Mailport: 09/05


Speedseal Response
[Re: “Speedseal and Jabsco Puller,”PS July 15, ’05] The cover plate on my Yanmar 3JH2E is aft of the pump and about two inches ahead of the starter motor, making the change out unusually difficult. I have discovered that it helps greatly to slowly rotate the engine with a wrench on the crankshaft nut while pulling out or inserting an impeller. But don’t forget to first pull out the engine stop.

Henry Holt
Menomonee Falls, WI


A less pricey alternative to the Speedseal is to buy John Featherman’s new tool and screws for the backplate of the Oberdorfer water pump on the Atomic 4 engine.

Tired of dropping the original screws in the bilge when changing impellers, I considered the Speedseal, but found it a little rich. Featherman offers a cup-end screwdriver that holds the newly developed thick-head machine screws, which attach the backplate to the housing. It is very easy to install and remove the screws, as one does not have to hold the screw to get it started or grasp it as it is removed to keep it from falling into the bilge. I am very pleased with this solution for changing the impeller on my Pearson 30.

The kit consists of the screwdriver, four new machine screws, and a fresh gasket. It can be purchased at, or via phone at 717/432-9203.

William Wright
Fort Worth, TX

PS checked with Featherman and learned that he sells the kit (6 stainless hexhead bolts, a nut driver, and the gasket) for $12. He said it’s also suitable for most Universal diesel engines that are fit with Oberdorfer pumps.


Towing Inflatables
[Re: “Towing Inflatable Dinghies,” PS Advisor, PS July 1, 05] I would like to add to your advice by recounting an experience I had while once towing an inflatable. The day started off with mild weather and I chose to tow my Zodiac 310 dinghy home from Catalina to Long Beach. The breeze picked up more than expected and when I tried to lift the dinghy onto the deck of my Catalina 30, I couldn't manage it due to the windage. I was forced to continue towing it.

I tried shortening the towing line to bring the nose of the dinghy up close to the boat, but this raised the bow of the dinghy and allowed the wind to scoop underneath it and flip it over. After righting it, I let out enough line to allow the dinghy to ride flatter on the water, but the wind caught it and flipped it over again. I was amazed to see the upside down dinghy then completely submerge because the shape of the bow caused it to submarine! We were making about five knots and the tension on the line was incredible. We rounded up to stop our progress, the dinghy resurfaced, and our newly-found adrenaline allowed my buddy and me to fight it onto the deck and lash it down. Towing inflatables should be done with caution.

Frank Tansley
Dana Point, CA


Mast Climbers
[Re: “Self-hoist Mast Climbing Systems,” PS Aug. 15, ’05] I just finished reading your article on the Topclimber. What timing! I just purchased one and am nervous about going up, but I must, so I will try to overcome my fears.

I checked the shackles as you suggested and guess what, one was indeed backwards! Your suggestion to put this right will be observed. However, why didn’t you suggest seizing the pin with wire? The shackle pins have holes designed for this purpose. And I wonder why ATN doesn’t do this before they sell the TopClimber? Perhaps they assumed an intelligent sailor would automaticaly do this? That is a dangerous assumption when selling to Americans. (Remember the woman who sued McDonalds when she spilled coffee on her lap and said they failed to warn her it was hot.) Anyway, you may have saved me a 45-foot fall from my masthead, so thanks.

Bill Tait
Palm Coast, FL

Mousing shackle pins with wire usually works to keep them from backing out, but in the case of the Topclimber, we’ve found that this doesn’t work so well. The scissor action of the shackle and the cam on the ascenders will eventually wear away and break the wire. We have yet to experiment with using plastic wire ties for that purpose, but this might be a superior method of securing the pin.


Battery Selector Switches
[Re: “Battery Switches,” PS June, ’05] I recently hepled a friend install a Perko battery switch model No. 1805. I quote from the installation instructions: “Always stop engines before switching to off position. Make-before-break feature allows switching between 1-All-2 positions with engines running.” These same instruction are in the owner’s manual of my 20-year-old O’Day 31, and I have been switching between 1, 2, and All without problems for 20 years!

Martin Blumenthal
Chester Springs, PA


Furling Issues
[Re: “Furling Fairleads,” PS July 1 ’05] In your article about furling leads you mentioned the unfortunate experience of one owner who opted to cut away his genoa when it was stuck two thirds of the way out, with his roller furling not functioning. The first time I used my Harken roller furler, I found myself in a similar position. I was in the Atlantic Ocean, two miles off the south shore of Long Island aboard my 1980 Bristol 35.5. I unfurled the genoa, and it got stuck, about two-thirds of the way out. My schedule was tight and I couldn’t turn back because of the tides. If I motor-sailed with the genoa stuck like that I probably would have flogged the sail to death, and been driven crazy by noise.

I had a bosun’s chair and a knife, but I was extremely reluctant to cut that beautiful, new, very expensive genoa to pieces. Just then, a radical idea occurred to me. I started the engine, and headed the boat directly into the wind. Then I pulled the sheets forward, out of their leads, and went up on the foredeck. I signaled the helmsman to turn the boat in a tight counter-clockwise circle, and the genoa took a neat wrap around the forestay, as if I had pulled on the roller furling line. Every time we completed a circle, the sail took another neat turn around the forestay, until it was completely furled. I was then able to wrap the sheets around the furled sail, and proceed on my way, peacefully, without having destroyed the sail, or the furling gear. An added bonus was the chance to see a twelve-foot shark, which followed the boat around in circles.

I asked my sailmaker to see what the problem was. He simply attached a small eyelet to the mast to change the lead of the genoa halyard (something I neglected to do during installation), and that has been the only bit of trouble I’ve had with my incredibly reliable roller furler in over a decade.

Stephen Goldsmith
Greenport, NY


Bilge Pump Blues
In addition to the valuable information I receive from your publication, your writing style at times makes me laugh right out loud. Thanks for the needed practical information and the very needed impractical humor.

On a serious note, while rebuilding my Bristol, I purchased the West Marine 2200 bilge pump when I had to once again replace the bilge pump system. Beside the great value for capacity per your review (PS Feb. 15, ’04), this pump comes with a 73″ lead length, giving me hope that I might finally keep the connectors high and dry (and be done with hanging upside down in an oh-too-deep-bilge).

In a addition to the pump, I purchased Rule’s Super-Switch. However “super” it may be in the switch department, its wire lead of only 18″ undercut the pump’s lead length and once again brought the infamous and ever-sensitive electrical connection right back down where it does not belong-within bilge water striking distance. Ugh.

Oh well. I’ll let you know how next season’s bilge pump re-wiring goes.

David F. Risch
Providence, RI


Customer Service
[Re: “Mailport,” PS July 1, ’05] Please add this to the letters listed under “Further Inverter Follow-up.” I install a number of inverters in boats, and my customers do not want to purchase (or pay for the installation of) inverters that are not specifically rated for the marine environment, (can you blame them?).

If you produce and sell of thousands of a specific item, you can bet some are going to have problems. On the other hand, the ones that don’t are your best advertising.

To get to the point, my own boat has a Freedom Marine 20 installed in it (installed Nov. ’02). Last year I had issues with the remote monitor (Link 2000) installed in the electrical panel. I called Xantrex, was put on hold for about 15 minutes, and then spoke to tech support. They requested that I remove the unit and ship it to them for testing. Two weeks later I received a brand new unit to reinstall at no charge to me other than the shipping cost to return the old unit.

I don’t think you can beat that kind of product support, and it was well worth 15 minutes on hold.

Billy Vance
St. Petersburg, FL


Weighing in on Windlasses
[Re: “Windlasses Under $1,000,” PS Aug. 1, ’05] As usual, you read my mind and published a product review just as I was looking into the subject for myself. Your review of economical windlasses was extremely helpful and almost provided enough info for me to make a decision.

I don’t think I am alone in considering that “installed weight” would be a useful item in your tabulated test results, particularly for items like a windlass that adds weight to the end of a boat. I’ve tried comparing “shipping weights” from catalogs, but I’ve found the same unit weighs 20% more in Rhode Island than it does in California. Not that I would make a decision on weight alone, but I would certainly consider weight in a tie-breaker situation between two otherwise comparable units.

The decision to add the weight of a power windlass at all is a compromise forced on me by an aging back. Like many owners of venerable old race boats now put out to pasture as family cruisers (in my case a 1964 Cal 40), enjoying the lively sailing performance of a boat in (nearly) original trim is half the fun.

Tom Egan
Marblehead, MA


Nonskid Alternatives
For years now I have seen commentary and evaluations of nonskid paints, coatings, and additives in PS and have come to conclusion that most all products are either expensive and/or do not work well. But I think Ive found the solution.

I’ve sailed my 1968 sloop on the lakes since 1989, so the boat’s non-skid deck and cabintop got really worn down. I used sand in deck enamel on another boat before, and that was fine, but I needed something more durable, and easy to apply. I talked with many paint professionals, and then I found a paint from Valspar. Yes, Valspar. It’s called Skid-Resistant and it works amazingly well.

It’s a very thick paint that is premixed with the non-skid, and coloring must be added. It’s made for concrete areas around pools and walkways, but it’s extremely durable, easy to apply, and cleans up with water. You can brush or roll it on in cooler temperatures. It dries very fast so you can’t overbrush. I have put on two coats in five years with no wear. Like all nonskid, it does get dirty.

This paint is easy on the butt and knees, and it has tremendous nonskid characteristics. Perhaps the only problem is color selection. Most colors are bright or dark and they do not at this time have white or cream. It costs just $23/gallon, or $15/quart. It works well. The only thing I don’t know is how it will fare in a saltwater environment.

Capt. Tim Paegelow
Wautoma, WI


Regarding one reader’s frustrations with Durabak (“Mailport,” PS Aug. 1, ’05), I used Durabak-18 on an engine cover, and found the mixing and set-up much easier. The material’s cure is affected by moisture, so I mixed it in a Ziplock bag. The material lasted considerably longer than needed, and by using a Ziplock bag, it was easy to obtain a thorough mixture. I’m reasonably satisfied with the nonskid surface, except that it’s quite aggressive; you wouldn’t want to put bare skin on it.

David Paule
Boulder, CO


COB Emergencies
[Re: “Crew Overboard Safety,” Aug. 1, 05] My wife and I have retrieved someone in the water and it’s not easy, especially with the accompanying wind and waves. If you want a good simulation of the problems involved, I suggest the following exercise:

1. Put on all your usual sailing gear (including PFD).

2. With at least two strong people standing by, jump into the deep end of a swimming pool.

3. Try to climb out the side.

4. Then go to the ladder on the side of the pool and try to climb out.

Now, visualize doing this in a seaway.

The two people standing by can retrieve the one in the pool when that person gives up trying to get out. But it’s not as easy as one might think.

In a pinch, remember that a sailboat’s jib makes a good parbuckle.

C. Henry Depew
Tallahassee, FL


…Where Credit Is Due
To ProMariner: “We took delivery of our new J/46 in 2003, equipped with a Professional Mariner ProSafe galvanic isolator. The system slowly began to set off the alarm more and more frequently until finally any AC load set it off. I contacted ProMariner and the chief engineer, Mark Grasser, responded and walked me through a couple of tests with a multimeter. When I reported the results, the company sent me a new control module. After installation, the system worked beautifully. I have asked for an invoice, but none was sent. This company makes really good stuff (I have owned other ProMariner products), and they obviously are approachable, responsive, and exhibit a corporate culture rare today. You can bet they’ll be on the short list for my future purchases.” (

David McCowen
Gig Harbor, WA

To Forespar: “A while ago, the inboard end of my whisker pole failed. The piston was bent, the setscrew was lost, the end was very worn from use. I contacted Forespar and told them of the problem with the fitting. Randy Risvold, in their technical support and service department, told me they didn’t make ends out of aluminum. I told him their company name was on the pole and proceeded to give him the address below the name. Randy indicated that the company was not at this address, but he would do some checking. He called back and indicated that when the company was founded they were at the address I had given him, but that they had long since moved. Randy suggested that I send him the part.

“I mailed the part, and after a short time I received a new end for the pole. Randy followed up with installation instructions via e-mail. After several e-mails, we arrived at the conclusion that the whisker pole had probably been bought when the boat was new back in 1977. I offered to pay for the parts and service but was not charged for either. I would highly recommend Forespar products. Standing behind your product over 25 years later is what I call an outstanding warranty combined with excellent service.” (

Carl Wojcik
Saginaw, MI

To Powerwinch: “I bought a sailboat three years ago and the first item I purchased in the refitting process was a Powerwinch 45, freefall windlass. It took me about 40 months to fully refit and get the boat ready to cruise. Within 48 hours of leaving port we had problem dropping the anchor. I called Powerwinch tech support and they immediately overnighted (at their expense) a new gear to remedy the problem. Shortly after fixing this problem, we had trouble retrieving the anchor. On two separate occasions they sent new parts overnight (again at no charge) to remedy this situation. In part, my difficulties occurred because the windlass was more than three years old and most of these issues had been addressed in newer models. I was absolutely amazed that they went far beyond what a company would normallyaccept as warranty work. In fact the only comment I heard is, ‘They wanted to address my problems and get me a functioning windlass.’ Once these problems had been addressed, the windlass worked flawlessly and we encountered no additional problems during our six-month cruise. This is truly an exceptional company.” (

Gene Goodman
via e-mail

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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