Columbia Mocs for Him . . .

Light and comfortable, Columbia Sea Rays stand up to every claim but one.

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As we noted in our last look at mens athletic-style boating shoes (June 2007), the marine footwear market is changing quickly. This hasn’t necessarily been good for the consumer, as a lot of poorly executed “copycat” shoes are turning up at boat shows.

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Last year was the first time Practical Sailor had the opportunity to take a hard look at any boat shoe from Columbia Sportswear, an Oregon-based apparel company that over the last 10 years has expanded into the boating market. Testers put a pair of the companys PFG Sea Ray Boating Shoes through our battery of shoe tests (nonskid grip, water absorption, odor resistance, etc.) and then wore them around for six months. The ability to multi-task is one of the appeals of the moccasin style of boat shoe.

Advertised for “barefoot boating” and made in Vietnam, the Sea Rays incorporate features we expect in good mocs-padded leather uppers, rust-resistant eyelets, stitched-on soles-as well as several bonuses. Some of the more interesting extras were breathable mesh heels, six mid-sole drain holes, a very comfortable contoured closed-cell foam liner that is stitched into the shoe, and the added shock absorption of the thick “Techlite” sole. The shoe weighs 60 percent less than the similar all-leather shoes from L.L. Bean and are more comfortable, in our opinion.

In the sole-grip test on wet and dry teak and nonskid fiberglass surfaces, the soles, featuring a gum-rubber razor siping on the outer edge, matched the Helly Hansen Hydrator, the fourth best in our 2007 athletic-style shoe test.

Our only major gripe: Although the shoes did very well in the test for fighting mildew and odor (one week wet in a plastic garbage bag), they are by no means impervious to odor over the long haul. A bath and some baking soda set things right.

At about $80, these shoes are at the high end of the spectrum, but about the same as brand name shoes of this caliber. Watch for sales, and you can probably shave 20 to 30 percent off the price-a good bargain, in our view.

Also with this article...
Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. 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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