Mailport: Vesper AIS and noise, Helio Shower, & More!

Vesper’s AIS devices

Vesper AIS and noise

In regard to your December 2016 review of the Vesper AIS products: Weve used the Vesper XB-8000 for some time now with exceptional results. Be aware, though, that if you are using a masthead antenna with LED navigation lights, such as a masthead tricolor, it can create electrical noise that can reduce the effectiveness of the AIS send/receive capabilities. We had this happen using an Imtra LED masthead light. When we switched back to a standard incandescent bulb, the problem disappeared. Vespers technical support was extremely helpful in diagnosing this, and the XB-8000 even has a built-in display showing signal noise to verify this.

Peter Sakal

S/V Dawn Patrol


Radio interference is a common problem with some LED lights; we addressed it in our last tri-color masthead light test (see PS February 2010), but Imtras bulb was not included that review. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a warning on using LED navigation lights (see PS Mailport, January 2016).

Vesper Marines Jeff Robbins explained that on the masthead, the lights are in close proximity to the AIS units VHF antenna, which amplifies the noise problem. The apps that work with Vespers AIS devices all feature an AIS status page to help diagnose these kinds of problems, Robbins said. The Vesper transponders also will report the problem directly if the RSSI is too high.

The problem manifests itself as very high background received signal strength (RSSI), which is displayed for each channel. RSSI is displayed as a negative number, so numbers closer to zero are higher. You can easily test if this is a problem on your boat. Watch the RSSI numbers as they fluctuate. Its not unusual for them to go up and down. But if you switch on the LED lights, and they generally go up and stay higher, and then switch the LED lights off, and they go back down, then that indicates the problem. Due to averaging, when doing this test, give it a minute to settle.

Mailport: Vesper AIS and noise, Helio Shower, & More!

New Mooring Pendant

In April of 2010 and 2014, you published articles on two of our products: the Deluxe Mast Buoy (2010) and the soft-sided Hull Friendly Mooring Buoy (2014). Now, we have another product that hopefully will interest your readers: the Ultimate Mooring Pendant/Surge Suppressor. The pendant is a marriage between a 6-foot elastic (industrial latex) woven into a polyester braid and a Dyneema bridal. You can find a description on our website,

David Homan

Island Mooring Supplies

Prudence Island, R.I.

It seems a test of mooring pendants is in order. Well add the Ultimate Mooring Pendant to the list of players, which includes products from Yale Cordage, New England Ropes, Samson, and Novabraid. Stay tuned.

Helio Shower

I was going through the August 2016 issue, where I ran across a review of the Nemo Helio Shower. This item comes with a very positive review, which it possibly deserves. However, your reviewer has many very negative reviews of other similar solar showers. I don’t know where all that negativity came from. I have used solar showers for many years now, and I feel a need to point out that they are a lot cheaper ($20 or less versus $100); are perfect for a sailboat, as it is easy to run one up on a halyard, so no pressurization is needed; and in my experience, they last for years, are not harmed by hot water, and I can’t imagine spending $100 for what amounts to the same product!

Peter Engels


Were solar-shower veterans ourselves, and agree that they are handy for quick deck showers-especially given the price. The Nemo Helio is a more rugged and versatile product that can tackle more jobs than a solar shower, and likely will last much longer. (We have a collection of broken solar-shower nozzles in our Gear Graveyard for comparison.) But if youre not a heavy user, the Helio may not be worth the investment. Instead, wed recommend it for those looking to wash long, thick hair; rinse ground tackle or the deck; or wash dishes. The Helio bested gravity-fed showers for these tasks in our field tests. The extra umph of the Helios pressurization, which doesn’t require electricity, is well worth the expense for those who lack a plumbed deck shower or washdown pump.

Just Say No to TP

In response to your October 2016 review of marine toilet papers: Why would anyone put TP into a head?

We have three traditions on board, cast in a bronze plaque mounted in the head: 1. Do not put anything into the head which you have not first swallowed. 2. Gentlemen please be seated. 3. Pump X* number of strokes. (*X is the number of strokes required to clear the bowl as well as the whole discharge line, past the through-hull fitting.) Paper bags are provided for non-pump-able material.

Sigmund Baardsen

Mary T, Cheoy Lee Offshore 40

Via email

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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