed that the compass, which had worked fine until then, seemed to be giving incorrect readings. I contacted Fujinon, and after some discussion, the company agreed that if I paid shipping, they would replace the compass. When I received the repaired binoculars, I found that the problem still existed. Any assistance that you may be able to provide to help resolve this issue would be greatly appreciated.

Howard Ray
S/V Malolo
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

We spoke with Fujinon on your behalf, and the company is looking into your problem. We checked our own pair of 5-year-old Fujinons (same model) and found the compass to be performing normally. We haven't heard of any other Fujinons with significant compass error, and there are a lot of them in use.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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