Chandlery: 04/15/04


Suunto M9 Wristop Computer
In the trend towards miniaturization in electronics, there’s a fine line between true utility and whiz-bang cleverness for its own sake. The Suunto M9, first in a series of small-sized, multi-tasking boating instruments from Suunto, is an example of how that line is explored. 

Chandlery: 04/15/04

Makers call the M9 a “wristop” computer, and that’s a fair description. Only slightly larger than a wristwatch, it’s a true multipurpose tool that displays real-time, onboard information, records that information, and connects with a personal computer where the data can be stored, analyzed, and shared.

The M9 contains a 12-channel GPS, barometer, thermometer, digital compass, Admiralty Raster Chart Service (ARCS) electronic charting capability, an internal logbook with storage for up to 500 waypoints, and a man-overboard (MOB) feature that pinpoints the victim’s location with GPS. And, oh yeah, it can also display the time and date.

It’s all accessed via a menu-based interface that’s familiar to cell phone users, with five buttons controlling the displays, scrolling menus, and making selections. The functions are broken down into several main Modes (weather, compass, navigation, racing, etc.) manipulated using the right combination of buttons. It’s possible to plan waypoints and routes at home and upload them to the M9’s electronic chart function. While cruising, the M9 can record new routes, as well as boat performance in a number of categories.

The 1-inch-by-1.25-inch, gray-tone LCD display is backlit for night use. The M9 easily connects to a home computer, and a Suunto CD provides the necessary software.

Learning to work the M9 requires patience, study, and practice. There’s a hefty instruction manual to go through, and the print is small. That’s the brain work. The finger work is equally challenging: The buttons are small and close together. It’s not an instrument to be worked on a pitching deck, or with gloves on.

The M9 is water-resistant to 100m/ 300 ft. It carries a rechargeable battery, whose recharge schedule will vary depending on how much continuous use the GPS gets. If you work it hard, figure on having to recharge the watch within a few hours. The watch is tilt-adjusted to receive signals within 30° on either side.

You’ll also need a chunk of cash—the product carries a $725 MSRP, and at press time can be found at SailNet and Amazon for $650.

We think the M9 is an amazing achievement. It certainly can be a useful instrument for the sailor, and fun, too, thanks to its computer-interfacing capabilities. However, it’s too expensive an instrument to be bought on a whim. To be useful, it must be learned, and its operational quirks understood (e.g. the probability of losing satellite lock when you go below, or keep your wrist too long outside the correct reception angle).

The M9 has a dedicated users’ website at

Contact – Suunto USA, 760/ 931-6788,


Chandlery: 04/15/04

Tail Tips
Most of us keep a few screw-type hose clamps in our toolbox. They can be used for a big variety of jobs, ranging from clamping hoses to making sleeve joints, to repairing boat hooks. Now, some people keep a variety of sizes, but others buy clamps that are long enough to handle several different diameter clamping jobs, and if the clamp is larger than they need for the job, they just cut off the excess.

Trouble is, the cut ends tend to be sharp. You could file the edges smooth, but stainless doesn’t file easily, and the job tends to be difficult and time-consuming. You can try taping the ends, but tape doesn’t stay on. Clipped or not, hose clamp tails are mean-spirited, and tend to nip at us when we reach into dark spaces for them.

AWAB, the makers of high-quality 316-stainless steel hose clamps, have come up with Tail Tips—one of those “why hasn’t someone done this before” products. They’re simply soft, flexible vinyl tips that slip over the exposed end of the clamp’s tail, and stay on. You can buy a box of 100 for $21.95 at (That’s a lifetime supply, or you can share with your workmates.) The AWAB part number is 125015. AWABLLC, the main marine distributor in the US, also carries part number 125015P, a bag of 25. E-mail

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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