Mailport: Bird Repellants, Bilge Switches, Mini-Scuba


Alphabetical Boat Reviews?
What happened to your alphabetized boat reviews? I’m looking for a boat and can’t find the review I was looking at before. I regularly crew on a J/130 in Charleston Harbor and recently sold the second Hobie 16 I’ve owned. I need something larger now that I’ve got 11 grandkids (and counting) with eight of them living in the same general vicinity.

Steve Mattie
Charleston, SC

The alphabetized feature is in the works. This glitch was among many that occurred as we upgraded to the new website. Another glitch ate all our apostrophes! We apologize for this inconvenience. Most of our old boat reviews are now on the site and a search using brand or model should turn up the boat you need. Please email if you are having trouble finding a particular boat review that used to be on the site.

Bird repellents

Mailport: Bird Repellants, Bilge Switches, Mini-Scuba
Forget the owls, reader Mike Brescher
found that a do-it-yourself cheerleader
pompom made out of red plastic works
much better.

While managing Crandon Marina and Pelican Harbor marina in Miami we had problems with Pelicans and Cormorants. With the help from a cormorant researcher at the University of Miami we found that making what looks like a cheerleader pompom out of red plastic construction tape on a dowel and running it up the mast kept the pelicans and cormorants away. Red is the only color that works. Blue attracted them. We tried an owl but a pelican befriended him and sat with him.


Mike Brescher
Morgan Out Island 36
Stuart, FL

Alpaca Survival Socks

Regarding your report last month (PS May 2020) on wool socks, about 12 years ago, and dozens of sheep wool socks later, I happened to visit an Alpaca farm in eastern Idaho. While there, I bought a pair of Alpaca Survival Socks. And that, as they say, was that. I’ve ridden my motorcycle for over an hour in 18-degree temperatures with completely warm feet. I’ve gotten my feet soaked, and I haven’t been miserable. I won’t waste another dime on sheep’s wool socks. There are several farms and vendors that sell survival socks, and they are usually made in the USA.

Steve Marschman

Mini-Scuba Kits

Regarding your recent e-blast and online report “Compact Scuba Kits for Sailors,” I’m a former Scuba instructor and find as a sailor the Mantus is the way to go. Just right for small boat tasks — not enough for diving, but that’s not its purpose. Also have a Spare Air, but know that it was designed only as an emergency backup and not much else. The Mantus is compact and a practical accessory. Great to have aboard.

Steve Serventi

Bilge Switches

Your online report “The Worry-free Bilge Pump” is all good information. However, I am looking to find a PS opinion on the  better bilge pump controllers—i.e. the electronic  device or just plain switch, and pilot lamps that  turn on, and monitor the electric bilge pumps I have.

Donald Bland
Herreshoff H-28

We’ve tested many automatic bilge switches or ‘float’ switches. We’re not fans of the trend toward internal pump switches because they are more difficult to troubleshoot and they don’t allow as much flexibility for installation. Search our archives for “automatic bilge pump switches” and you’ll find several tests and installation tips.

Surviving the Great Splash

Those early weeks of the “great splash,” when thousands of new boats hit the water for the first time this season can be chaotic to say the least. Whether you want to be first in the water or are happy to keep tinkering for a few more weeks, the PS Online archives have got you covered.

Wood Finish

Modern polymers have made the job of protecting wood easier, but we’ve also found some eco-friendly natural concoctions that provide limited protection as well. Search “wood finishes” with our online tool for a bucket-load of articles on products and application tips. The 2-year wood finish update (September 2011), and the application and gloss report (June 2015) provide comprehensive coverage and links to previous reports.

Mailport: Bird Repellants, Bilge Switches, Mini-Scuba

Rig Inspection

Winter’s freeze and thaw cycles can creep into rigging terminals, and hidden corrosion can leave your rig vulnerable. If you’ve not yet stepped your mast, inspection is easier. If you have stepped it, it’s time to climb. In any case, we have you covered. Search “rig inspection” at PS Online. Brion Toss’s “Hidden Causes of Rig Failure,” is a great start.

Mailport: Bird Repellants, Bilge Switches, Mini-Scuba


Still scrubbing? Check out our test reports on boat soaps (PS January 2013), waterline stain removers (PS April 2014 and November 2007), isinglass/clear-vinyl cleaners and protectors (PS May 2014 and March 2009), and hull waxes and polishes (Inside Practical Sailor blog April 9, 2014 and July 2014 PS issue). Our four-volume report on Marine Cleaners in the PS Online bookstore will ensure you’ve got everything you need (

Gear check

Mailport: Bird Repellants, Bilge Switches, Mini-Scuba

We’ve got dozens of reports on routine inspections and maintenance ranging from winches and windlasses to chainplates and keelbolts. Of particular interest is our ground-breaking research into lubricants and greases. Our report on winch grease (PS February 2017), spray protectants (September 2007) and anti-seize coatings (August 2018) are a good place to start.

Vinegar Boat Cleaner

Regarding your online report “Steer Clear of the Marine Cleaner Con,” also pretty good is just vinegar, any kind, even with herbs, together with a bathroom-type scrub sponge. Don’t use the green ones that scratch. I found this quite good for the waterline in freshwater. Stronger acids are used, too, but are quite dangerous. Oxalic acid is poisonous but does a good job on gelcoat rust spots.

Irving Dunn
via PS Online

Gumby’s Hostage

Regarding your online report “Drysuit vs. Survival Suit for Offshore Sailing,” there’s a funny story about my Gumby suit which I carry aboard as last ditch emergency gear but never wear. I bought it and then practiced at home. I got into the suit fine but could not get out. It was crazy. I am sitting in my living room alone trying to figure out how the get the darn thing off. After half an hour of struggling I am thinking, “If I call 911 I am going to be the laughing stock of California.” And really, can you imagine seeing a guy in a gumby wandering around the neighborhood asking the neighbors for help? Eventually I managed to hook the back of the suit on something in the garage and sort of pull myself out of it.

William Cunningham
Freedom 30
San Francisco, CA

Comments and Questions

Practical Sailor welcomes reader comments and questions. Send email & reader photography (digital jpeg ~1MB or greater) to; include your name, homeport, boat type, and boat name. Send any broken gear samples to Practical Sailor, 1600 Bayshore Rd., Nokomis, FL 34275

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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